Canadian Data Aggregator Flinks Raises $11 Million in Funding

Flinks, a startup based in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, that specializes in data aggregation for financial services, has secured $11 million in Series A funding. The investment was led by NAventures, the VC arm of National Bank of Canada, which also provided $5.2 million in debt financing. Also participating in the round were Intact Ventures, Luge Capital, and Panache Ventures.

Flinks CEO Yves-Gabriel Leboeuf called the investment “timely” adding that the company was “well on track” to meet the goals it has previously set and was now ready to “face new, bigger challenges.” In a Q&A announcement at the company blog, Lebouef explained that, having focused on retail banking up to this moment, the company will look to expand into what he referred to as “wealth data.”

“Flinks will enable connections to data sources in the wealth management space, through a new aggregation service,” Lebouef said. “This is something we’re going to pull off in the near future – in fact, we’re already well into the beta phase.”

Founded in 2016, Flinks helps businesses provide users with the financial services they want. The company’s technology enables companies to connect their customer’s bank accounts, and to leverage data insights to build better, more personalized financial products. Lebouef noted that “roughly 1 in 3 Canadians” have connected their bank accounts with his company, which has processed 300+ million connections.

The investment will help Flinks expand to new markets and take advantage of the opportunities of open banking. Managing Director, Venture Capital, NAventures Philippe Daoust said, “We see great alignment between Flinks’ mission and our own focus on helping our clients manage their finances by providing them with innovative and reliable digital solutions.”

Flinks, which signed its first client in the spring of 2017 and its 100th client a year later, began 2020 by adding Clayton Feick as its new Chief Revenue Officer. Feick is a veteran of Quandl and Thomson Reuters, where he was vice president and global head of sales and business development and global lead, respectively.

Lendio’s Role in Keeping Small Businesses Afloat During COVID

We generally think of healthcare workers, grocery store employees, delivery drivers, and other essential workers as the main heroes of the coronavirus public health crisis. However, there’s one company worth mentioning that has risen to “hero” status for small businesses across the U.S.

That company, Lendio, has been serving small businesses since it launched in 2011 by matching small businesses in need of funding with lenders. After the coronavirus hit and the U.S. Small Business Administration passed the CARES Act and Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), Lendio became a critical resource for merchants across the nation.

After seeing the mass confusion around different types of relief programs and their application requirements, Lendio quickly created a COVID-19 Relief hub on its website to educate business owners, help them apply for funding, and match them with one of its 300 lender partners.

Since April, Lendio has facilitated $8 billion in PPP loan approvals. The company has also helped more than 100,000 small businesses receive approval for PPP loans of an average size of $73,000. This is a massive increase in production for the Utah-based company which, prior to PPP, had facilitated $2 billion in loan approvals since it began operations nine years ago.

The 100,000+ PPP applications Lendio facilitated offered the company a large amount of data (and insight) into the applicants. The company published an analysis of that data last week. Here are some of the findings:

  • States in the Pacific region received 25% of PPP approvals, while those in the Mountain region received only 9%.
  • States in the Northeast and Pacific regions saw the highest average loan size ($80,518 and $79,507, respectively). The average loan size is lowest in the South Atlantic ($64,064).
  • Women business owners made up 32% of applicants.
  • Businesses in urban areas received 30% of the loans applied for, while suburban businesses received 28%, and rural received 39%.

As for what business owners can expect next, just as with the virus itself, the battle has not been won. “I think the next big market mover is going to be the realization that the PPP program actually had an enormous impact,” Sanders Morris Harris CEO George Ball in an interview with Yahoo Finance. “It worked. It kept the patient alive. But the half-life of the forgivable loans to small businesses comes up pretty soon, comes up mid-July to August.”


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FinovateAsia: Digital Payments, Financial Services, and FutureTech

The second day of FinovateAsia Digital focused on a pair of themes – digital payments and futuretech – that are increasingly intertwined. Both offer solutions to the challenge of liberating consumers and communities from their “cash addiction” by combining industrial applications of the Internet of Things with the processes of the financial services industry. It is clear that the nexus of payments and advanced, enabling technologies is one of the key frontiers of fintech innovation today.

Below are a few insights and observations on these topics from our speakers on Day Two of our conference. And remember, to join our all-digital event – live or On Demand – visit our FinovateAsia Digital hub to register and begin enjoying all the content we have to offer.


On the persistence of cash, and the urgency to bring alternatives to communities that rely on cash

The newspapers are full of stories about how some communities are being left without ATMs, and people are finding it hard to access cash. You can see why that is because as the number of cash transactions falls, the cost of cash infrastructure – not just ATMs, but every shop with its tills and counting up cash and depositing it and vans full of cash driving around all over the place to fill up the ATMs, security guards – all of that infrastructure falls on fewer and fewer transactions, so the per transaction costs goes up.

So how to you protect people who need to work in cash? Well, (innovation in ATMs) seems to me to be an expensive way to do it. The alternative would be to find ways of moving them away from cash, not finding ever more expensive ways of allowing them to continue their cash habit. It’s the people who are trapped in a cash economy that face the highest transaction costs anyway.

–David Birch, Director of Innovation, Consult Hyperion


On the value of artificial intelligence to those business leaders who have implemented the technology

Thirty percent of the (business) leaders who have adopted and integrated artificial intelligence into their business models are very convinced that AI will deliver (on) their core strategic business decisions. So, in other words, 30% of those who have already deployed artificial intelligence believe that artificial intelligence must sit at the core of their deliverables in business strategy.

45% of these leaders invest three times more in this type of technology than the late adopters or the laggards. And 7% of the leaders record more revenues and savings than the late adopters of this technology. So as you can see, these numbers speak volumes. It’s also interesting to understand that these numbers compound over time. And the speed of compounding this growth and acceleration will be translated in a higher market share, better customer deliverables, and improved market reach in different jurisdictions. In other words: stronger business.

— Clara Durodié, Chief Executive, Cognitive Finance Group


On the enabling power of the Internet of Things and Industry 4.0 for payments and other financial services

Once we have the ability to connect devices and large industrial systems into financial services we suddenly have interesting opportunities, for example, in enabling real-time payments and machine-to-machine payments. So we are talking about creating a payment ecosystem and financing capabilities based on data streams and digital representations of physical assets in the industrial landscape.

This, of course, opens up a lot of questions. We need to think about, first and foremost, the trust model that has to be established. For example, when you create a digital representation of a physical asset, if we want to give that asset or a machine a payment capability where they are able to exchange value with other machines, we have to define a structure for a machine identity. You could almost argue that we need to establish a “Know Your Machine” process instead of a “Know Your Customer” process.

– Ville Sointu, Head of Emerging Technologies, Nordea Bank


Available both live (Singapore time) and On Demand during the conference week, FinovateAsia Digital is a unique opportunity for those interested in learning more about fintech in the Asia-Pacific region. Browse our all-digital presentations, interviews, and discussions; network with fellow attendees; and gain key insights into the trends driving fintech innovation in critical, emerging markets. Visit our FinovateAsia Digital Hub and register today.


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Chainalysis Raises $13 Million for Crypto Intelligence

Blockchain analysis company Chainalysis is on a mission to promote trust and transparency for cryptocurrencies. Aiding that undertaking today is an additional $13 million in funding to add to its Series B round.

The new investment comes from Ribbit Capital and Sound Ventures and brings Chainalysis’ Series B round to $49 million. The New York-based company’s total funding now stands at almost $67 million.

Chainalysis was founded in 2014 and was recently valued at $266 million, according to Pitchbook. Among its offerings are automated cryptocurrency transaction monitoring software, investigation software for tracing the flow of funds across blockchains, and profiles of cryptocurrency businesses.

As a part of the deal, Chainalysis has gained former Treasury Department official and current Ribbit Capital General Partner Sigal Mandelker as an advisor.

Mandelker and the new funds both play a key role as Chainalysis invests more into the government side of its business. While Chainalysis offers solutions for private sector businesses and financial institutions, the company also works with a handful of U.S. government agencies, including the IRS, the DEA, ICE, and the SEC.

In an interview with blockchain publication The Block, Chainalysis CEO and Co-founder Michael Gronager said, “We extended our Series B in order to meet demand for our services, primarily from government customers. Government agencies understand that visibility into cryptocurrency is important to national security and that crypto crime does not let up during a pandemic. Importantly, this also has long-term benefits to the cryptocurrency industry.”

As transactions move to the digital realm and more countries begin considering CBDCs, Chainalysis is making a smart move in pouring more resources into its government-focused services. Mandelker said she is “excited to work with the Chainalysis team to help develop public-private partnerships, enhance ground-breaking technologies in financial services, and root out illicit networks.”


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U.S. Challenger Bank Point Secures Series A Funding

U.S. challenger bank Point, which offers a consumer banking app and pledges to provide a “credit card experience” to debit cardholders, announced that it has raised $10.5 million in Series A funding. The round was led by Valar Ventures, and featured participation from Y Combinator, Kindred Ventures, Finventure Studio and “business angels.” Company CEO and co-founder Patrick Mrozowski said the challenger bank has raised a total of $12.7 million.

The San Francisco, California-based company has been in private beta “for the past year” plans to launch a major new version of its technology later this year, according to reporting in TechCrunch. In addition to its Point Card debit product – available as both a physical and virtual card – the company offers a Point Checking mobile savings account. The account is backed by FDIC-insured, Point partner Radius Bank, and the challenger bank leverages technology from Finovate alum Plaid in order to link accounts on its platform to a third-party bank account. Point does not charge foreign transaction fees for international transactions, and relies on Mastercard’s exchange rate for overseas transactions.

Users of the Point Card earn points when shopping with popular merchants including Airbnb, Uber, and Starbucks where cardholders can pick up 2x, 3x, and 4x in points respectively for each dollar they spend. Seamless integration between the Card and the app ensure a holistic consumer experience with features including purchase notifications, in-app card management, and rewards tracking.

Previous to his co-founding of Point, Mrozowski founded and ran Crumbs, a micro-investing platform for cryptocurrencies and digital assets that was acquired by Metal Pay two years ago.

FinovateAsia Digital: Startups, Social Distance, and Digital Transformation

How has COVID-19 affected fintechs in the Asia-Pacific region and their ability to grow and expand into new channels and new markets? Who is better positioned – fintechs or banks – when it comes to managing the global health pandemic? What role does the public sector play in supporting fintech innovation in the different countries of the region, and how has the coronavirus impacted those relationships?

In keynote addresses, fireside chats, and roundtables, our fintech experts and analysts began FinovateAsia Digital today with the topic that is most central to everyone fintech right now: what can the fintech industry do now to best prepare for the “New Normal” on the other side of COVID-19?

With a focus on startups and digital transformation, here are a few highlights from some of the day’s conversations from our first, all-digital, Finovate conference. To join us live – or to watch the program On Demand during the conference week – visit our FinovateAsia Digital Hub to register.


On forming partnerships and building relationships between startups and incumbents at a time of social distancing

For us the pre-dominant fact was that we had to move everything online for the very first time. We have always run our programs face-to-face. This is where we believe innovation and magic happens: when people are in the same room and brainstorm together. This has been a great challenge to show our corporates and our startups that this is possible online as well.

It does require a bit more structuring, so that has been keeping us busy as the incubator management team. It’s something we have been focusing on for quite some time: to identify what are the right tools that we are going to use that both engage the startups and the corporates. (Many startups) typically can access Zoom and all those tools. But our corporate partners on the other hand have a bit more of a challenge to bring their businesses online – or even to communicate online.

–Lisa Schroeder, Operations and Progamme Lead, F10


On crisis presenting opportunity for fintechs in Asia and how these companies rose to the challenge

If fintech every had a “moment” in its life, it is now, in this crisis. Because the whole fintech narrative has been: we can deal with situations, crises, far better than traditional, incumbent banks because we have technology, we can interact with the consumer more directly, we have algorithms which can understand risk better … Now we had a perfect storm to go and look at all possible stress scenarios and find a way to serve the consumer the best. So from a fintech standpoint, they had a perfect environment to go and succeed. And we saw very strong evidence of such in Asia.

If I look at the growth of e-payment services … if I look at the demand (from) people who are looking for lending from alternative platforms – it just went through the roof … There are other data points which strongly show that if you are a fintech and you have a mature product during the crisis, you tend to gain a lot. For example, the graph of fintech investment in Singapore from April, May, and June went up like a hockey stick. And the biggest beneficiaries of these investments are the fintechs which are serving the small and medium enterprise, and the fintechs that are helping banks digitize faster.

–Sopnendu Mohanty, Chief FinTech Officer, Monetary Authority of Singapore


On how the global health pandemic signals a shift in the pace of digital change in fintech

Traditional financial institutions are moving toward a collaborative, partnering, co-creation model, where they are partnering with the startup companies. And this partnership is a bit like a parent and a child. The parent, which is the financial firm, wants resilience, reliability, security, stability. The child wants to change the world, it wants challenge everything, it wants to kick down the walls and break down barriers and do everything differently because they want the world to change. And it is changing, because “the parent” is now having to work with “the child” in order to do things differently.

And that’s where this world of fintech today is really interesting because it’s not a simple one. It’s one where the mentor is the traditional financial firm who’s investing in the disruptor, which is the new startup technology firm. And the coronavirus pandemic has actually turbocharged (the) change, because traditional financial firms that were prevaricating and thinking about “maybe we should do more on digital” have been forced to suddenly overnight wake up and do digital.

–Chris Skinner, Author, theFinanser, and Doing Digital: Lessons from Leaders


Available both live (Singapore time) and On Demand during the conference week, FinovateAsia Digital is a unique opportunity for those interested in learning more about fintech in the Asia-Pacific region. Browse our all-digital presentations, interviews, and discussions; network with fellow attendees; and gain key insights into the trends driving fintech innovation in critical, emerging markets. Visit our FinovateAsia Digital Hub and register today.


Photo by Alaric Sim from Pexels

Personal Capital CEO Speaks Up About the Company’s Acquisition

If you missed the news earlier this week, here’s a recap: Personal Capital agreed to be acquired by Empower Retirement, the second-largest retirement services provider in the United States, for up to $1 billion, composed of $825 million on closing and up to $175 million for planned growth.

According to Forbes, the San Francisco-based fintech is selling for the same price as its valuation in February 2019. The deal is expected to close in the second half of this year.

After a bit of time to digest everything, Personal Capital CEO Jay Shah looked at the decision and what it means for the eleven-year-old company. Shah has been at Personal Capital since the company’s launch in 2009 and will now serve as President of Personal Capital and will also sit on the Executive Team at Empower.

Shah explained that, though many companies have expressed interest over the years in acquiring Personal Capital, none of the opportunities felt right. However, because Empower shares many of Personal Capital’s same “visions and values.”

He went on to describe how, in today’s uncertain world, the buy-out “will ensure extra strength and resources to grow Personal Capital, and bring [clients] more of the great technology and service [they’ve] come to expect. He added that combining the two companies will help Personal Capital support and further develop its features and service offerings.

As for what’s next, Shah said that Personal Capital will continue to operate as it always has. And because the company’s leadership team has committed to stay on for the long-term, the company’s culture will stay in-tact. “I recognize that this announcement feels like a major change, but I also want to assure you that your day-to-day experience with Personal Capital will remain the same,” he added.


Photo by Oleg Laptev on Unsplash

Venmo Helps Micro-Businesses Accept Payments For Free (For Now)

Micro-businesses, such as sole proprietors and gig workers, are an underserved group when it comes to financial management tools.

Seeing this need, and recognizing that more than 75% of small businesses in the U.S. are sole proprietors, Braintree-owned Venmo is releasing a new set of tools to help them connect, market, and grow their business.

“Venmo was designed to be a place where friends and family can send, split and share purchases and experiences. Today, we are introducing a very limited pilot to extend that experience to allow sellers to access the benefits of Venmo’s platform through Business Profiles,” the company announced in a blog post.

Currently in a pilot phase, Business Profiles allow consumers to create a business profile (separate from their personal profile) on Venmo in order to accept payment for goods and services. Business users can also tap into Venmo’s community of 52+ million users to generate interest, referrals, and awareness of their brand.

At launch, Venmo will not charge businesses transaction fees. This is likely because the company recognizes that the micro-businesses it is targeting already use its P2P money transfer service to accept payments for their business. Venmo cautioned that it will eventually charge a per-transaction fee of 1.9% + $0.10, but did not mention when it will begin charging the fees.

Venmo’s Business Profiles launch today to a limited number of iOS users on an invite-only basis and will be available for Android users “in the coming weeks. The company plans to make the new service more widely available “in the coming months.”


Photo by Cesar Carlevarino Aragon on Unsplash

Adapting to Make Payments from 6 Feet Away

NCR has been in the finance industry since 1884, so it’s seen a lot of changes in how consumers make payments and interact with their bank.

Adam Crighton

A lot of those changes have taken place in the past six months as the coronavirus has driven massive changes in consumer habits.

To get a sense of what the industry looks like from a company that makes not only software services but also self-service kiosks, point-of-sale terminals, ATMs, barcode scanners, and more, we consulted Adam Crighton, Senior Vice President & General Manager at NCR Digital-First Self-Service Banking.

What changes in demand for contactless banking have you seen since the coronavirus hit?

Adam Crighton: Obviously at a time when bankers and tellers are unable to service customers face-to-face, digital experiences really have become a lifeline for many people. People are using digital banking to conduct transactions from home, they are connecting with tellers and branch staff through live digital chat sessions, and self-service capabilities like Interactive Teller Machines (ITMs).

With that heightened need for customers and businesses to connect remotely, some financial institutions may be feeling they have fallen behind in terms of digital delivery and digital transformation. The pandemic has not created this level of demand, but it is fair to say it has certainly accelerated it. We do see that many customers that prior to banking were not using digital banking are now much more inclined to try a digital app or self-service kiosk.

How has NCR adapted (or accelerated the scale of) its products and services to suit these new needs?

Crighton: From an NCR perspective our mission is to help our customers keep commerce running whether it’s banking, retail, or restaurants and to really stay connected with their customer base. Many of our customers that have invested in our digital banking solutions and ITMs over the last several years have told us that it has really been their go-to in terms of leveraging these technology platforms to compensate for things like branch closures, and generally more limited access to branches based on restrictions around the world.

Keeping their staff and customers safe is obviously something very top-of-mind at the moment while still trying to provide a high level of service that is convenient, intuitive, easy-to-use, and accessible on an extended basis. The digital and self-service channel has always been safe and trusted channel from a customer and client perspective, and I think that the situation and circumstances around the pandemic have actually strengthened and reinforced the strategic value of how it can help our customers support their customers.

Additionally, we have introduced innovative new offerings. Take, for example, our Anti-Microbial Coating Service for self-checkout machines, ATMs, point-of-sale machines including restaurant kiosks – which significantly limits the ability for viruses to live on surfaces, reducing the possibility of transmission through touch.

What types of systems did you have in place before the virus hit that helped you remain agile to pivot or accelerate operations to serve the increased demand for contactless banking?

Crighton: NCR is uniquely positioned to help our customers continue to deliver great service to their customers in the new environment that we are all operating in. We are migrating at different paces in different countries and geographies out of the pandemic slowly but surely and encouragingly, and we need to be thoughtful about which consumer behavior expectations will remain with us going forward and how can we provide value add and assist our customers in how they evolve the branch ecosystem going forward.

Self-service historically has been very much focused on the consumers for obvious reasons, and the pandemic from a work environment point of view has considerations and implications for all of us. So one aspect of the environment that the pandemic has created is the opportunity to collaborate with our customers and consider how the branch ecosystem evolves from the perspective of the branch staff and what we can do from a self-service technology and software point of view. We can evolve our operations in a way that adds value and helps staff to be more efficient going forward and realign their focus potentially, but most importantly, support a very safe working environment.

Specifically looking at in-person payments, what do you think the landscape will look like a couple of years from now after the dust has settled with the coronavirus?

Crighton: NCR is helping retailers minimize the amount of time spent touching things in the store via touchless tech that helps customers go through self-checkout without touching anything, by scanning and paying on their mobile device in the store, and physical distancing tech, which helps store clerks clear transactions on mobile device while staying six feet apart from the customer.

NCR is helping restaurant customers shift to a digital-first mindset and stay operational enabling the restaurant for takeout, with contactless solutions, curbside ordering and pick-up, mobile payments — from the way food is served to how we pay the check.

How about in-person banking needs such as ATMs and teller services? What will these services look like?

Crighton: From our perspective we feel strongly that banks, financial institutions and credit unions should really shift their focus to a digital-first mindset. Not a digital-only mindset, but certainly a digital-first mindset.

Obviously at a time when bankers and tellers are unable to service customers face-to-face, digital experiences really have become a lifeline for many people. People are using digital banking to conduct transactions from home, they are connecting with tellers and branch staff through live digital chat sessions, and self-service capabilities like ITMs. Certainly we believe many of these behaviors will continue into the future.


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solarisBank Raises $67 Million; More MENA Fintech; What’s Next for Wirecard

Berlin, Germany-based “tech company with a banking license” solarisBank has secured $67 million in funding (€60 million). The Series C round was led by HV Holtzbrinck Ventures and Storm Ventures, and featured participation from a wide number of investors including BBVA, ABN Amro, SBI Group, Global Brain, Hegus, and Lakestar. Also participating in the oversubscribed round were Vulcan Capital and Samsung Catalyst Fund.

The investment takes the company’s total funding to more than $180 million (€160 million), and will be used to help fuel Solarisbank’s continued expansion throughout Europe. Since 2017, the company has doubled its revenues every year, and grown its product portfolio to include solutions like decoupled debit cards and post-purchase installment products. With more than 400,000 end-customer accounts as of the end of the first half of 2020, the company also announced that it will expand its operations in the cryptocurrency space via its subsidiary solaris Digital Assets.

“solarisBank is continuing its impressive growth and the current financing round will help us to expedite building a pan-European platform,” solarisBank CEO Dr. Roland Folz said in a statement. He added, “We are the leading platform for Banking-as-a-Service in Europe and are excited that this exceptional group of new investors will now be a part of our journey.”


More on MENA Fintech

Last week we reported on a study that highlighted the fintech innovations that were most likely to drive financial inclusion in the MENA region. This week we note another report on fintech in the Middle East and Northern Africa, this time from Deloitte, which noted a growing appetite for fintech solutions from the region’s banking customers.

At the same time, Deloitte Digital’s Middle East FinTech Study, released in June, cautioned that further fintech development in the region faces challenges with regard to financing, and a wariness from traditional banks toward engaging fintechs. The latter issue in particular reflects what the report authors – Rushdi Duqah and Anthony Yazitzis – call “a certain degree of contradiction and dichotomy.”

“Customer behavior across the Middle East, especially in KSA, is characterized by a willingness to adopt innovative solutions offered by banks,” Duqah and Yazitzis observed. The two highlighted P2P money transfers, account aggregation, and roboadvisory as three such areas. “However, banks are not leveraging the full suite of FinTech solutions/features to address customer’s needs and requirements to enhance the daily banking journey and experience,” they wrote.

Read the full report to see how “harmonization and trust” are the path forward for financial services companies, fintechs, and banks in the Middle East and Northern Africa.


What’s Next for Wirecard?

We reported on the crisis facing Germany’s Wirecard two weeks ago in Finovate Global. Company CEO Markus Braun stepped down amid reports that Wirecard could not account for $2.1 billion in cash, and concerns that the company was “the victim of fraud of considerable proportions.”

This week we learned that Braun has been arrested – though since released on bail – and that Deutsche Bank has engaged with the now-bankrupt company and is considering providing financial support. A report in Bloomberg noted that Deutsche Bank had conducted talks with Wirecard last spring (referred to as “preliminary discussions” that were quickly concluded) and that, despite its woes, Wirecard could be a potentially attractive acquisition target thanks to its partnerships with Visa, Mastercard, and JCB International.


Here is our weekly look at fintech around the world.

Sub-Saharan Africa

  • Billed as “the grand fintech consolidation,” TechCabal takes a look at MFS Africa’s purchase of SME digital payments provider Beyonic.
  • Nigerian fintech Wallets Africa locks in new funding from investors including Y Combinator CEO Michael Seibel.
  • The East African makes the case for Kenya as a top destination for venture capital in Africa.

Central and Eastern Europe

  • Top banking-as-a-service platform solarisBank raises $67 million (€ 60 million) in Series C funding.
  • Electronic payment network Paysera expands to Kosovo.
  • Azerbaijan’s Xalq Bank launches Compass Plus’ open development platform, TranzAxis.

Middle East and Northern Africa

  • Digital property management and rent collection platform Ajar earns UAE’s Most Trusted Fintech in 2020 honors from APAC Business Headlines.
  • UAE’s central bank and the Abu Dhabi Global Market (ADGM) announce the start of their annual Fintech Abu Dhabi Innovation Challenge for fintechs developing solutions for local small businesses.
  • Dubai’s Mamo Pay earns spot in Visa’s Finech Fast Track Program.

Central and Southern Asia

  • Transfast, a U.S.-based cross-border payments company, partners with Pakistan’s Habib Bank to enable money transfers to Pakistan.
  • Bangalore, India-based fintech Zeta announces expansion into Vietnam and the Philippines.
  • Indian gold lending startup, Rupeek, unveils zero contact gold loan kiosks to support touchless financing amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Latin America and the Caribbean

  • Mexican fintech ePesos announces $21 million debt financing round with Accial Capital.
  • BizCapital, a lending startup based in Brazil, raises $12 million in funding thanks to an investment from Germany development finance institution, DEG.
  • Credit Suisse buys 35% of Brazilian digital bank modalmais.

Asia-Pacific

  • Myanmar Citizens Bank (MCB Bank) issues MPU-JCB co-branded debit cards.
  • Razer’s fintech arm, Razer Fintech launches new initiative to support local businesses in Malaysia during the global health care crisis of COVID-19.
  • KrASIA profiles Indonesian fintech Akulaku, which offers online credit, wealth management, and digital banking services in the Philippines, Vietnam, and Malaysia.

Oh Canada! A Tribute to the Top Fintechs from the Great White North

Today is Canada Day, which commemorates the date in 1867 when three provinces – Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and the Canada Province (now known as Ontario and Quebec) – united to form a single nation. And while the global public health crisis may limit the holiday’s typical parades, cook-outs, fireworks demonstrations, and concerts, rest assured that Canadians all over the world will find a way to celebrate what is colloquially – if a bit inaccurately – referred to as “Canada’s birthday.”

With this in mind, the Finovate blog sends a hearty “Happy Canada Day!” to the dozens of Canadian fintechs that have demonstrated their innovative solutions at our conferences over the past decade-plus.


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Three Things We’ve Learned from the Paycheck Protection Program

The U.S. Government’s Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) was set to expire yesterday, but the Senate voted to extend the loan program by five weeks, making the new deadline August 8, 2020.

Since it was initiated on April 3, the PPP has helped banks provide billions in working capital to 4.8 million small businesses. The extension offers businesses more time to apply for the $130 billion in unspent funds that remain in the program.

The PPP has had a rocky existence, caused by a muddy application system, confusion from both businesses and banks on the terms surrounding the funds, and the fraudulent (or at least unethical) acquisition of loan money by major corporations. That said, there are a handful of lessons learned we can take away from this experience. Here is a summary of the top three.

Open banking would have made a positive impact

In the height of the coronavirus, many small businesses struggled to find a bank that would lend PPP funds to them. Much of this was due to the fact that banks had difficulty underwriting loans of new clients. With open banking, businesses could opt to share their data with other financial institutions. This availability of data would not only help businesses speed up the application process at the bank of their choice, it would also offer banks access to crucial data regarding businesses’ historical finances.

It is possible for the government to move fast

“Move fast and break things” is typically a mantra of agile startups, and not a slow-moving government. However, given the serious economic threat that the coronavirus-induced stay-at-home orders posed, there was no time for a lengthy revision process and regulatory approvals.

The PPP is part of the CARES act, which includes multiple provisions for unemployment benefits, tax rebates, grants, and more. Early voting on the bill began March 22 and by the morning of March 25, Senate Democrats and Republicans announced they had come to an agreement on the 300-page document. A few hours after the agreement, the President signed the bill into law.

“Like all compromises, this bill is far from perfect, but we believe the legislation has been improved significantly to warrant its quick consideration and passage, and because many Democrats and Republicans were willing to do the serious and hard work, the bill is much better off than where it started,” said Democratic Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer.

Communication and transparency are king and queen

One of the biggest speed bumps encountered was confusion around the terms of the loans. Businesses not only had difficulty during the application process, many also had trouble in determining if they were eligible for the loans. And even if they were eligible, many businesses still didn’t understand if the funds needed to be repaid and what the stipulations for repayment were.

There is no other loan in America where the applicant is unaware of their responsibility to repay. Because of this confusion (and the legal and regulatory ramifications), in early June President Trump signed a new law relaxing some of the PPP regulations and addressing some of the original flaws.

This mistake is easy to excuse, given the tight deadline to organize and originate the program. However, it doesn’t discount the need for lenders to maintain transparency and ensure borrowers know what is expected when it comes to repayment. It reminds me of a millionaire I once met who, after originating a mortgage on his new home, didn’t understand that he was expected to pay his mortgage every month. He assumed that the bank would automatically deduct the funds from his account each month on his behalf. After 6 months of missed payments, his credit score was trashed.

Since we have yet to conquer the virus and are reeling from low unemployment, we still have a lot to learn. One of these lessons is to take things one day at a time. As we do so, let’s take stock of lessons learned so that we can help each other during this crisis.


Photo by Kyle Glenn on Unsplash