Opentech Partners with Mastercard; Upgrade Pack Raises $5 Million

Opentech has leveraged Mastercard Send APIs to offer a new solution, OpenPay Send, that will give financial institutions across Europe powerful money transfer capabilities.

“Opentech’s mission is to be the enabler of digital payments for banks, leveraging state-of-the-art infrastructures to build highly reliable and flexible solutions, ready to be deployed to the end user,” Opentech CEO Stefano Andreani said. “The partnership with Mastercard and the integration with their worldwide network is a perfect fit to our strategy, bringing a great value and convenience to our customers.” Andreani called OpenPay Send “an important addition to our offering.”

OpenPay Send will also enable firms to offer a broad range of services – from remittance and micropayments to insurance claim distribution and real-time P2P payments. Available via a single integration, the solution helps institutions transfer money to more than 100 corridors – including as many as three billion bank accounts – as well as mobile wallets, payment cards, and cash-out locations worldwide.

The new technology gives banks and other FIs the flexibility to tailor its offering, specifying which countries and sending channels to be activated, and at what costs. OpenPay Send also features a customizable UI for both mobile and web, as well as an administrative portal. Opentech will demo OpenPay Send later this month at FinovateEurope in Berlin, Germany.

Mastercard’s Arne Pache, VP of Digital Payments and Labs, praised the collaboration as an example of how the Mastercard Send platform improves the process of global money transfer. “(We) designed the Mastercard Send platform envisioning a better, faster, and smarter way to send money all over the world in multiple ways by leveraging our expertise and the existing relationships with our customers.” Pache added that the partnership with Opentech and launch of OpenPay Send “brings this vision to life.”

Opentech demonstrated its white-label mobile app, OpenPay for Business, at FinovateEurope 2018. The company is headquartered in both Italy and Switzerland.


Here is our weekly roundup of the latest news from our Finovate alumni:

  • BBVA’s Holvi to expand to the U.K.
  • Cloud 9 partners with Green Key Technologies to enable more efficient and secure extraction of voice trading data.
  • Blackhawk Network sets up development center in India, reveals plans to hire 200.
  • Lighter Capital promotes Joe Silver to Chief Financial Officer.
  • SparkPost announces new features for its Receipt Validation tool.
  • Pensions administrator TKP teams up with Ohpen.
  • Credit Agricole nabs majority stake in Linxo.
  • ID R&D’s new release of IDVoice v.2.11 includes key performance enhancements.
  • Tink launches in France.
  • Revolut offers free airport lounge access to users if their flight is delayed by more than one hour.
  • Billtrust’s Business Payments Network is now integrated with Corporate Spending Innovations to enable their customers to automate supplier payment delivery.
  • Voleo taps Glen Wilson as its interim CEO. Company founder Thomas Beattie will remain as Voleo CCO.
  • Xignite now available in Amazon Web Services (AWS).
  • Jack Henry launches core-agnostic banking platform.
  • DefenseStorm reports zero attrition and 50% customer growth in 2019.
  • FIS partners with alternative SMB funding company LiberisFinance.
  • Pacific Service Credit Union selects Digital Onboarding to enhance member onboarding.
  • Quid merges with social media analytics company NetBase.
  • ndgit and Konsentus partner for PSD2 compliance. This week, ndgit also released version 2 of its API platform.
  • Arxan Technologies recorded 30% subscription growth in 2019.
  • Upgrade Pack raises $5 million in seed round.

Alummi Features and Profiles

Here’s How Far We’ve Come with Voice AI in Customer Service – When it comes to customer service, even in-person interactions can be unpleasant. And doing business over the phone is usually markedly worse, especially if there is a bot involved. There is one fintech fighting that stereotype, however.

Currencycloud Raises $80 Million in New Funding – B2B cross border payments innovator Currencycloud has locked in $80 million in new funding.

Citi Unveils Digital Investment Platform Powered by JemstepLaunched by Citi last week and powered by Jemstep, Citi Wealth Builder is the latest addition to the world of digital investing platforms.

Our latest FinovateEurope Sneak Peeks are up. Meet LeapXpert, Crowdz, Diligend, ITSCREDIT, Crayon Data, Chatvisor, Neonomics, Covr Security, Fidel, and Zelros.

LendUp Tops $2 Billion in Consumer Loans Mark – Since its launch in 2011, socially responsible lender LendUp has surpassed $2 billion in consumer financing via its digital lending platform.

FICO Suite 10 Brings New Precision and Flexibility to Credit Scoring Decisions – The new technology from FICO leverages trended credit bureau data to boost its predictive power, enabling lenders to make more precise decisions on credit risk.

Splitit Taps Stripe to Facilitate Merchant Onboarding for Payment Installments – The agreement makes Stripe the payment facilitator for all new merchants who onboard with Splitit

Also on Finovate.com

PSD2 Turns Two: Where Do We Go From Here? – Break out the PSD2 birthday cake! On January 13 the Second Payment Services Directive (PSD2)– what we now generally think of as open banking– turned two years old.

Digital Dollars and E-Euros: The Case for National Digital Currencies – In recent weeks and months, we’ve heard news of a growing number of central banks investigating the pros and cons of digitizing their money supply

Stop Looking at Your Customer Base as a Faceless Mass – f you ask Balázs Vinnai, president of W.UP, one size does not fit all when it comes to banking. In fact, his company’s entire premise is built around creating a personalized user experience.

Follow the Money: FinovateEurope’s VC All Stars Talk Fintech Investment in Europe – This year at FinovateEurope, we’ve added a panel called Investor All Stars. It’s stacked with investors who will offer up their take on the top topics for venture capital funding in fintech. 

Citi Unveils Digital Investment Platform Powered by Jemstep

Photo by Skitterphoto from Pexels

Citi Wealth Builder is the latest addition to the world of digital investing platforms. Launched by Citi this week, the new solution features a low initial investment of $1,500 and no advisory fees for Citi Priority and Citigold clients on their initial portfolios. Citi Wealth Builder is powered by Jemstep, which demonstrated its digital advisory technology at FinovateSpring in 2013.

“We have worked closely with Citi to configure the Jemstep digital advice platform to provide a compelling client experience that supports Citi’s value proposition, omni-channel delivery capabilities and robust operational and compliance requirements,” Jemstep CEO and President Simon Roy said. Based in Los Altos, California and founded in 2008, Jemstep was acquired by Invesco in 2016.

Citi Wealth Builder works by pairing customers with one of six portfolios based on the customers’ responses to questions about their investment preferences and goals. Factors ranging as the customer’s ability to tolerate volatility to the current amount the customer already has saved are used to help ensure a good fit between customer and portfolio. The technology works automatically, monitoring and rebalancing the investment allocations; customers have the ability to adjust investment levels and see in real-time how those changes likely will affect investment outcomes.

“Citi Wealth Builder makes it easy for clients to start investing so they can reach the next level of their financial journey,” Head of Citi U.S. Consumer Wealth Management John Cummings said. “It’s part of Citi’s holistic approach to banking and wealth management. In just a few minutes, customers can start building a solid foundation for years to come.”

The new release from Citi comes a year after the firm’s launch of Citi Wealth Advisor, which gives Citigold clients their own relationship team to help them design and implement personalized financial plans. The unveiling of Citi Wealth Advisor was accompanied by Citi’s announcement that it would offer commission-free trading on ETFs and new-issue U.S. Treasury purchases for Citigold clients.

Digital Dollars and E-Euros: The Case for National Digital Currencies

India is the latest country to announce that it is looking into development of a national digital currency – or what’s known in the industry as a Central Bank Issued Currency (CBDC). In recent weeks and months, we’ve heard news of a growing number of central banks investigating the pros and cons of digitizing their money supply. Japan announced last week that it is considering the advantage of a “digital yen.” The Central Bank of the Bahamas is also examining the issue, as is, ahem, North Korea. Tunisia made fintech headlines last fall when a Russian news agency reported the country had digitized its currency. But Tunisian authorities have since denied the story.

The case for digitizing national currencies includes the idea that, at a minimum, central banks need to keep up with – if not get ahead of – the trend toward the digitization of money. More constructively, central bank-issued digital currencies (CBDC) could provide significant benefits in terms of reducing the costs and risks to the payments system and, according to a 2018 report from the IMF, “could help encourage financial inclusion.”

However as the report makes clear, there are a wide variety of risks associated with CBDCs – the most immediate of which may be a simple lack of demand. The IMF’s Christine Lagarde made the point a few years ago in her address subtitled “The Case for New Digital Currency,” delivered at the Singapore Fintech Festival. The same “winds of change” that are driving central bankers to consider digitizing the money supply are also stimulating innovation in other forms of payment and value-storage. Any digital currency issued by a central bank still would have to compete with digital payment and value-storage offerings from the private sector.

In some ways, this is the most interesting consideration in the debate over digital currencies. Issues of safety and anonymity remain paramount, and themes like regional specificity remind us that what works for one geography may not work for another. But it is increasingly easier to imagine a world in which digital national currencies exist than it is to imagine a world in which they do not.

For more on the national digital currency movement around the world, check out Stephen O’Neal’s in-depth examination of the topic in Cointelegraph from the summer of 2018. O’Neal divided the world of state-issued currencies into the Adopters, the Rejectors, the Experimenters, and the Researchers. Note that Tunisia, as reported above, is no longer in the Adopters category, however the country’s central bank did note that it is “exploring” digital payment options including CBDC.

Additionally, some of the countries that have rejected national digital currencies have appeared to reconsider in recent years. A report from last fall suggested that private bankers and lenders in Germany, for example, have expressed interest in a form of “digital central bank money.”


This week on the Finovate blog we celebrated the second birthday of PSD2 in Europe, and highlighted the advances Israeli startup and Finovate Best of Show winner Voca.ai has made in deploying voice AI in customer service. We also previewed our upcoming FinovateEurope Venture Capital All Stars presentation on fintech investment trends in Europe.

Here is our weekly look at fintech around the world.

Asia-Pacific

  • Contour, a blockchain-based trade finance platform headquartered in Singapore, announces investment of undisclosed size from Standard Chartered.
  • Malaysian cross-border payments company Tranglo integrates with Ripple.
  • Digital-only banks may be coming to Thailand as the country’s central bank considers offering digital banking licenses.

Sub-Saharan Africa

  • South African fintech Oyi launches prepaid medical savings card.
  • Inlaks, a Nigeria-based ICT infrastructure solutions provider, introduces new line of “ultramodern” ATMs that feature the ability to access customer service via a live video connection.
  • FinTech4U Accelerator names the five Zambian fintechs that will join its program this month.

Central and Eastern Europe

  • Leading browser provider Opera acquires Estonian banking-as-a-service startup Pocosys.
  • German fintech Heidelpay is on the hunt for acquisition opportunities and is considering an IPO.
  • EU Startups features Cashpresso in its look at top Austrian startups to watch in 2020.

Middle East and Northern Africa

  • Arab News features Nosaibah Alrajhi, founder of Shariah-compliant P2P lending platform Forus, scheduled to go live in Saudi Arabia later this year.
  • Al Khaleej Bank of Sudan to deploy Path Solution’s core banking iMAL platform.
  • The Central Bank of Egypt completes eKYC pilot.

Central and Southern Asia

  • A digital rupee? That’s the proposal from India’s National Institute for Smart Government (NISG).
  • Fintechs are not the only ones disrupting financial services in India. Increasingly, smartphone brands are getting into the act.
  • Indian fintech startup Mera Cashier raises $250,000 in seed funding.

Latin America and the Caribbean

  • Softbank strikes again! The Japanese firm has led a $125 million Series B round for Mexico’s AlphaCredit.
  • Americas Quarterly looks at ways that fintech can become “a priority” in Latin America.
  • Olivia, a Brazilian financial wellness app, raises $5 million in funding from BV (formerly Banco Votorantim).

As Finovate goes increasingly global, so does our coverage of financial technology. Finovate Global is our weekly look at fintech innovation in developing economies in Asia, Africa, the Middle East, Latin America, and Central and Eastern Europe.

Top image designed by Freepik

Stop Looking at Your Customer Base as a Faceless Mass

If you ask Balázs Vinnai, president of W.UP, one size does not fit all when it comes to banking. In fact, his company’s entire premise is built around creating a personalized user experience.

Earlier this month we chatted with Vinnai about the struggle that banks face when it comes to tailoring their user experience to suit each customer individually.

Balázs Vinnai

Finovate: Why do you think banks have such a difficult time creating a personalized user experience?

Vinnai: There are several reasons: patched-up IT systems, outdated vendors, a lack of entrepreneurial spirit, just to name a few. But legacy thinking is by far the biggest culprit. Many incumbents still think that digital transformation is about buying the right technology and streamlining a few processes. That’s part of it, of course, but mostly it’s about understanding customers as much as possible and catering to their very needs.

Finovate: What is one small step banks can take to improve their customer experience?

Vinnai: Stop looking at their customer base as a faceless mass. Banking customers are individuals with unique needs and problems, goals and habits. With the help of advanced data analysis, banks can do much more than segment or micro-segment them. They can create segments-of-one and laser-target each and every customer with the right financial solutions.

Finovate: How does improving the customer experience ripple out to add value into other areas of a bank, such as fraud prevention?

Vinnai: Personalization in general is becoming a means of survival instead of added value. Completely rethinking how customer experience is delivered might seem a bit radical today but, in the long run, failing to do so will have more severe consequences. A Gartner study says that by 2030 as many as 80% of traditional financial service providers will go out of business if they can’t catch up with digital-savvy competitors.

Finovate: Tell us about what W.UP does and what sets the company apart from its fintech competitors.

Balázs Vinnai: W.UP is a personalization platform that allows banks to understand and meet their customers’ needs in real time. It comes with pre-built use cases that are easy to set up and tailor to banking systems, processes, and goals. What makes it different from other AI-driven tools is that not only does it give customers a better insight into their finances, but it can also spot and offer solutions for key money moments and complex life situations.

Finovate: Last year was considered to be “the year of the customer” in fintech. Do you think that mentality will continue into 2020?

Vinnai: I think every day should be about the customer in banking and fintech alike, no matter what year it is. And it shouldn’t just be an empty motto or mission statement. It’s time incumbents and challengers teamed up and walked the talk together.


Check out W.UP’s Best of Show-winning demo at FinovateEurope 2019 and don’t miss the company’s upcoming appearance at FinovateEurope on 11 through 13 February in Berlin.

FinovateEurope Sneak Peek: Chatvisor

A look at the companies demoing live at FinovateEurope on February 11-13, 2020 in Berlin. Register today and save your spot.

Chatvisor combines customer engagement and analytic platforms powered by Co-Browsing, providing improved customer communication for companies.

Features

  • Screen-sharing without downloading
  • Bi-directional control
  • Maximum security & privacy

Why It’s Great
Co-Browsing is screen-sharing without downloading, optimized for websites, mobile apps & desktops.

Presenters

Horst Fuchs, COO
Fuchs is a former competitive swimmer as well as former COO at his family company. He’s passionate about innovation & disruptive technology and loves competition, sports, learning, and pushing limits.
LinkedIn

Markus Wagner, CEO & CTO
Wagner is a problem solver at heart and applies his exceptional skills daily in his co-role as CEO & CTO. He leads Chatvisor’s product development to not just match, but exceed customer expectations.
LinkedIn

FinovateEurope Sneak Peek: Neonomics

A look at the companies demoing live at FinovateEurope on February 11-13, 2020 in Berlin. Register today and save your spot.

Neonomics arose as a direct response to the challenges facing the financial industry during its radical transition into the era of PSD2 and open banking.

Features

  • Reduce cost
  • Plug-and-play integration
  • Seamless customer journey

Why It’s Great
Users are enabled to trigger instant payments and transfers from their bank, directly from your app or website.

Presenters

Roar Alme, COO
Alme is extremely experienced with business development and finance in Norway and internationally. He is the Chief Commercial Officer at Neonomics.
LinkedIn

Yifan Yu, Software Developer
LinkedIn

FinovateEurope Sneak Peek: Covr Security

A look at the companies demoing live at FinovateEurope on February 11-13, 2020 in Berlin. Register today and save your spot.

Passwords should not exist. Covr is the next generation of digital on-boarding & authentication solutions. Credential-less, for maximum security and user experience for your customers.

Features

  • User intuitive with end users in full control
  • Eliminating One Time Passwords, ending reliance on passwords and hardware tokens
  • Biometrics for digital on-boarding of new customers and three factor SCA

Why It’s Great
Digital identification is a strategic asset in financial services. Covr is the next generation of digital on-boarding & authentication solutions, eliminating passwords and optimizing your UX and security.

Presenter

Johan Envall, VP Bus. Dev.
Envall brings more than 15 years of experience in banking and financial services, including JPMorgan, Mastercard and as entrepreneur in Fintech start-ups. Currently, VP Bus. Dev. at Covr Security, based in Sweden.
LinkedIn

FinovateEurope Sneak Peek: Fidel

A look at the companies demoing live at FinovateEurope on February 11-13, 2020 in Berlin. Register today and save your spot.

Fidel’s card-linking API gives developers easy access to real-time payment data from Visa, Amex and MasterCard through a single integration point.

Features

  • Plug into global customer payments data
  • Create innovations with ease
  • Grow projects securely

Why It’s Great
Fidel enables you to link directly to customer credit cards through secure SDKs and easily surface real-time transaction data from Visa©, Mastercard© and Amex©.

Presenter

Sam Leslie-Miller, Head of Ops.
Leslie-Miller looks after Fidel’s delivery of products, existing & new, ensuring Fidel is adhering to it’s ambitious goals.
LinkedIn

FinovateEurope Sneak Peek: Zelros

A look at the companies demoing live at FinovateEurope on February 11-13, 2020 in Berlin. Register today and save your spot.

Zelros is a software company developing Artificial Intelligence for insurance players.

Features

  • Specializes in the insurance industry
  • Seamless integration with existing processes
  • Maximizes cross and up selling

Why It’s Great
Augments insurance employees to enhance the customer journey.

Presenter

Gero Reiniger, Sr. Account Manager
Reiniger has 12 years of experience in the insurance industry sales & management roles.
LinkedIn

TokenSoft Launches Investment Accounts

Token issuance and asset servicing platform TokenSoft announced the launch of TokenSoft Investment Accounts today. The new accounts offer financial institutions a way to give their clients who invest in security tokens self-managed investment wallets.

“We’re excited to bring a multi-signature wallet security packaged in a self-controlled, easy to manage brokerage-style experience to the over 100,000 investors using our platform,” said TokenSoft CEO Mason Borda.

The new investment accounts offer investors a more traditional, brokerage-style experience; access to dividend distributions; and automated reinvestment. Additionally, issuers will receive support for compliant security token standards and integrated reporting and disclosures.

“The ability for non-technical individuals to self-custody is going to change the way assets under management models work in traditional finance,” said Jordan Davis, VP of Business Development at TokenSoft. “Wallets like TokenSoft Investment Accounts will put pressure on financial institutions to provide better client servicing, value-add services, and investment management tools to earn investors’ business. People will be able to add or remove service providers from accessing their assets the same way you can add or remove profiles from your Netflix subscription.”

TokenSoft’s mission is to accelerate the adoption of the blockchain in financial markets. The company launched its white-label token securities issuance platform in 2017 to help companies tokenize their assets in an economy that does not have the infrastructure to support such transactions. Below are a few use case scenarios:

  • Venture capital firms can tokenize portions of their limited partnership interest
  • Banks can tokenize their assets under management, creating a stablecoin
  • Startups can tokenize their equity to offer investors and employees fractional ownership

Among TokenSoft’s clients are Andra Capital’s Silicon Valley and Arca Investment Management Firm. The company was founded by James Poole and Mason Borda and is headquartered in San Francisco, California.

LendUp Tops $2 Billion in Consumer Loans Mark

Photo by Nina Uhlíková from Pexels

Since its launch in 2011, socially responsible lender LendUp has surpassed $2 billion in consumer financing via its digital lending platform. This represents 6.5+ million loans, with an average loan value of $300.

“We’re very proud of this significant lending accomplishment, the progress we’ve made in driving disciplined, profitable, and sustainable growth, and our role as a standard bearer for responsible and inclusive lending and banking,” LendUp CEO Anu Shultes said.

One of the fintechs to embrace early the concept of financial wellness, LendUp combines access to financing via its short-term installment loans. The company offers financial education and a specific-but-personalized strategy to help consumers improve their credit, the LendUp Ladder. This resource uses gamification, education, and good borrower behavior to enable borrowers to earn points that allow them to apply for larger loan amounts at better rates. The company notes that its customers have taken more than two million financial education courses via its platform.

“Through our lending, education, and savings programs, we’ve helped customers raise their credit profiles by hundreds of thousands of points cumulatively and saved them hundreds of millions of dollars in interest and fees from much higher cost products,” Shultes explained. She added that the $2 billion mark was a “real testament to the impact that financial service providers like LendUp can and should have on the market.”

It’s worth noting that this week’s announcement comes on the one-year anniversary of Shultes’ appointment as CEO; Shultes took over the company last January from co-founder Sasha Orloff. Shultes was formerly LendUp’s GM and has been credited for helping grow the company’s loan originations to more than 5.5 million.

LendUp demonstrated its financing platform at FinovateSpring 2014. The San Francisco, California-based company has raised more than $360 million in funding from investors including PayPal Ventures and Victory Park Capital. The company spun-off its credit card business, Mission Lane, as a stand-alone entity a year ago, which has allowed LendUp to focus on its lending and financial wellness businesses.

Figure Names Former Coinbase COO as President

Blockchain-based financing company Figure announced today it has scooped up Asiff Hirji, former COO of Coinbase, as its new President.

In his tenure at Coinbase, Hirji helped the company grow its revenue to more than $1 billion and boost its valuation to $8 billion. He also served as Operating Partner at Andreesen Horowitz and was COO at TD Ameritrade. Prior to those positions, he held senior leadership roles at TPG Capital, Saxo Bank, HP, and Bain Capital.

“Asiff has already been a critical advisor to me on how we manage the growth of Figure in order to drive the transformation of financial services across categories and around the world,” said CEO Mike Cagney. “His deep experience in the financial services industry and his long history of helping companies drive and manage growth are both going to be important to the growth of Figure and the creation of our new merchant bank.”

Figure was founded in 2018 by former SoFi Founder and CEO Mike Cagney. The company provides direct-to-consumer solutions to help consumers optimize their finances via three products, a home equity line of credit, mortgage refinance, and student loan refinance. The company leverages the blockchain to process the loans and offers a simple application process to provide funds in a matter of days, not weeks.

In his new role, Hirji is responsible for building a new bank division that will enable banks to leverage Provenance, Figure’s blockchain-based transactions platform.

“Blockchain will crash the costs of financial services, making products more affordable and available to all. Figure is one of the very few companies actually turning that promise into reality,” said Hirji. “The opportunity now is to scale to more financial products and open this capability to all financial institutions. I feel fortunate to be able to help make the promise of blockchain a reality.”

Since the company’s launch, Figure has now become the fourth largest originator of HELOC loans in the U.S. The company has raised $1.2 billion in combined debt and equity and is headquartered in San Francisco, California.