Fintech Brings Peace During a Pandemic

COVID-19 has brought many new challenges to daily life– from working from home requirements to new budgetary restraints and stock market volatility. Fortunately, it is in times of crisis when fintech solutions shine the brightest. In a pandemic-burdened world, companies across the fintech sector offer answers (and to some, a sense of peace) to those wrestling with today’s new set of problems.

Personal connection

Even though many financial services offices are still closed to outside visitors, fintech tools can help maintain personal connections without requiring face-to-face interaction. Some roboadvisor platforms, for example, connect users with a dedicated certified financial planner to make sure their accounts are on track and to help them plan for the future.

And when it comes to replicating in-branch conversations, some banks– including Bank of America– have introduced video ATMs to offer customers a way to meet with a teller while social distancing. As an extra bonus, the video technology is making tellers available for longer hours, from 7am to 10pm.

Increased visibility

Fintechs provide users access to their account information 24/7 via web and mobile interfaces. More importantly, however, are the integrated analytics and tools that many platforms offer to help users make decisions, answer questions, and offer scenario-planning to help them reach goals.

Keeping users well-informed about their current financial situation as well as their options can help empower them to plan for their future. This is crucial when many are struggling with the uncertainty of job security and stay-at-home orders.

Digital communication

Chatbots have gained popularity over the past couple of years, fueled by advances in AI technology. In the past few months, however, the need for chatbot and automated response technologies have accelerated. That’s because bank call centers have been overloaded with a spike in mortgage refinance request and calls from consumers who need help sorting out financial hardships. Banks are seeing increased value in chatbots, which help relieve pressure on call centers by offering a different channel for consumers to go to for answers.

Circumvention

Looking back, many fintech companies originated to help users work around a process or a service that just didn’t suit them. For example, there are a multitude of players that cater to unbanked and underbanked consumers, helping them work around requirements imposed by traditional financial institutions. Additionally, mortgagetech companies help banks process loan applications more efficiently by moving the entire process into the digital realm.

In a post-pandemic society we will see many new needs arise that aren’t well-served by traditional processes. Take the traditional, brick-and-mortar bank branch model, for example. Because branches have been forced to temporarily close their doors to customers, many have accelerated digital transformation efforts that make the majority of their services available online.

Digital identity

In a pre-pandemic world, digital identity verification was already a hot topic. Now that banks and fintechs are working with consumers almost exclusively online, there is an increased need for services that remotely authenticate users’ identities. Fortunately, there are a wide variety of instant identity verification offerings– from KYC and AML tools to blockchain-based identity networks– available to help banks and fintechs better serve their remote clients.

Post-Compromise Fraud Specialist Breach Clarity Partners with Xtensifi

Photo by FOX from Pexels

A collaboration between fraud prevention and detection company Breach Clarity and digital consulting firm Xtensifi will bring additional machine learning technology to bear in the battle against cybercrime in financial services. The new integration will enable the company’s Breach Clarity Premium for Financial Services platform to empower banks, credit unions, brokerage firms and insurance companies to address the impact of data breaches – from financial losses to identity theft – after they happen.

“We sought out a company we knew would execute our vision and provide us with the knowledge and expertise to get these entirely new products to market,” Breach Clarity CEO Jim Van Dyke said. He credited Xtensifi not only for helping develop the new platform, but also for giving the company the ability to market its technology to a new client base: financial services companies. “Initially consumer focused, we are now able to provide financial institutions with hyper-personalized, customer-level breach risk intelligence, capable of making a measurable difference in a variety of areas – from customer engagement to fraud loss mitigation,” Van Dyke explained.

Founded in 2019 and based in Walnut Creek, California, Breach Clarity analyzes more than 1,000 elements to gauge and score the risk level of a data breach. The company’s proprietary, machine learning algorithm analyzes 50 data breaches a week on average, and Breach Clarity said that it has 4,000+ such incidents in its database. This resource is maintained by the Identity Theft Resource Center.

“Breach Clarity is working to revolutionize the fraud detection, prevention, and mitigation landscape by providing a greater degree of transparency into breaches and their effects,” Xtensifi CEO George Kelley said. “Providing the industry with more clarity, confidence, and direction around breaches will ultimately result in stronger consumer financial health and safety.”

Like a number of companies in the fintech space, Breach Clarity is making its services easier to access during the COVID-19 crisis. More than a month ago, the company announced that it was waiving per-user costs for financial institutions using its Breach Clarity Premium for Financial Services solution for six months.

Breach Clarity co-founder and COO Al Pascual underscored the value of these services at a time when shifting computer use patterns – from business offices to private homes – during the global pandemic have given rise to a shifting set of risks. “As cybercriminals experiment with new forms of cyber scams,” Pascual said, “newly remote workers and the systems to which they are attached will be a high value target.”

Breach Clarity demonstrated its consumer-facing solution last year at FinovateFall. A specialist in post-compromise fraud, Breach Clarity enables users to search any publicly-reported data breach and receive a fraud risk rating, a list of top identity-holder risks, and a set of action steps ranging from freezing credit to modifying alerts to limit exposure to potential identity theft and related cybercrimes.

Autobooks Unveils New Way for Businesses to Receive Payments Online

Small business payments and accounting platform Autobooks unveiled a new initiative today that works directly with small businesses to help them receive credit card payments online.

The program, Get Paid with Autobooks, deposits transaction revenue directly into the business’ existing bank account. The tool was previously only available to small businesses via Autobooks’ existing bank partners. In fact, Autobooks partners with more than 50 banks and credit unions to help them compete with fintechs such as PayPal and Square by offering their small business clients an online payment acceptance tool.

Autobooks is waiving its $10 monthly fee for Get Paid through the end of this year. This offer comes at a time when many businesses have been pushed to accept payments online in order to provide a no-contact experience for their clients. Businesses will still be charged the standard 2.75% on each transaction.

Autobooks lowers the barrier of entry for businesses to accept payments by using a model called payment facilitation. “Non-bank providers such as PayPal, Square, and Stripe have long benefited from this model and it’s now time financial institutions can too,” said Autobooks CEO and Cofounder Steve Robert. “By providing a digital, self-service onboarding and automated underwriting process – a small business can now begin receiving payments directly into their existing checking account within a few minutes.”

Autobooks was founded in 2015 and has since raised $17.5 million in funding. The company offers banks a range of tools, including invoicing, accounting, and billpay, to help them support their small business customers.

Envestnet, EVERFI Drive Financial Literacy; Lessons in Digital Transformation

The 2019-2020 school year has been one of the many casualties in the fight against the coronavirus. While there have been some areas where student life has been relatively unchanged, for thousands of students around the world – from the youngest grades through collegiate ranks – learning has been disrupted significantly.

Financial education has suffered as well – which makes the newly-announced partnership between fellow Finovate alums Envestnet and EVERFI good news for the cause of financial literacy. The two companies have teamed up to provide clients and families of advisor customers with complimentary access to digital financial literacy courses.

“At a time when schools around the nation are closed, we are providing students and their parents with fun, interactive digital resources that can bring them closer together as families, while making progress toward financial wellness,” SVP and Head of Envestnet Wealth Marketing Kimberly Beck said. “We are there to provide advisors, clients, and their families with financial insights and learning at every point in their schooling, and their careers.”

Envestnet unveiled its first two digital financial literacy courses: Marketplaces and Vault, and noted that 20 additional courses from EVERFI also will be made available for a limited time. Marketplaces is directed toward high school students and helps them understand the global and real-world forces that can impact an investment portfolio. Vault enables elementary school age students to develop responsible decision-making skills using real-life financial scenarios such as creating a budget and goal-setting.

Envestnet most recently demonstrated its financial data management technology at FinovateFall last year. EVERFI made its Finovate debut a year ago at FinovateSpring, presenting its financial wellness solution, EVERFI Achieve.


Fintech in Extraordinary Times: Finovate Podcast and Learning Lessons from Leaders

In his latest Fintech in Extraordinary Times podcast, host Greg Palmer talks with fintech expert and author of the new book, Doing Digital: Lessons from Leaders, Chris Skinner.

Chair of the European networking forum, The Financial Services Club and Nordic Finance Innovation, Skinner is a well-known, independent voice on fintech and the financial markets. He maintains a blog, the Finanser.com, where he shares his insights and observations.

What are the challenges that financial institutions face in pursing digital transformation at a time of renewed uncertainty? How will fintech respond the new needs of small businesses, savers, and consumers in the current environment? Join the Finovate podcast and hear where the industry’s best analysts see fintech headed next.


Here is our weekly roundup of news from our Finovate alums.

  • Realrates goes live with RealCheck, a free credit affordability checking service, courtesy of a partnership with AccountScore.
  • Fenergo introduces remote access opening solution in the EMEA.
  • SecuredTouch takes home Best Product award at Loyal Security Association conference.
  • BlueRush launches COVID-19 personalized video library microsite featuring best safety practices for dealing with the coronavirus pandemic.
  • RedRock Biometrics partners with HYPR to provide palm-based authentication.
  • YUKKA Lab joins accelerator F10’s incoming class.
  • Jack Henry & Associates has helped banks process 38k+ in PPP Loans, totaling $4+ billion in potential funding.
  • ThetaRay selected as winner of the “Best Fraud Prevention Company” in FinTech Breakthrough Awards program.
  • Revolut partners with Adzooma to boost benefits for business customers.
  • Plinqit has helped users save more than $1 million since launch.
  • Azimo announces free money transfers to Nigeria to help support remittance flows during the global pandemic.
  • FIS to power core banking tech for Bambu’s U.S. launch.
  • ndgit and Neonomics partner to enhance access to payments and account data.
  • Transferwise relaunches transfers to Colombia.
  • Meniga sees fivefold increase in new installs of its PFM app.
  • Payfone launches mobile authentication in U.K.
  • Lendio to help Mindbody’s fitness, wellness, and beauty business customers access SBA’s PPP funds.
  • Brattleboro Savings & Loan selects NCR for digital banking.
  • DeutscheBank extends contract with Avaloq to 2028.
  • Finovate Best of Show winner Sonect earns spot in Fintech Europe’s incoming incubator class.

Finovate Alumni Features and Profiles

Taulia Teams Up with J.P. Morgan on Trade Finance – The collaboration will enable J.P. Morgan to build a “unique and differentiated” trade finance solution for its clients, giving them the ability to onboard a wide range of supplier types and sizes. 

FIS’ New Venture Arm Unveils Plan to Invest $150 Million in Fintechs – The Florida-based company is targeting a goal to invest $150 million in fintechs over the course of the next three years.

Finovate Alums Earn Top Honors in Wealthtech 100 –  The collection of companies is meant to represent the most innovative businesses operating in the wealth and asset space worldwide.

How One Bank-Fintech Partnership is Working for Small Businesses – After seeing how both banks and businesses were grappling with the application process, digital transformation expert and multiple-time Finovate Best of Show winner MX stepped in to help. 

Motif Investing to Close its Doors – The company notified users via email on April 17 in a message saying, “At this time, we’ve made the decision to cease operations and transfer your account to Folio Investments.”

Micro Investment Platform Stash Secures $112 Million – The round, which also involved existing investors Union Square Ventures, Breyer Capital, Goodwater Capital, and Greenspring Associates, gives the company $300+ million in total capital and boosts the firm’s valuation to more than $800 million.

Personalization and One-to-One Communication – Gregg Hammerman has seen first hand what works when it comes to personalization. In fact, in 2012, he launched a company built around the entire premise of personalization.

Tencent Pays $300 Million for Stake in Afterpay

China-based internet giant Tencent laid out $300 million to acquire a 5% stake in buy-now-pay-later firm Afterpay.

The move is part of a strategic partnership that will offer Afterpay easy access and collaboration opportunities with Tencent, a Hong Kong-based fintech giant with a $500 billion market capitalization. In comparison, Afterpay’s market capitalization on the Australian Stock Exchange tops just over $8 billion.

Afterpay was founded in 2014 by Nicholas Molnar and Anthony Eisen, who now serves as the company’s CEO. The Australia-based company has 4.6 million users and its revenues totaled over $160 million last year.

“Afterpay’s approach stands out to us not just for its attractive business model characteristics, but also because its service aligns so well with consumer trends we see developing globally in terms of Afterpay’s customer centric, interest free approach as well as its integrated retail presence and ability to add significant value for its merchant base,” said Tencent Chief Strategy Officer James Mitchell.

Tencent’s move comes shortly after its rival Ant Financial took a minority stake in Afterpay competitor Klarna. Afterpay has 3x the web traffic of Klarna and 1.5x the traffic of its other major competitor Affirm.

The buy-now-pay-later segment of fintech has been heating up this year, despite– or perhaps because of– the current economic and health crises. A few weeks back, Goldman Sachs launched MarcusPay, a tool to help borrowers make purchases ranging from $750 to $10,000 and pay for them over the course of 12 to 18 months.

Mambu Teams Up with Tide; Europe’s Top Regtechs; Buy Now Pay Later Goes Global

Mambu, the cloud-based banking platform based in Germany, is partnering with U.K. business banking platform Tide to power the company’s revolving credit facilities and overdrafts for small businesses.

“There is a need to be flexible, agile, and customer-centric in the design of financial products,” Managing Director of Mambu EMEA Eelco-Jan Boonstra explained. “Legacy technology constraints can undermine even the best innovation strategy.”

The collaboration will enable Tide to overhaul its product suite in order to better serve customers in a number of locations around the world. This includes offering larger overdrafts, credit cards, and invoice financing, as well as enabling Tide members to lend to each other leveraging solutions managed by Mambu.

“When today’s customers evaluate financial institutions, they no longer compare different banks, they compare experiences,” Boonstra said. “We see this partnership approach as the future of banking technology.”


Regtech is all the rage in fintech these days. From helping businesses negotiate a wave of new regulation – from GDPR to PSD2 – to empowering firms to combat fraud, companies involved in developing technologies to ensure that businesses are getting and staying compliant are enjoying rare attention from the rest of the industry.

A recent review of top regtech startups in Europe in Fintech News was an example of the light increasingly shining on these companies and their vital role in supporting a fintech industry that a growing number of financial services customers – and other businesses – are relying on.

The review cited research from KPMG that anticipates regtech spending in 2022 climbing to $76 billion. Analysis from XAnge, a European VC firm, finds approximately 140 regtech startups in the E.U., divided fairly equally between compliance management, KYC/AML, and risk management solutions.

We were especially please to see that, of the ten regtech startups highlighted in the feature, four of the companies are Finovate alums. Apiax and NetGuardians, which most recently demoed at FinovateEurope and at FinovateAsia respectively, both hail from Switzerland. Apiax, recently profiled here on the Finovate blog, offers a comprehensive compliance solution that leverages APIs to integrate its compliance rules into digital processes. NetGuardians focuses on Big Data and uses it to help banks fight fraud and automate compliance.

Also earning recognition on the top European regtech list was Ireland’s Fenergo. The company, founded in 2009 and having made its Finovate debut back in 2012, specializes in client onboarding and account opening solutions for banks and financial services companies. Just this week, Fenergo announced that it was launching a new remote account opening solution in both the EMEA and APAC regions.

Half of the companies on Fintech News’ regtech roster are from the U.K. The Finovate alum among this group, Onfido, leverages automated machine learning, optical character recognition (OCR), and other technologies to provide identity verification to combat fraud. Demoing its technology at both FinovateEurope and FinovateFall in 2018, the company earlier this month announced a major $100 million fundraising that brought the company’s total capital to more than $182 million.

“We’ve naturally chosen the grow-fast path because we strongly feel that the time to solve the digital access problem is overdue, and urgently needs to be solved, for good,” Onfido CEO and co-founder Husayn Kassai said. “We didn’t fundraise to just get to the next milestone, we need the funding as we’re changing the world.”


The Buy Now Pay Later Revolution is sweeping the world. Check out Finovate Senior Research Analyst Julie Muhn’s coverage of Tencent’s $300 million investment in Australia-based Afterpay this week:

Tencent’s move comes shortly after its rival Ant Financial took a minority stake in Afterpay competitor Klarna. Afterpay has 3x the web traffic of Klarna and 1.5x the traffic of its other major competitor Affirm.

The buy-now-pay-later segment of fintech has been heating up this year, despite– or perhaps because of– the current economic and health crises.


Here is our weekly look at fintech around the world.

Asia-Pacific

  • V Capital, and advisory firm based in Malaysia, and U.S.-based Cross River Bank partner to apply for a digital banking license in the country.
  • Hong Kong-based Oriente, a fintech that provides digital infrastructure for financial services, secures $50 million in its still-open Series B round.
  • South Korean cryptocurrency startup Childly teams up with blockchain analysis company Chainalysis.

Sub-Saharan Africa

  • Nigerian fintech startup Okra, which facilitates the exchange of real-time financial between banks, customers, and apps, locks in $1 million in pre-seed funding in a round led by TLcom Capital.
  • Flutterwave, based in San Francisco, California and Lagos, Nigeria, introduces new portal for African e-commerce merchants.
  • Visa and Kenya’s Pesapal team up to support connected digital payments.

Central and Eastern Europe

  • Resistant AI, a cybersecurity startup based in the Czech Republic, raises $2.75 million in funding.
  • Azer Turk Bank (ATB), based in Azerbaijan, deploys technology from Lithuania’s Ashburn to manage EFTPOS networks.
  • Germany’s Celonis leverages its process mining platform to develop new AI-powered accounts payable solution.

Middle East and Northern Africa

  • Egypt’s Commercial International Bank acquires 51% stake in Kenya’s Mayfair Bank.
  • BenefitPay, Bahrain’s national electronic wallet, announces 1257% increase in remittance volume in March.
  • Tata Consultancy Services to launch a digital only bank in Israel.

Central and Southern Asia

  • Indian cryptocurrency exchange CoinDCX announces trading availability of two native tokens from Crypto.com, MCO and CRO, on its platform.
  • Amazon launches new credit service, Amazon Pay Later, in India.
  • India-based ecommerce firm Paytm unveils contactless dining solution for restaurants in the coronavirus era.

Latin America and the Caribbean

  • paysafecard brings its payments platform, Paysafe, to Paraguay.
  • Latin Post looks at the use of fintech apps in Mexico.
  • Financial markets solutions provider Calypso Technology inks partnership agreement with Colombia-based consultancy Sophos Solutions

Top image designed by Freepik

Motif Investing to Close its Doors

After ten years in the investment space, online brokerage platform Motif will be shutting down operations on May 20.

The company notified users via email on April 17 in a message saying, “At this time, we’ve made the decision to cease operations and transfer your account to Folio Investments.”

Motif was founded in 2010 by Tariq Hilaly and former Microsoft executive Hardeep Walia, who debuted the company’s build-your-own motif concept at FinovateSpring 2013. Since its launch, the company amassed $127 million in funding from investors including Y Combinator, TechStars, and 500 Startups. In March, Motif reported $604 million in assets under management between individual accounts and institutional clients. The company also reported around $264 million in assets held in the ETFs it launched in conjunction with Goldman Sachs.

Last month, Motif deepened its ties with Goldman Sachs, ringing the opening bell of the New York Stock Exchange in celebration of launching five new ETFs in partnership with the bank.

As mentioned in Motif’s statement to its users, the company is transferring users’ accounts to Folio Investing. “We appreciate the opportunity we’ve had to work with you, and we are confident that your investment needs will be well-served by Folio,” the email said. Folio was founded in 2010 and offers 2,000 commission-free, window trades per month, most of the ETFs listed on the U.S. national securities exchange, 1,100 no-load mutual funds, and almost 125 pre-made portfolios.

While some Motif users have publicly complained about the company’s choice in the new provider, some fintech firms, including M1 Finance, have taken the opportunity to bring Motif’s users over to their platforms.

As ThinkAdvisor noted in a piece published last week, Motif’s news is a signal of what’s to come for smaller players in fintech. In fact, many analysts have noted that the recent pandemic and economic crisis will drive consolidation in the industry.

What Leading Challenger Banks Have Learned on Their Journey to Build a Digital-Only Bank

What Leading Challenger Banks Have Learned on Their Journey to Build a Digital-Only Bank

Finovate’s Charlotte Burgess spoke to Michal Kissos Hertzog, CEO, digital bank Pepper and insha’s Founder and Managing Director, Yakup Sezer, about the challenges of setting up a digital-only bank, and how to get the customer experience right with zero face-to-face interaction.

What key lessons have your challenger banks learnt as you looked to be digital only?

Michal Kissos Hertzog: One key lesson businesses have learned is that you can’t just paste a “digital core” over an incumbent bank. They have to be truly digital or there will be limitations and barriers.

The benefits of having a business model that is digital to its core is that banks can adapt quickly to constantly evolving customer demand, technology and innovation. Incumbents with legacy systems need to adjust quickly or partner with tech and fintech companies, or innovation will always be slower.

Yakub Sezer: The learning curve is very steep. When building a bank from scratch, especially in countries with strong regulatory bodies such as Germany, there’s a myriad of things to consider on the way, and many hurdles to overcome.

Courage is a necessity: If you have too many reservations about what you do as an entrepreneur, you’re inclined to fail. Learning to fail fast and get back on track even faster is crucial, and so is a strong partnership network. With Albaraka Türk, we’re lucky to have a strong investor with roots in our market segment behind us, but building a fintech-spirited bank out of a corporate culture is a completely different challenge.

Why do you think we have seen such a boom of “digital-only banks,” and do you think these challengers have the ability to take on those more entrenched players?

Sezer: Consumers are used to a level of convenience from their personal lives that it’s only natural they want to handle their finances in an equally convenient way.

Challenger banks have much faster innovation cycles and often enable a company culture that encourages a team to try out things, and fail where necessary, and learn from that, and then go on and improve, facilitated through digital organizational patterns, something legacy banks have been lacking for the longest time . However, I don’t necessarily see challenger banks and legacy banks as mutually exclusive. We’ve seen many great partnerships developing over the last years and both sides can benefit from each other in various areas.

Hertzog: The profit and loss model no longer works. Unlike the incumbents, digital-only banks have the advantage of being able to utilize data to operate on customers first, profit second basis. Customer needs and demands are changing and they expect so much more from the companies they engage with on a daily basis.

For example, Pepper’s research found that two thirds (67%) of Brits don’t feel well-equipped to make the best financial decisions for themselves, yet nearly half (47%) believe it’s a bank’s duty to help them make better financial decisions. This shows that banks need to do more in providing the necessary tools to help consumers make the best financial decisions.

This is something that many challengers have already achieved and are excelling at, so for the incumbents, it really is a question of adapt or die.

How do you ensure a great customer experience when you are a digital bank?

Hertzog: Unlike traditional banks who have implemented technology solutions to improve how they currently work, digital banks tend to do things differently. They work hard to identify customer pain points and then implement tech solutions to solve them.

Another way is by leveraging data. Digital banks might not have the long history of data that the incumbents do, but they are far better at utilizing it to adapt to consumer demand and offer personalized services. This typically creates a much better experience for the customer. For example, we know that debt is a huge problem for many people, so at Pepper, we use data to provide our customers with the necessary guidance before this happens; such as suggesting cheaper loan alternatives to an overdraft.

Sezer: For us, it’s been very important to find a strong niche. As a digital bank, we’re obviously attracting people that are looking for a very high level of convenience in banking; but we also have strong moral principles when it comes to what we do with our customers’ money. We’re also convinced that legacy banks have been doing certain things right: personal customer service is definitely a plus.

We’re combining the best of both worlds: a mobile-first banking experience, that offers consumers the possibility to get in touch with their beliefs and moral convictions through a personal banking partner.

Finally then, how do you see fintech as a whole evolving over the next decade?

Sezer: B2B solutions, especially will continue to gain traction across the board, and co-operation between digital and legacy banks will play an increasingly important role throughout Europe. But B2C is going to evolve as well; handling your financial situation will not be only banking anymore. With the ability to monitor personal spending habits and saving goals on your phone, customers will always be aware of their financial situation.

Hertzog: In the next decade, we can expect to see a lot more partnerships and collaborations – not just between banks and fintechs, but also fintech to fintech partnerships. Many successful businesses realize the importance of collaboration, so they can focus on what they do best and use other companies for the rest.

The other trend we can expect from fintech is increased personalization through the use of AI. At Pepper, we envisage a world where a consumer enters their favorite coffee shop, and we drop money into their account to pay for their coffee as a reward. This level of personalization and customer obsession will dramatically reform the banking industry in particular, as consumers opt for products that truly understand them and their needs.

Micro Investment Platform Stash Secures $112 Million

Photo by Burak K from Pexels

In a round featuring participation from LendingTree and T. Rowe Price, personal finance and investing app Stash has locked in $112 million in Series F funding. The round, which also involved existing investors Union Square Ventures, Breyer Capital, Goodwater Capital, and Greenspring Associates, gives the company $300+ million in total capital and boosts the firm’s valuation to more than $800 million.

“We are very fortunate to bring together world class investors to help accelerate Stash’s goal of bringing digital banking, investing plus financial education and advice to the millions of middle class Americans working hard every day to make ends meet,” company CEO Brandon Krieg said.

Stash’s $112 million fundraising arrives just over a year after the company’s last financing – a $65 million Series E led by an unnamed, private investor. That investment also accompanied the launch of Stash’s Stock-Back rewards program that gives users fractional shares of stock when they use their Stash debit card for qualified purchases at publicly-held companies like Amazon and Chipotle.

Stash offers a mobile-first, micro-investment and PFM solution that enables investors to build a portfolio starting with as little as $5. Users can invest in both stocks and funds without having to pay add-on trading fees, as well as make fractional share investments with smaller dollar amounts. In addition to being an investment platform, Stash also provides online banking services including an early paycheck feature for those who set up direct deposit, a Stash debit card, and no overdraft, monthly maintenance, or minimum balance fees. Billpay, mobile check deposit, and PFM functionality are also part of the platform.

Stash provides users with three tiered plans with monthly costs of $1, $3, and $9. The company’s premium offering, Stash+, provides two additional investing accounts for youth, and a metal card with double Stock-Back rewards, as well as the platform’s standard features.

The funding announcement also comes on the heels of a major milestone reached by the company earlier this year. In February, Stash reported that it topped $1 billion in assets under management on its platform. What’s all the more remarkable about this accomplishment is that the average per customer deposit at Stash is just $28.

“(Middle class Americans have) attempted to make financial progress within a system that simply does not serve their best interests or meet their needs,” Krieg said. “It’s time for them to reconsider the current financial services industry as the ‘status quo’ and take control of their financial life with the customer-obsessed solutions we provide at Stash.”

With more than four million members – 86% of whom are first-time investors – STASH demonstrated its technology at FinovateFall in 2017. The company is headquartered in New York City.

Personalization and One-to-One Communication

Gregg Hammerman has seen first hand what works when it comes to personalization. In fact, in 2012, he launched a company built around the entire premise of personalization.

Hammerman is now CEO of Larky, a mobile engagement platform that enables financial institutions to put the right message on an account holders’ lock screen at the right place and time. However, personalization and push notifications– while effective– can be difficult to implement. Not only do the timing and location have to be perfect, there is a careful balance between messaging and spam. On top of that, privacy is often a top concern for both financial institutions and their end users.

We caught up with Hammerman to tap his expertise on implementing a personalized user experience.

When it comes to personalization in fintech we often hear of sending offers to the right consumer at the right time in the right place. What is the most challenging aspect of this?

Hammerman: It’s critical to make sure that these communications are relevant, meaningful, and helpful to the consumer. We work closely with financial institutions to create experiences that use these communications to make people feel like they are part of a special club.

Three key things make our programs a success. First, we recommend segmenting an audience so you can tailor messaging for a person who has a mortgage, someone who recently purchased a car, a student with a new checking account, and other unique parameters that shape consumer habits. Second, scarcity is a powerful component. Consumers want to know that they have access to something special that isn’t available to everyone. Third, communications need to be fresh. Consumers want to see new messages and new experience opportunities on a regular basis.

What measures does Larky have in place to keep banks from fatiguing their customers with too many alerts and messages?

Hammerman: We work closely with our financial institution clients to give them complete control over how they communicate with their customers. The financial institution is always able to increase or decrease messaging frequency based on what is the best fit for their audience.

From an end-user perspective, account holders can snooze messages, turn off some types of notifications, and more. A lot of this discussion returns to making sure that these communications have high value. If every time I go for an auto repair, my financial institution tells me that I can save $100 because I’m a valued account holder, I’ll never fatigue from that message.

Thinking about geo-targeting, how does Larky balance a user’s privacy with the need to know their physical location?

Hammerman: Larky has been on the forefront of user privacy since our initial solution launched in 2013. We believe that users have the right to access any information that is collected or stored about them, and the right to obtain that information and have it destroyed if desired.

We are in compliance with all regulations from Europe and California. We plan to continue to lead and innovate on privacy. We don’t sell the data that passes through our servers. It’s not part of our business model. We have never and will never share any user information with any third parties.

Aside from knowing a consumer’s location and the best time to send a relevant offer, how else does Larky help banks with personalization?

Hammerman: We’re now working with financial institutions to leverage data from their other systems to help personalize communications. For example, we help improve new account holder onboarding with touchpoints that welcome and educate new clients and help them become more engaged with the financial institution.

We’re able to help financial institutions create campaigns that reach out to only their account holders who have an auto loan, just one account with the financial institution, recently started direct deposit of their paycheck, and much more. We’re finding that partnering with financial institutions to personalize the right message to the right consumer increases the impact of the campaign and includes account holder engagement.

BMO Harris Bank and 1871 Team Up to Launch Women’s Fintech Mentoring Project

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A collaboration between BMO Harris Bank and incubator 1871 has been launched to help empower the next generation of women-led fintech startups. The innovation lab sponsored by the two organizations is now accepting applications for its female-focused startup leadership mentoring program, WMN•FINtech.

“Women face unique challenges when running any business, especially startups,” BMO Harris Bank head of U.S. business banking Niamh Kristufek said. “We designed this year’s program to help women innovators and entrepreneurs overcome barriers and bring new ideas to market.”

As many as five startups will be selected for WMN•FINtech, which seeks to help close the sizable gender gap in the technology startup industry. In their program announcement, BMO and 1871 note that only 20% of startups that raised their first funding rounds last year were led by women. To this end, WMN•FINtech will give women entrepreneurs the guidance, working space, and networking opportunities that can enable them to develop their fintech innovations.

1871 CEO Betsy Ziegler called the initiative a “doubling down on women founders focused on solving the hardest finance problems.” The three-month program includes a four-month membership and access to working space at 1871. The program’s curriculum will emphasize key topics such as enterprise sales cycles, vendor management, information security, and regulatory compliance. Participating startups also will benefit from pitch opportunities with venture capital investors.

“The time is now and BMO Harris Bank is the perfect partner given their strength as a financial institution and their long-held mission to provide opportunities for women to come up and be powerful,” Ziegler said.

Program participants also will be eligible to access PYROS, a 13-week series of workshops, seminars, and one-on-one mentoring sessions. Developed specifically for founders, the new initiative from 1871 provides startups with a path to scale their fintech solution or service.

Applications for WMN•FINtech will be accepted through May 11. Eligible companies must have a woman as founder or co-founder and be based in the U.S.

Headquartered in Chicago, Illinois, 1871 is among the top private business incubators in the world. Founded in 2012, the non-profit organization has 350 mentors available to its members, as well as 100+ partner corporations, venture funds, accelerators, and educational institutions. More than 650 of 1871’s alumni companies are active; they have raised more than $1.5 billion in follow-on capital combined.

Santander Takes Majority Stake in Ebury

Spain-based multinational bank Banco Santander announced today it has acquired a 50.1% stake in Ebury, an international payments, FX, and cash management firm.

Santander invested $435 million (£350 million) in the deal, which was first announced in November of last year. The bank plans to use Ebury to provide small-to-medium-sized businesses (SMBs) with global finance tools to expand internationally. In fact, Santander is using $87 million (£70 million) of its total investment in Ebury to boost the company’s international expansion efforts.

The investment will help support Santander’s Global Trade Services business, which helps SMBs access international markets through trade finance, supply chain, payments, and foreign exchange.

“The investment in Ebury is a significant strategic milestone for the bank, allowing us to boost our capabilities in an exciting market with high growth potential,” said Sergio Rial, Chairman of Santander Brazil and Chairman of Ebury. “This new acquisition will provide us with the capabilities to further increase the Global Trade Services business with a new world-class platform with which we expect a significant return on investment in the coming years.”

Headquartered in the U.K., Ebury currently operates in 17 countries and 140 currencies. With Santander’s help, the company plans to expand into additional markets in Latin America and Asia.

Facilitating this move, Santander will offer Ebury the opportunity to expand its client base. Ebury will have access to Santander’s international network of more than four million SMB’s across the globe, 200,000 of which operate across international borders.

Ebury’s current client base includes 43,000+ SMBs. The company has increased its revenues by an average of 50% per year over the past three years and in its last reporting period boosted revenues by over 60%.

“In just over ten years, Ebury has grown from a small fintech company to a business with over 1,000 employees,” said Ebury Co-Founders Juan Lobato and Salvador Garcia. “Now, thanks to the support of Santander, we will be able to expand the business even more internationally and enter new markets.”

With $1.14 trillion (EUR 1.05 trillion) in assets under management and 145 million customers, Banco Santander operates 12,000 branches and has 200,000 employees. Last year, the bank made a profit of almost $8 billion (EUR 8.3 billion), an increase of 2% compared to the previous year.