Blend Expands with More Consumer Banking Tools

Digital lending platform Blend announced this week it is moving beyond the realm of mortgagetech, broadening its focus to a wider array of consumer banking tools.

The San Francisco-based company now offers a new set of configuration capabilities that help banks dynamically respond to changing consumer needs by going to market faster with new products. New capabilities include out-of-the-box offerings for credit cards, personal loans, auto and specialty vehicle loans, home equity, and deposit accounts. Three of those products– personal loans, credit cards, and specialty vehicles– are new for Blend.

This news comes shortly after the company closed a $75 million round of funding, boosting its valuation to $1.7 billion.

“We want to enable banks and financial institutions to be there as trusted advisors for every financial milestone and to keep up with constantly changing consumer expectations and market dynamics. Blend will help lenders deliver the right product at the right time and with no friction,” said Nima Ghamsari, co-founder and CEO of Blend. “With our unified platform, our partners are able to accelerate digital innovation across every line of business.”

Blend’s no-code platform provides banks with a component library, product templates, no-code drag-and-drop workflows, integrated data services, and control over design elements. The added capabilities will help banks meet the needs of their consumers– from opening a new account to applying for a loan.

The out-of-the-box nature of Blend’s products was key for M&T Bank, which needed a quick-to-market solution for the SBA’s Paycheck Protection Program. “We needed to help them process more loans in a few hours… than we had done in a full year,” said Chris Kay, executive vice president of Consumer Banking, Business Banking and Marketing. “By partnering with Blend, we were able to move quickly and be there for our customers when they needed it the most — spinning up a new digital product to process these loans in just 72 hours. Thanks in large part to Blend’s platform, 100 percent of our customers were able to receive the essential funds that could help their businesses survive.”

Blend’s Digital Lending Platform is used by M&T Bank, Wells Fargo, U.S. Bank, and 250+ other financial services companies. Founded in 2012, the company helps these banks process more than $3.5 billion in mortgages and consumer loans each day.


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Envestnet |Yodlee Forges Data Exchange Agreement with Wells Fargo

Is this another instance of open banking, American-style?

One of the major topics of discussion at FinovateFall Digital last week was how the open banking phenomenon that is sweeping the globe will manifest itself in the U.S. The consensus was that open banking will not be driven by regulations in the U.S. as it is in many parts of the world. Instead, the ability of U.S. consumers to access third-party financial solutions via their primary banking partner more likely will be driven by consumers themselves. Another key driver will be companies looking to distinguish themselves from rivals by providing better, more diverse solutions from which to choose.

This is very much top of mind as we receive the news that Wells Fargo has entered a data exchange agreement with major financial data aggregation and analytics platform Envestnet | Yodlee. The partnership will enable the bank’s customers to seamlessly and securely share their data with the 1,400 third-party financial apps available on the Envestment | Yodlee Financial Data Aggregation Platform.

The agreement is also a large step for APIs (another major theme at FinovateFall Digital last week). Wells Fargo announced that it will also transition virtually all of its current third-party financial app screen-scraping to API-based data exchange, and added that the partnership with Envestnet | Yodlee represented the bank’s commitment to forge more API-based data exchange agreements with third-parties going forward.

“As we help customers navigate these uncertain times, we want to enable them to seamlessly connect with and use third-party apps that help them manage their finances and do so in as secure a way as possible,” Wells Fargo Strategy, Digital, and Innovation Group SVP Ben Soccorsy said. “Wells Fargo’s agreement with Envestnet | Yodlee does just that. In the future, our customers will be able to share their financial information with Envestnet | Yodlee-supported apps with enhanced ease, security, and control.”

Wells Fargo customers will be able to access third-party services via the bank’s Control Tower digital experience, which sits inside Wells Fargo’s banking app and is also available online. Control Tower enables both consumer and small business banking customers to manage their finances more efficiently, providing a single, unified view of their accounts with Wells Fargo. Importantly, customers will not only be able to turn the data sharing option on and off, they also will be able to designate the specific data they wish to share with third parties.

“API-based connectivity in the United States is leading to an increasingly connected financial ecosystem, spearheaded by the partnerships like the one we now have with Wells Fargo,” SVP of Data Access & Management at Envestnet | Yodlee Chad A. Wiechers said.

With more than 27 million users around the world, Envestnet | Yodlee demonstrated its Insight Solutions at FinovateFall Digital last week. The new offering enables financial services providers to build and scale hyper-personalized financial wellness experiences for their customers. Long-time Finovate alum Yodlee was acquired by Envestnet five years ago for $660 million. Envestnet was founded in 1999 and is headquartered in Redwood City, California.


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Moxtra and Subaio Earn Spots in Plug and Play’s Fintech Europe Program

A pair of recent Finovate alums have made the cut for the Fintech Europe Innovation Program sponsored by Plug and Play. Moxtra, most recently appearing on the Finovate stage in 2017, and Subaio, which made its Finovate debut earlier this year at FinovateEurope in Berlin, will join six other startups in the program’s sixth cohort since it was launched two years ago.

“Even though COVID-19 has brought uncertainty to the market, it has also given way to a wide range of opportunities,” Program Director of Plug and Play’s Fintech Europe program Fernando Zornig said. “Embracing innovation in finance is now more important than ever. We are seeing a lot of changes in Europe and I am confident that these solutions will help our corporate partners adapt to these changes faster.”

Companies participating in the program will engage with Plug and Play’s 13-member, financial institution partner community, which includes Deutsche Bank, BNP Paribas, and Raiffeisen Bank International. The startups will have the opportunity to pursue pilot projects as well as investment opportunities. Joining Moxtra and Subaio at the Frankfurt, Germany-based program are:

  • ABAKA
  • CARTO
  • Delio
  • Envio Systems
  • SESAMm
  • Vizolution

Headquartered in Cupertino, California, Moxtra offers a OneStop Customer Portal that gives businesses a “digital branch” through which they can engage and collaborate with customers. Moxtra’s solution provides an all-in-one suite of services including secure chat and video meetings, document collaboration and task management, video conferencing and transactions, and more. This spring, the company was named to Fintech Global’s second annual Wealthech 100 roster.

Subaio provides a white-label, subscription management platform that enables users to get a complete overview of their existing subscriptions. The technology makes it easy for users to cancel subscriptions they no longer want and keep track of any changes in the subscription services they wish to keep. Headquartered in Denmark and founded in 2016, Subaio has a number of live bank integrations of its solution, including a just-announced partnership with ABN Amro.

Founded in 2006 and headquartered in Silicon Valley, California, Plug and Play is a worldwide innovation platform that offers accelerator programs, corporate innovation services, and its own in-house venture capital team. More than 30,000 startups have benefitted from Plug and Play’s resources and support, with companies in its ecosystem raising $9+ billion in funding to date.


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Unifying Financial Planning with Path-to-Purchase, Inspirave Introduces SaveAway

“Buy Now Pay Later” may be the e-commerce rage du jour. But if you check in with the team from Inspirave, then you’ll hear about a better way for consumers to spend and save. The New York based company – which we profiled last fall – unveiled its SaveAway platform this week, enabling consumers to benefit from its unique blend of “financial planning with the path-to-purchase.”

“There has never been a better time to see Inspirave’s economically sustainable blueprint, propelled by greater purchasing power, striking such an inimitably strong chord with our growing community of SaveAway users and partners who recognize that what inspires our new-to-market innovations enabling greater financial wellness and social mobility is our steadfast mission to further human potential and prosperity for all,” Inspirave founder and CEO Om Kundu said in a statement.

SaveAway’s unification of micro-saving and social commerce offers consumers a way to save for the things they really value and avoid purchasing these same items with credit and accumulating unnecessary debt in the process. Aided by the insights, advice – and even material support – of friends and family, consumers using the SaveAway platform can leverage the collective wisdom of those who know them best and care about them the most to help them make financial decisions that are as responsible as they are affordable.

Miguel Sanchez and Philip Shearer, co-founders of diversity-focused accelerator MetaBronx, praised both the Inspirave’s innovation and its approach to spending and saving. “What made the SaveAway platform stand out in the top six companies chosen in 2020 derived from the breakthroughs in Inspirave’s patented technology as much as its novel operating model, pointing to the massive impact SaveAway is moving forward to uniquely deliver,” they said.

The company noted in its statement that those who signed up for Early Access to the SaveAway platform are eligible for a variety of bonuses, including referral credits and entry into a sweepstakes for a $1,000 contribution toward the winner’s SaveAway purchase-goal to be paid by the company. More than 12,000 people have signed up for Early Access to date.

Named a a Top Fintech Forward Company to Watch by American Banker and BAI, and A Finovate alum since 2016, Inspirave is headquartered in New York City.


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Who’s Smiling Now? Ohpen Acquires Mortgagetech Davinci

One of my favorite sayings popularized by the current Democratic Party candidate for president is “don’t tell me your values. Show me your budget.” The implication is that, at the end of the day, talk is cheap. Show me how you actually spend your money, and I’ll learn all I need to know about what matters to you and what does not.

By that metric, the news that Dutch fintech and Finovate alum Ohpen has acquired Saas-based, crossborder mortgagetech Davinci tells us quite a bit about what what the Amsterdam-based cloud core banking engine maker thinks about the importance of expanding beyond its competencies in savings, investments, loans, and current account products.

“We are a growing company with huge ambitions,” Ohpen CEO Matthijs Aler said. “Together, we intend to lead the charge in directly challenging incumbent providers with outdated technology. Our mission is – and always has been – to set financial institutions free from legacy software. Now we can help a broader range of financial institutions deliver tangible change to meet the needs of tomorrow’s customers.”

Ohpen put the acquisition announcement in the context of its global growth strategy. This includes scaling operations in the Netherlands – where the company is a market leader – the United Kingdom, and Belgium initially, as well as expansion to other areas. Ohpen also plans to scale up its development centers in Spain and Slovakia.

The terms of the acquisition were not disclosed, but the combined entity will have 350 employees and $35 million in revenue. Davinci is Ohpen’s second acquisition. The company purchased core banking system implementation consultancy FYNN Advice in the fall of 2017.

Davinci leverages machine learning and AI to enhance and accelerate digital onboarding and acceptance during the mortgage lending process. Delivering cost savings of as much as 80%, the company’s signature solution is Close, a cloud-native platform for mortgage loan origination and servicing.

Calling the acquisition, “the natural next step” for both companies, Davinci Director Alwin van Dijk said, “We are the only two players with a real focus on back and middle office innovation for new and existing propositions.” van Dijk added that the ability to offer a broader range of products will be a “market game changer.”

With $47 million (€40 million) in funding from investors including NPM Capital and Amerborgh, Ohpen began the year teaming up with pensions administrator TKP Pensioen. The partnership with the Groningen, Netherlands-based digital pension platform enabled Ohpen to enter the pension market for the first time. Aler pointed out that the integration would enable the “originally conservative industry” of pension management to have a “fully digital and futureproof pension solution at its disposal.” This spring, Ohpen partnered with another pension management firm, Ortec Finance, integrating the company’s forecasting engine with the Ohpen platform.


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Sezzle Launches Virtual Card to Bring Buy Now, Pay Later into Brick-and-Mortar Stores

Buy Now Pay Later (BNPL) is having a moment in fintech. And one of the leading players in the space is expanding its innovations into the offline realm.

Minnesota-based Sezzle unveiled its virtual payments card this week, helping users benefit from its BNPL technology during their in-store shopping trips. The company has partnered with card issuing platform Marqeta to power its new virtual card.

Sezzle virtual cardholders will be able to use Sezzle’s installment payments technology in-store at retailers that already accept Apple Pay and Google Pay, as well as online. The purchases are interest-free and can be split into four installments, paid out over six weeks.

Sezzle Virtual Card

“As traditional, in-store retail re-emerges, it’s critical that we support our merchant partners by giving them new tools to jump-start sales, both online and in-store,” said Sezzle Co-founder and Chief Technology Officer Killian Brackey. “As a proven solution for driving incremental sales and new customer growth, we are thrilled to publicly announce an easy way for U.S. retailers to offer Buy Now, Pay Later in store.”

The in-store user experience is simple. At checkout, consumers authenticate themselves and tap their phone at the point-of-sale terminal, which will activate their Sezzle card.

Sezzle’s news comes on the heels of PayPal’s announcement that it plans to add a BNPL competitor. The payments giant revealed on Monday the launch of Pay in 4, a short-term payments installment product for U.S. customers. 

Four-year-old Sezzle, which listed on the Australian Stock Exchange (ASX) last summer, has seen a recent uptick in adoption, spurred by the economic effects of the coronavirus. The company added 325,000 new users in the second quarter of this year, up 326% from the same period last year. Sezzle has a market capitalization of $848 million.


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Entersekt and NuData Security Bring Behavioral Analytics to Real-Time Risk Scoring

A new partnership between device identity and authentication innovator Entersekt and fellow Finovate alum NuData Security will integrate the latter’s NuDetect behavioral analytics solution into Entersekt’s Secure Platform (ESP) to provide real-time, seamless identity verification.

“By combining our leading techniques, we unlock new ways to remove friction for users interacting online, on web or mobile,” Entersekt Chief Strategy Office Dewald Nolte said. “The combination is like none other on the market, in usability and security, and is another exciting leap forward in our mission to make the digital world safer and more user-friendly.”

NuDetect leverages both device-based and behavioral data to identify and distinguish legitimate users from potential fraudsters in real-time. The technology features an additional level of protection, a step-up authentication process, involving an in-app push prompt, FIDO-certified security key, or other option, which can be triggered in higher-risk circumstances. The result is a fast, secure, digital identity authentication experience that verifies legitimate users whether logging in, creating an account, or completing a transaction seamlessly.

“By adding behavioral analytics to the Entersekt Secure Platform,” NuData Security SVP Michelle Hafner said, “we provide an additional layer of protection while simultaneously reducing friction and improving the customer experience.”

The Entersekt Secure Platform helps businesses ensure rapid deployment and integration of Entersekt services such as Transakt for digital security and authentication, Connekt for digital payments enablement, and Interakt for non-app-based authentication. The platform enables banks and other large companies to better identify their customers’ specific needs, engage them effectively with smart messaging (and accurately with robust authentication), and empower them to get more done with less effort.

Headquartered in Cape Town, South Africa, and founded in 2008, Entersekt began this year working with Netcetera to help the company provide enhanced authentication technology to card issuers in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland. This summer, Entersekt announced a successful technical integration with Huawei Mobile Services, and released its updated security guidance for financial institutions in light of new digital security threats with the onset of the public health crisis.


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Urban FT Helps Banks Bridge Fintech’s Infrastructure Gap

Urban FT’s newly-launched X-35 FinTech Core will enable financial institutions to centralize their fintech infrastructure into a singular hub that sits beside and is connected to the bank’s existing core or payment processor. The API-based, developer-friendly technology helps FIs create and deploy new, innovative solutions to their customers faster and at significantly less expense.

Urban FT sees the new offering as a tool to help smaller and mid-sized FIs maximize their engagement with their customers via more personalized products and services. Company CEO Richard Steggall said in a statement that providing these resources to banks was not just a matter of helping them keep up with the larger competition, but also was designed to empower them to “leap frog the competition entirely.”

“We founded Urban FT with the vision of giving our clients the means to dream big and deliver exceptional, and that’s exactly what X-35 does,” Steggall explained. He compared his company’s approach to providing “an Amazon Web Services for FIs” enabling them to leverage Urban FT’s R&D team on a continuous basis. “FIs can digitize nearly every interaction they have with their customers while significantly compressing the number of implementations, systems, and platforms they need to outpace the competition.”

Urban FT’s new solution is geared toward bridging the gap between the dreams of open banking and the reality of a fintech infrastructure that is not yet capable of maximizing this opportunity. By contrast, Urban FT’s offering relies on a cloud-based, serverless, microservice architecture that supports continuous innovation, seamless updates, and greater operational efficiencies in a scalable environment. “It makes the ‘impossible’ possible by providing both the foundation and the plumbing that realize the vision that many have tried but few have been able to deliver on,” said Urban FT board member and former Citibank Managing Director Aditya Menon.

Founded in 2013 and headquartered in New York City, Urban FT made its Finovate debut in 2015. A member of the Inc. 5,000, Urban FT has more than 500 financial institution clients, and processes more than $18 billion in transactions a year. The company has raised more than $15 million in funding.


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Onward Open Banking! Blackhawk Network Partners with Moneyhub

Branded payments provider Blackhawk Network has teamed up with open finance data and intelligence platform Moneyhub to ensure compliance with open banking standards. Via the partnership, Blackhawk Network will be able to validate third-party providers, connect to them through live applications, and enable them, with user consent, to access user data and initiate payments.

“Using Moneyhub’s compliance solution means that we can adopt the industry best-practice approach to PSD2 in authorizing our unique prepaid card offering,” Stacey Richards, who handles Product Management for Blackhawk Network, explained. “We share the fundamental desire to deliver a transformative experience for the end-user with Moneyhub, and we look forward to working with the team to deliver on our ambitious vision for the future.”

Blackhawk Network helps businesses leverage branded payments to reach more customers, build engagement and loyalty, and increase revenue. A Finovate alum since 2012, the company has more than 3,000 workers around the world, and serves 26 countries with its branded payment solutions. Blackhawk features 1,000+ brands in categories ranging from dining and entertainment to retail and home improvement. The Pleasanton, California-based company went public in 2013, and was acquired by Silver Lake and P2 Capital Partners in 2018 in a deal valued at $3.5 billion.

More recently, Blackhawk acquired Edge Loyalty Systems, an Australian sales promotions and loyalty firm, for $23 million (A$32.2 million). This spring, the company purchased SVM Cards for an undisclosed sum.

Moneyhub’s partnership with Blackhawk is the company’s third collaboration this year. In June, Moneyhub teamed up with Lumio, a money management app. The following month, the company partnered with investment performance analytics firm, ARQ.

“Our Open Banking expertise means that we are able to deliver a comprehensive compliance solution to Blackhawk Network, ensuring that it remains a leader in the market and delivers excellence to current and future clients,” Moneyhub CTO Dave Tonge said. “Our growing product offering and the multi-use nature of our proposition means that we are able to work alongside Blackhawk Network and help support their growth and aspirations.”

Founded in 2011 and based in Bristol, U.K., Moneyhub made its Finovate debut at our European conference in 2015. Nationwide Building Society is the company’s primary investor, having led a corporate round for Moneyhub in the fall of 2018.

Our Hero Zero: Paystand Launches B2B ePayable Solution

Paystand’s Zero Card, launched today, offers businesses a touchless, prepaid corporate expense ePayable solution that leverages Paystand’s zero-fee payment network to eliminate the cost of transaction fees.

Geared to help mid-market businesses in particular, which often require a high degree of flexibility and control over their budgets, the Zero Card streamlines expense management operations such as invoice processing, expense reporting, and payment execution. The prepaid virtual expense card also enables businesses to manage, track, and control spending in real-time. The offering includes fraud prevention controls and the ability to capture and add critical remittance data to transactions to make expense reporting and reconciliation easier.

“The Paystand Zero Card combines the consumer-like experience of peer-to-peer payments with the speed and security of Paystand’s no-fee payment network,” Paystand CEO Jeremy Almond said. “We completely re-engineered the corporate card so businesses can move away from reactive spend management tactics to a place where they have visibility of spend before it happens.”

One of the aspects of the Zero Card the company is touting is the way it brings a common payment infrastructure to accounts payable and accounts receivable operations. In its statement, the company referred to this disconnect as “one of the biggest challenges in B2B payments today,” which pits payers and receivers against one another as “technology and process improvements for one group often lead to inefficiency and friction for the other.”

In contrast, the Zero Card is designed for both accounts payable and accounts receivable, natively connecting both AP and AR to keep costs low, ensure swift and secure payments, and effectively bridge what the company calls “the payables gap for B2B payments”

Challenges like the payables gap, according to Paystand VP of Marketing Mark Fisher, are why he believes B2B payments have “a long way to go before it achieves the ease and speed of consumer payments.” Fisher credited the Zero Card for helping B2B payments catch up. “When money moves over our network,” he said, “it’s instant, automated, and comes at no cost. That’s good for businesses and that’s good for the economy overall.”

Founded in 2013 and headquartered in San Francisco, California, Paystand secured $20 million in funding in February in a round led by DNX Ventures. Mitch Kitamura, Managing Director at the firm put the company’s latest offering in the broader context of the “cashless transformation” led by fintech innovators like Paystand. In a statement, he referred to the Zero Card as “a critical step … in driving more seamless interaction between businesses to help realize the true economic value of digital infrastructure.”

Six More Banks to Launch Digital Bank Accounts with Google

Step aside, challenger banks. Google and a band of eight traditional FIs are coming for you.

News broke this morning that six financial institutions have joined Citi and Stanford Federal Credit Union in offering checking and savings accounts through Google Pay. The new banks include BankMobile, BBVA USA, BMO Harris, The Coastal Community Bank, First Independence Bank, and SEFCU.

These new accounts will leverage Google Pay’s existing infrastructure, which will serve as the front end of a fully digital banking experience.

BBVA announced today that its accounts will launch in 2021 as co-branded, FDIC-insured accounts. The bank will provide the account, while Google will provide the front-end, user experience, and financial insights. The collaboration will be facilitated by the BBVA Open Platform, the bank’s open banking initiative.

“BBVA has focused for decades on how it could use digital to advance the financial industry and, in so doing, create more and better opportunities for customers to manage their financial health,” BBVA USA President and CEO Javier Rodríguez Soler said. “Collaborations with companies like Google represent the future of banking. Consumers end up the true winners when finance and big tech work together for their benefit.”

Aside from the list of bank partners, there are not many details available about the new, hybrid accounts. Tech rumor site 9 to 5 Google speculates, however, that Google with leverage the partnerships to issue its own branded debit card.


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The QR Code Makes a Comeback in U.S. Mobile Payments

Remember when the mobile payments game was first getting started? The industry was rallying around NFC as the technology of choice for mobile payments. BLE was a close second, and QR codes were generally the last choice.

That was in 2012 and now it appears that 2020 is throwing us yet another curve ball– QR Codes are back in style in the U.S. That’s because PayPal has partnered with InComm to launch its PayPal and Venmo QR codes technology at pharmacy chain CVS.

This move will implement low-touch mobile payments at CVS’ 8,200 brick-and-mortar stores across the U.S., offering shoppers a secure payment experience without needing to touch a keypad or sign a receipt.

PayPal users can pay using stored debit or credit cards, bank accounts, their PayPal balance, or PayPal Credit. Venmo users can also pay using their stored debit or credit cards and bank account, but will additionally be able to tap into their Venmo balance or Venmo Rewards.

“In the midst of COVID-19, we have seen an incredible acceleration of digital payments and touch-free payments,” said PayPal EVP and CPO Mark Britto. “Companies of all types and sizes are looking for ways to maintain the safety of their customers and employees, especially through touch-free experiences like curbside pickup and enhanced online shopping. QR codes complement these and provide retailers an additional payment method that furthers this touch-free mission and continues the growth of digital payments for all partners in the ecosystem. The essential nature of pharmacies makes CVS Pharmacy the perfect initial partner for PayPal and Venmo QR Codes – and we’re proud to help their customers stay safe while purchasing what they need.”

This week’s deal also marks a multi-year agreement between PayPal and InComm. The partnership enables InComm to distribute PayPal QR Code technology to its network of retailers, allowing them to integrate the QR code payment technology into their POS terminals.

PayPal has been touting its touch-free payment technology amidst the COVID-19 pandemic (see below). And given the payment giant’s previous traction and existing user base, the company will certainly come out on top as a winner in the post-pandemic economy.

Elsewhere across the globe, QR code payments have already seen success. Ant Group’s Alipay uses QR codes for in-store payments and had over a 50% adoption rate at the end of 2018.


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