MX Integrates with Dwolla; Bambu and Moven Launch Strategic Partnership

MX Integrates with Dwolla; Bambu and Moven Launch Strategic Partnership

From the partnership between Best of Show winners MX and Dwolla that will enhance and automate account verification to the news of a strategic partnership between roboadvisor Bambu and Moven, collaborations between Finovate alums are filling the fintech headlines to start the week.

With MX and Dwolla, the partnership extends instant account verification coverage to 4,000+ institutions, making it easier for MX customers to connect securely to any deposit account. The integration also enables account verification through micro-deposits, which makes it possible for MX to offer verification for “nearly 100 percent” of deposit accounts in the U.S.

Enabling better access to micro-deposits by improving the verification experience is a key component of the integration. MX co-founder and CTO Brandon Dewitt underscored the importance of these deposits and the role they play in financial inclusion and serving the underbanked. “Micro-deposits have gotten a bad reputation in the industry, but the truth is for some of the population who bank with community credit unions or mid-sized institutions, it comes down to either using a micro-deposit or not having the ability to connect them to their accounts,” Dewitt said.

MX most recently demonstrated its technology on the Finovate stage two years ago at FinovateFall. The Lehi, Utah-based company won Best of Show for a live demo of its MX Enabled platform that helps financial institutions add to their offerings via connections with fintechs through MX’s API ecosystem. Earlier this month, MX launched a new suite of financial insights APIs and embeddable user interfaces to enable companies to pursue opportunities in open finance.

Dwolla won Best of Show in its Finovate debut in 2011 at FinovateSpring. The company announced just last week that it had raised $21 million in funding in a round led by Foundry Group that will help it continue to innovate in the B2B payments space.

“Partnering with MX will automate the verification experience and make it that much easier to verify a bank account,” Dwolla President and COO Dave Glaser said. “Together with Dwolla, MX has configured a new solution to ensure that millions of payments occur smoothly and easily each day. We couldn’t be more excited about this partnership and the impact it will have on millions of Americans.”

Giving average retail banking customers the kind of support typically available only to high net worth individuals is part of the motive behind the strategic partnership announced early this week between roboadvisor technology solution company Bambu and financial wellness technology platform Moven.

“Adding Bambu’s capabilities to Moven’s mobile-centric experience is well in-line with the needs of banks and fintechs to provide consumers with personalized, automatic investing to their product offerings,” Moven Chief Revenue Officer Bryan Clagett said. He noted that traditional banks still have a major impact and influence on their customers and, as such, they can and should do more – beyond banking – to enable their customers to better manage the entirety of their financial lives.

The new offering is designed to empower bank customers by allowing them to manage and plan their finances and investments more holistically. The goal is to provide customers with the equivalent of a digital CFO to help them better understand their spending patterns in order to increase savings and better manage their investments. This is a critical aspect of the new solution, which moves beyond simple robo-investing to give customers a more comprehensive view – and greater control – over their finances.

“We look forward to working closely with Moven as wealth and digital banking become more seamlessly connected,” Bambu co-founder and CEO Ned Phillips said. “Moven’s long history in digital banking and Bambu’s intelligent wealth APIs will provide a perfect platform for any financial institution focused on digital banking and wealth.”

Singapore-based Bambu made its most recent Finovate appearance last year at FinovateEurope in Berlin where the company demonstrated its BambuGo white label financial roboadvisor platform. Earlier this month, Bambu announced that it had acquired investment management technology company Tradesocio.

Making its Finovate debut more than eight years ago, Moven famously pivoted from a direct-to-consumer/neobank model to a focus on “smart banking and financial wellness” a little over a year ago. The company has teamed up since with fellow Finovate alums Q2 and Digital Onboarding, as well as with intelligent billpay company Blip Labs and digital asset manager NYDIG, to help them better engage their customers with actionable insights to enhance financial health.

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Best of Show Winner Lendsmart Inks Integration Deal with Freddie Mac

Best of Show Winner Lendsmart Inks Integration Deal with Freddie Mac

Lendsmart, which took home Best of Show honors in its FinovateFall debut last year, announced a new partnership with Freddie Mac this week. The digital lending platform has integrated with Freddie Mac Loan Product Advisor, the firm’s automated underwriting system, to improve the loan origination process for both lenders and borrowers by reducing processing time.

“Lendsmart’s software predicts the credit and underwriting conditions required in the loan origination process by pinning them to a borrower’s data in real-time rather than making the borrower wait 45 days to get an email from the underwriter,” Lendsmart founder and CEO AK Patel explained. “We’re also shaving off weeks in the letter of explanation process.”

Headquartered in New York City, Lendsmart combines an AI-powered digital lending platform with a home buying marketplace to save lenders time, help them increase productivity, and grow their profits while providing both the lender and the homebuyer with a “next-generation digital experience,” in the words of Lendsmart COO Philip Gem George.

Lendsmart’s platform centralizes and unifies all parties in the mortgage process while automating manual tasks to ensure accuracy, reduce risk, and keep costs low. George noted during the demo of Lendsmart’s technology at FinovateFall that the automation ensured that homebuyers are only asked for information that cannot be readily accessed from the documentation. This further accelerates the process and relieves some of the burden typically felt by homebuyers during the origination process.

And as Freddie Mac VP of Business Partner Integration Kevin Kauffman added, technology like that available from Lendsmart helps financial institutions keep up with the expectations of their increasingly digital-first customers. “Today’s lenders and borrowers expect a seamless digital process that isn’t burdened with administrative tasks or excessive timelines,” Kauffman said. “Partnering with Lendsmart allows Freddie Mac to provide the latest technology that satisfies out mutual clients’ needs.”

Founded in 2019, Lendsmart was among the many fintechs that helped facilitate PPP funding during the COVID-19 pandemic, partnering with Griffin Technologies to offer banks and credit unions an end-to-end solution to enable them to process more loan applications while identifying and pursuing qualified small business leads. “With financial institutions struggling to manage the high number of applications and small businesses in need of immediate funds,” Patel said when the partnership was announced last spring. “We saw an opportunity to speed up and simplify the mostly manual process by using our existing technology.”

Lendsmart began the year raising an undisclosed amount of pre-seed funding from INV Fintech. In addition to its New York headquarters, the company also has an office in India.

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MX Unveils New Financial Insights APIs

MX Unveils New Financial Insights APIs

Connectivity and financial data enhancement innovator MX launched a new suite of financial insights APIs and embeddable user interfaces this week. The APIs will enable developers to quickly and securely bring MX-powered financial data into their solutions, helping companies pursue their open finance initiatives. MX also noted in their announcement that their offering will help firms accelerate time-to-market for financial wellness products – with personalized smart recommendations and insights built into the company’s app or website.

The API integrations and widgets now available enable companies to enjoy the benefits of MX-powered financial data without requiring them to build their own front-end solution. The embedded nature of the offering allows developers to add widgets to mobile banking and shopping apps, for example, without having to make major changes to the overall app or user experience.

“MX APIs and widgets make it easy for any company to embed financial insights and wellness tools into their current products and services,” MX Chief Product Officer Brett Allred said. “We’re making data-driven financial wellness tools more available and scalable than ever before by giving developers an easier and more secure way to connect financial data and help build products that power new money experiences for customers.”

Founded in 2010 and headquartered in Lehi, Utah, MX began the year with a $300 million Series C funding round that gave the company a valuation of $1.9 billion. Since then, the multiple-time Finovate Best of Show winner has forged partnerships with banks and credit unions including Libro Credit Union, First Hawaiian Bank, and AbbyBank. MX also this year has teamed up with Viva First to help the digital bank promote financial wellness in the Latino community. In April, MX collaborated with Moov to bring faster account verification to fintechs.

MX currently connects more than 16,000 financial institutions and fintechs with its data connectivity network. The company powers 85% of digital banking providers, as well as thousands of banks, credit unions, and fintechs, reaching more than 200 million financial services customers. Ryan Caldwell is co-founder and Chief Executive Officer.

Open Finance Platform Moneyhub Secures $18 Million to Fuel Expansion

Open Finance Platform Moneyhub Secures $18 Million to Fuel Expansion

In its biggest investment round to date, U.K.-based Open Finance platform Moneyhub has secured $18 million in funding to support its expansion into new markets. The round was led by Sir Peter Wood, founder of Direct Line and Esure, via his new investment vehicle, SPWOne.

“It is incredibly rewarding to be able to deliver results to both investors and clients in this truly transformational landscape,” Moneyhub CEO Samantha Seaton said. “It is a fantastic vote of confidence from Sir Peter and his team, who are renowned for foreseeing game-changing growth opportunities – and a ringing endorsement of our team and our strategy for applying new technology where the rules of engagement have been turned upside down.”

A Finovate alum for more than four years, Moneyhub demoed the SmartAsset feature of its solution at FinovateEurope 2017. At the event, the company showed how SmartAsset’s AI-driven, intelligent messaging functionality helps users better manage their finances. In the years since, Moneyhub has grown into a leading open finance and data intelligence platform that offers both API and white label solutions to help businesses leverage personalization to enhance the customer experience. In the U.K., Moneyhub currently provides customer-permissioned financial data access to more than 200 financial services providers via 584 connections with an additional 3,500 connections in Europe.

Moneyhub’s funding announcement comes on the heels of a new partnership with Triodos Bank, a sustainable bank that supports working toward positive social, environmental, and cultural change. Founded in 1980, Triodos Bank serves more than 700,000 banking customers in the U.K., Germany, Spain, the Netherlands, and Belgium. The bank has lent more than £8 billion to support projects around the world that are dedicated toward “benefitting the people and (the) planet.” Triodos Bank also co-founded the Global Alliance for Banking on Values (GABV), a 63-bank network designed to promote sustainable banking.

“We are pleased that our customers will now be able to integrate their everyday banking with Moneyhub’s app and enjoy the many benefits of Open Banking, such as helping them to easily track spending and set budgets to help manage money,” Triodos Bank U.K. head of retail banking Gareth Griffiths said.

In addition to its partnership with Triodos Bank, Moneyhub teamed up with mortgage market insights and intelligence firm Hometrack, shared branch banking innovator OneBanks, and adtech specialist Zedosh this summer; partnered with financial health platform Level Financial Technology and charitable fundraising app Kynder this spring; and began the year collaborating with professional services company Aon and ESG investment platform The Big Exchange.

Investment App Stash Grabs Financial Literacy Platform PayGrade

Investment App Stash Grabs Financial Literacy Platform PayGrade

Along with the fanfare surrounding so-called meme stocks and the “power of the individual trader” last year, there was a dark side. Investing and trading platforms that had embraced gamification were being accused of not fully preparing their customers for the dangers involved in stock trading – especially in volatile, illiquid stocks. Critics demanded that these platforms spend more time – and money, if necessary – educating their customers for their own benefit as well as for the good of the investing and trading industry, which has recovered impressively since the bust 20 years ago.

This is the spirit in which we take the news that Stash, a New York-based, mobile-first investment platform that made its Finovate debut in 2017, has acquired financial literacy platform PayGrade. The terms of the deal were not disclosed, but the acquisition marks Stash’s first acquisition and its biggest fintech news headline since a whopping $125 million Series G fundraising back in February.

Brandon Kreig, CEO and co-founder of Stash said that the acquisition was an example of the company’s mission to “empower everyday Americans to invest for the future.” He noted that personal finance education is not emphasized in American schools – with 43 out of 50 states not requiring coursework in personal financial management – and that an overwhelming number of American adults – as much as 80% – live “paycheck to paycheck.”

“With PayGrade,” Kreig explained, “Stash will provide teachers, parents, and children with interactive tools to learn effective money management skills that will last a lifetime.”

Stash enables users to begin investing on its platform with as little as $1 a month. The company’s “Stash Beginner” program allows investing – including fractional share investing – as well as banking, portfolio recommendations, savings strategies, and a Stock-Back card that helps users earn stock every time they use the card for shopping. Stash also offers Growth and Plus plans that add features such as portfolios for children, premium research, and enhanced bonuses for using the Stash Stock-Back card.

Purchasing PayGrade is not the only way that Stash will support the cause of financial literacy this year. Stash’s acquisition news arrived just a few days before the company announced that it was partnering with the Suh Family Foundation and the Big Yard Foundation to launch a financial literacy program over the summer. Dubbed the Stash101 Summer School, the program will be conducted in partnership with Portland Public Schools and will give 160 middle school students an introduction to vital money management and wealth building.

“From investing and banking to education and retirement planning, we believe everyone has the power to achieve greater financial freedom—one step at a time.” Krieg said. “We’re thrilled to deepen our commitment to childhood education through Stash101 and this special summer school program in Portland with the Suhs and Big Yard. It’s going to be a tremendous four weeks for the kids.”

Stash101 is part of the Portland Interscholastic League Trajectory Math Program, which provides additional learning resources for historically underserved students. The course will include a simulated economy experience in which the students will complete tasks like renting desks, while earning a salary and learning about the difference between savings and credit. The classes will be held between July 6 and July 27 at a pair of schools in the Portland School system.

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Ping Identity Acquires Fraud Detection Firm SecuredTouch

Ping Identity Acquires Fraud Detection Firm SecuredTouch

A pair of Finovate alums have announced plans to “tie the knot” this week. Intelligent Identity solution provider Ping Identity has agreed to acquire fraud and bot detection and mitigation specialist SecuredTouch. Terms of the transaction were not immediately available.

By leveraging a variety of enabling technologies – including machine learning, AI, behavioral biometrics, and deep learning – SecuredTouch’s technology empowers fraud and risk teams to identify suspicious and potentially malicious behavior across all digital entities. The acquisition will integrate SecuredTouch with Ping Identity’s PingOne Cloud Platform, giving business customers the ability to better understand and prevent malicious activity. Customers will have the option of using SecuredTouch as a standalone solution or as part of the PingOne platform.

Ping Identity founder and CEO Andre Durand said that the acquisition “accelerates” the company’s mission to provide cloud-based identity and anti-fraud solutions to businesses to help them fight a wide range of cyberthreats ranging from emulators to account takeover.

“Identity isn’t just about knowing who your customers are, it’s about knowing when someone is pretending to be a customer,” Durand explained. “As companies undergo massive digital transformation initiatives, the need for seamless, frictionless, and secure identity solutions to confidently understand both those situations is imperative.”

Ping Identity made its Finovate debut at our first European fintech conference in 2012. In the years since, the Denver, Colorado-based company has become the identity management solution provider of choice for 60% of the Fortune 100 and forged partnerships with technology companies like Microsoft and Amazon. Most recently, Ping Identity collaborated with ProofID to enhance identity security for Tesco Bank, the banking division of Tesco, the largest supermarket retail chain in the U.K.

Headquartered in Ramat Gan, Israel, SecuredTouch demonstrated its behavioral biometrics technology at FinovateFall 2018. The company’s solution analyzes more than 100 different behavioral behaviors – from scroll velocity to touch pressure – to create a unique user profile that benefits from continuous verification. Winner of Best Product at the Loyalty Security Association Lion’s Den event this spring, SecuredTouch earned a patent for its continuous use authentication in 2019.

“This is a defining moment for our industry as identity security and fraud come together,” SecuredTouch CEO Alasdair Rambaud said of this week’s acquisition news. “Ping Identity’s enterprise proven and robust platform provides the perfect foundation for SecuredTouch’s advanced fraud detection capabilities.”

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Digital ID Verification Specialist OCR Labs Secures $15 Million to Power Expansion

Digital ID Verification Specialist OCR Labs Secures $15 Million to Power Expansion

From the rise of digital commerce to the growth of the gig economy to the challenge of a global pandemic, digital identity technology has been one of the bigger beneficiaries of a number of trends sweeping societies around the world. Add to this a new emphasis on financial inclusion and social equity, and you have a recipe for opportunity for many innovators in the digital identity space.

The latest company to take advantage of the current moment is OCR Labs, which made its Finovate debut at our developers conference, FinDEVr Silicon Valley, in 2016. The company, headquartered in Sydney, Australia and founded by Matthew Adams and Daniel Aiello, returned to the Finovate stage the following summer, earning a Best of Show award for a demo of its ID verification solution.

OCR Labs combines five different technologies – ID document OCR, document fraud assessment, liveness detection, video fraud assessment, and face matching – in a single, end-to-end digital identity experience. The company’s technology has been deployed in a wide range of verticals – from financial services and e-commerce to telecommunications and real estate – to provide AML and KYC-compliant digital ID verification and customer onboarding.

This week OCR Labs announced that it had raised $15 million (EUR 12.5 million) in Series A funding. The round was led Oyak Group of Turkey and will enable the company to expand into markets into Turkey, the U.K., and throughout Europe. OCR Lab currently maintains an international headquarters in London.

“No one wants to spend hours trying to prove who they are, whether it’s for a job or for a bank account, and we also want to know we’re protected against identity theft and fraud,” OCR Labs co-founder Daniel Aiello said. “Digital ID verification has a key role to play, but this year we’ve also seen the limitations if hybrid models are used. People are a barrier and a risk, but fully automated technology can have a huge impact on many industries and privacy. OCR Labs is built to be secure, frictionless and fast, and capable of recognizing ID documents the world over.”

Enjoying triple-digit growth since its launch, OCR Labs has partnered with Reed Screening to help businesses verifying candidate identities during the COVID crisis ahead of a potential in-person COVID check mandate later this month. There is some pressure to allow businesses to continue remote COVID checking, an idea with which OCR Labs understandably sympathizes.

“The need for digital verification is growing exponentially,” Aiello said. “This past year we’ve seen more demand from new sectors as they try to navigate the pandemic and an inability to operate in-person. We believe it has accelerated what needed to happen.”

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Credit Sesame Scores $51 Million; Completes Zingo Acquisition

Credit Sesame Scores $51 Million; Completes Zingo Acquisition

On the consumption side of personal finance, managing credit is one of the most important aspects of financial wellness. And for more than a decade, Credit Sesame has been among the more innovative companies in this space. From its origins as a hub for financial planning tools, insights into credit scoring, and advice on smart borrowing, Credit Sesame has grown into a leader in the financial wellness industry with new solutions like its Sesame Cash debit account, which topped one million customers less than a year after emerging from its beta launch.

“With Sesame Cash and features like real-time cash back rewards and rewards for improving their credit score,” Credit Sesame GM and Head of Global Banking Miro Pavletic explained when the solution was introduced last September, “we are helping customers put more money back in their pocket than any other digital banking service. Whether you’re looking to buy groceries or debating where to grab takeout, we can connect you with the brands you love and give you cash back instantly,” Pavletic said.

The $51 million in new funding the company raised this week is a testament both to the journey Credit Sesame has been on since its launch in 2010, as well as the potential the firm has to continue to play a leading role in helping millions of consumers better understand and manage their finances.

“Creating access to better credit and finance is critical for financial prosperity for consumers in our country, and it’s enlightening to see major banks and the federal government also taking action,” Credit Sesame CEO Adrian Nazari said. “The impacts of the past year have only made those needs greater, and through our recent acquisition and fundraising, we are proud to be expanding our platform offerings and leading the charge in opening more doors to financial inclusion and wellness for all.” 

The company sees its current mission as closing the “credit chasm,” which it believes limits economic opportunities for more than 44 million “credit invisible” Americans. Part of this effort includes Credit Sesame’s decision to acquire Zingo, a transaction that was completed recently. A fintech company headquartered in Portland, Oregon, Zingo helps renters improve their credit scores via timely rent payments. With almost 80% of its 15 million members renting, rather than owning, a home, Credit Sesame expects the acquisition to represent a “significant growth opportunity for the company” while enhancing “financial inclusion for its customers.” Credit Sesame anticipates integrating Zingo’s rent reporting technology into its financial wellness platform over the summer.

Looking out over the balance of 2021, Credit Sesame appears to be taking a page from Zingo’s book by launching a new feature that will enable consumers to use their cash to help them improve their credit rating. Requiring no credit check, the new solution will allow Credit Sesame customers to leverage their cash and credit together to help build a strong financial foundation and create a path toward better financial health.

How Collaboration and Partnership Power Fintech Innovation: Our Interview with FISPAN’s Andrea Zand

How Collaboration and Partnership Power Fintech Innovation: Our Interview with FISPAN’s Andrea Zand

How are banks and fintechs leveraging the lessons learned during the global health crisis to provide consumers and businesses with financial products that do an even better job than before of addressing their needs? And when it comes to innovation in technology and financial services, is disruption or collaboration dictating the pace of change?

To talk about these and other issues, we caught up with Andrea Zand, co-founder and Chief Operating Officer of FISPAN. Headquartered in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, FISPAN made its Finovate debut in 2017, demonstrating its cloud-based platform that leverages APIs to enable banks to deliver new business banking solutions to their corporate customers.

How are the banks you work with doing now – a little over one year after the onset of the pandemic?

Andrea Zand: Open-banking infrastructure and data sharing are helping banks and governments around the world better respond to the recovery post-pandemic. We are starting to see evidence that governments are beginning to use open banking data to help inform their pandemic responses and help small businesses. The banks we work with are feeling positive about the recovery going into 2021.

In what ways should banks expect customer behavior to change and how should they respond?

Zand: We’ve already seen that the pandemic has sped up innovation in financial services. Customers are getting more and more comfortable doing their personal banking online, and business banking customers are also turning to digital banking platforms as an alternative to in-person branch visits. Banks are struggling to keep up with this rapid shift in the types of online service offerings their clients are demanding. 

Because of this, banks are looking to deploy innovations that will have an immediate impact on the client experience. This is where we see a huge opportunity with embedded banking. By embedding the banking experience inside the platforms that business customers use to run their businesses (such as ERPs or accounting software), banks are able to easily provide their business clients with a more automated and streamlined treasury management process. The banks that are ahead of the curve and partnering with fintechs like us are beginning to better understand how their customers use their products in context, allowing them to innovate smarter and faster.

Technology has moved too fast for the banks to build those capabilities themselves. The best way for B2B banks to manage the impact of rapidly evolving customer expectations is to partner with agile, innovative fintech services.

Connecting with their clients as much as possible and understanding their needs will be essential in driving the agenda for the new capabilities the banks should be focusing on. Leveraging tech and automation will manage and rise to customer expectations while still allowing for more face time during this transition period to explore and understand customers’ needs and wants.

What are some of the other challenges that banks will encounter as the recovery picks up steam – and how will FISPAN help them?

Zand: Banks will continue to be challenged by continually changing customer expectations. They will also be challenged by the need to adapt to an open exchange of data that will happen as a result of the many new fintech upstarts that are creating new business models and finding ways to better meet these changing client demands.

FISPAN helps by collaborating with FIs to understand what will make their customers happier by joining forces across all levels of the product discovery and implementation phases. Getting in front of the customers and understanding their day-to-day ERP and accounting struggles is a large part of how we meet and overcome the challenges that have risen due to the digital shift during our global pandemic. More specifically, we enable banks to extend their service offering to their business clients by embedding commercial banking applications within the organization’s ERP or accounting software.

For those institutions that engaged in digital transformations, how do they make sure those efforts truly pay off?

Zand: Continue to be open to new ways of thinking and working with new partners. In partnering, serving, or investing in innovation by way of technology upstarts, financial institutions are able to position themselves for future growth and adaptation through real-time, easy access to products, services, data, and channels. Delivering a product or service that truly resonates with their customers and meets them where they are with the current challenges they face in a rapidly growing digital market.

What does collaboration between banks and fintechs look like in a post-COVID world?

Zand: Collaboration between banks, fintech, and other providers is becoming more important as the payments landscape is becoming more complex. Banks that are open to partnering have a competitive advantage because they can provide better services at scale. Not to mention that some banks are at risk of getting disintermediated by nonbank providers for some of these types of solutions. The time that bank partners spend helping integrate their banking services into different platforms is markedly less than the time it would take for the bank to develop it themselves. That same time investment from the bank also leads to countless saved hours for their business clients, increasing their value as a business bank.

What has been your biggest professional takeaway from 2020?

Zand: If 2020 taught me anything, it was to always remain flexible and open-minded. One of the big plans we had was to go to some in-person events and start to talk face to face with end-users and really understand what kinds of pain points they were experiencing with their treasury management process. All of our events were either canceled or transferred to digital. We were still able to get the information we needed from customer interviews and case studies, but it just goes to show that sometimes your best-laid plans aren’t going to be in the cards and you need to pivot quickly.

What are you looking forward to most in 2021? Where do you see the greatest opportunities?

Zand: Besides being able to see our bank clients and end-users face to face, in 2021 I am looking forward to watching banks, payments providers, and fintech companies launching services and solutions that can help small businesses across the country emerge from 2020. I think the greatest opportunity for economic recovery and success post-pandemic lies in banks being better able to serve their small business clients.

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How Zeta Became 2021’s Latest Unicorn

How Zeta Became 2021’s Latest Unicorn

Banking technology startup Zeta dominated the fintech headlines yesterday. The company raised $250 million, which boosted its valuation up over $1.45 billion.

The funding round was led by Softbank with participation from Sodexo. This is Zeta’s third investment round since it was founded in 2015. Notably, the cash brings the company into unicorn status.

So what is it about Zeta that has struck a chord in the fintech industry? The company offers a full-stack, cloud-native, API-ready core banking and transaction processing platform. The tools enable legacy banks to issue credit, debit, and prepaid offerings and provide modern fintech products to both retail and commercial clients.

In addition to its credit, debit, and prepaid card processing capabilities, Zeta’s products include:

  • Zeta Tachyon Loans – a BNPL and personal loan management platform
  • Zeta Tachyon Deposits – a modern core for DDA, checking accounts, savings accounts, and deposits
  • Zeta Tachyon Mobile – a ready-made, customizable mobile app for credit cards, checking accounts, prepaid, loans, BNPL, personal finance management, and more

Zeta’s tools help traditional banks compete with the onslaught of digital banks that are bringing consumers fresh new products and services to today’s digital-first customers. Those tools also help fintechs stay competitive in a world of super-apps by focusing on their core competencies.

“Most banks are using decades old software built at a time when Mainframes and Cobol were in vogue. As a result they have been slow to innovate and provide poor user experiences,” said Zeta CEO Bhavin Turakhia. “With Zeta, FIs can leverage a modern, cloud native platform and improve speed to market, agility, cost to income ratio and user experience.”

Turakhia showcased Zeta’s capabilities at FinovateWest 2020 last fall in his Best of Show-winning demo.

Zeta counts 10 banks and 25 fintechs across eight countries among its customers. The company plans to use the new funding to boost its growth in the U.S. and Europe by scaling its operations, team, and platform.

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Boss Insights and the Brave New World of Business Data as a Service

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Earlier this year in our conversation on diversity in fintech and financial services, we looked at a partnership between Paybby, a challenger bank focused on Black and Brown communities; Carver Federal Savings Bank, an African-American owned bank; and Finovate alum Boss Insights.

Today, we pick up that conversation from the fintech’s perspective, talking with Boss Insights founder and CEO Keren Moynihan about her company’s innovations in the field of business-data-as-a-service, its participation in the Paycheck Protection Program, and the importance of impact and meaning when it comes to providing financial services.

Boss Insights specializes in Business Data as a Service. What does this mean?

Moynihan: We work with fintechs and private lenders, banks, and credit unions. We work with their business lending groups; it could be small and medium business lending, SBA, invoice factoring, commercial, all sorts of business lending types. And what we are giving the lenders is access to their business customers’ financial data in minutes. It sounds impossible, but actually only takes the lenders one hour of their time to set up.

What we’re enabling is for them to be able to pull real-time accounting information, banking, or commerce information on demand.

When you look back on 2020, what are your biggest takeways?

Moynihan: In March 2020 I was speaking with (a reporter) at a conference and she asked for a direct quote responding to “how are fintechs and entrepreneurial companies going to be responding to COVID?” And I’ll never forget it because I said, “Look, fintechs thrive on challenges and this is an unprecedented challenge but we will be looking at ways to respond to it.” Two hours later, we all got an order that the economy was going to shut down, that we were all going to isolate. I don’t think anyone knew what was happening. I called the reporter and said “I know what I said, but …” I knew I was going to eat my words, because this was on another level. She laughed and said, of course, and she appreciated my call.

That was more than a year ago. The next two weeks were an onslaught. This was before PPP. This was before any kind of government funding and people really did not know what was happening. And unless you were in it, it’s really hard to describe it. What we did as a company was that we saw in all the news articles there wasn’t enough personal protection equipment, we started to get reports out of Italy, it was a really scary time. Now people at Boss Insights could not create masks. But we did see that if you stopped a company from being able to make sales, they are not going to be able to say alive and to be able to grow.

I asked myself, how do you support the economy? Right away we said we will offer part of our technology for free for any lenders who will support new businesses. And by new businesses, I meant new business relationships with the lender. That is a harder uplift. And as a result of that, everything started to grow for us. Technology companies reached out. Banking companies reached out. We were covered in an industry journal and, as a result of just that one piece, we had so many people call us. And we learned so much just by being able to say we can help.

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How much of what you’ve learned will you be able to translate into new initiatives and future growth?

Moyinhan: There are a lot of things that I see changing, and then there’s an even bigger category of things I wish would change and hope will change. And time will tell. One word, very overused, is digitization. That’s going to endure. CB Insights reported that banks were losing about 1% market share each year, so give or take 9% or 10% over a nine year period. In 2020, 9% was lost in one year. A couple more years like that and we’re looking at a very different economy.

That really made the industry stand up and take notice. Back in March 2020, the same lenders that were telling me that they had everything under control and were ready to go, were the same ones that admitted to me on private calls that they were placing orders for laptops at Costco. They literally could not get laptops from regular commercial suppliers and were ordering them from Costco because they couldn’t get them anywhere else.

This points to one trend: people were a lot more honest about where they were (in terms of digital transformation) because you couldn’t just say you had digitized, it was actually being tested. I believe that trend is going to endure because the expectations of people, of businesses, have changed. We all ordered groceries online for awhile. I don’t think that was true before 2020. We are all expecting that these documents and forms that you have to go into branches for will be available online.

That is the biggest thing I can say that has changed. The one thing that I hope will change is the collaboration. We put out something in the American Banking Association saying that social distancing led to social collaboration. What I mean by that is that people stopped talking and they started listening. This includes Boss Insights. We stopped talking about what we’re selling and we started just asking “what do you need?” And I do hope that trend continues. It’s mirrored in other areas outside of financial services. We think these things were long overdue. It’s not a trend that is continuing in the way that I would have hoped. But I do see a lot of changes and this issue surfaced in the second round of PPP. People were open to having conversations. They brought decision-makers in the room. People didn’t want to have high-level discussions. They wanted to clearly tell you “I need this. Can you get it for me?” Then it’s our turn to talk about what we can do.

That amount of collaboration is unprecedented before COVID, and we just hope that it continues.

Tell us about the importance of working with small business owners who struggled to access support from relief programs like PPP.

Moyinhan: In the middle of PPP I was on a podcast called The Powerful Ladies podcast and it was with Kara Duffy. All of this got arranged because of Sharifah Hardie, who also runs a podcast and we had been on her podcast also. There was a woman there named Ronda Brunson. She has a consulting practice where she works with people to educate them on financial health, people who would not necessarily have had that training. We learn a lot of things in school, but financial health is not one of them, and if you have not had that education elsewhere where are you going to get it? She empowers people.

As I’m listening to all of these incredibly accomplished women and what they do in their business lives, she heard what I was doing. I was a little bit the oddball out because I was working with businesses and everyone else was working with individuals. She said, “I hear what you do, but the first round of PPP got a little bit of social notice because it’s supporting large businesses.” The second round of PPP did correct for this. But at that time we didn’t know that was going to happen. She said “how are you actually working to get capital into the hands of people who wouldn’t get access to it?”

I knew exactly what she meant. I knew that she meant people who were either female-run companies or visible minority-run companies. She didn’t say it explicitly, but that was exactly what she meant because those were the people that she was working with on a daily basis.

The way the lending industry works is that it’s based on a percentage of the amount of the loan. Everything is based on that. The costs are the same whether the loan is two million dollars or $200,000 – so who’s going to get more resources? It’s not that banks and credit unions and private lenders are trying to do it this way, it’s that the costs don’t scale down but the revenue does. What I saw from banks at that time is they were working until two or three in the morning. What I’ve heard from the CEO of Carver Bancorp, Michael Pugh, is that he’s been on the phone with clients to get their documents in – which people couldn’t believe, but this is the dedication. And what (Brunson) was asking me was: “what exactly are you doing to ensure your technology gets in the hands of people who will make sure that the disenfranchised will get access?”

And I never forgot it and I started looking immediately. Because for the people at Boss Insights, it is about accelerating business lending from months to minutes. But it’s also about impact and meaning and making sure businesses are evaluated on their merit. It is because of Paybby that we got connected to Carver. And it is because of Paybby and Carver that we are in a position to answer her and say, Ronda, now I can tell you we are doing something.

In some ways, we just started listening. We listened for when the SBA announced that there was going to be a week in advance for lenders focused in this area. And we listened when Paybby said “we have a lender who is ready to do this uplift.” And the collaboration that Paybby and Carver and Boss Insights have is a daily investment to make sure that things are running smoothly so businesses can apply.

Read more about the partnership between Paybby, Carver Federal Savings Bank, and Boss Insights.

Photo by Davyd Bortnik from Pexels

Dwolla’s Evolution from Direct-to-Consumer

Dwolla’s Evolution from Direct-to-Consumer

Founded in 2008, Dwolla is one of the fintech originals. Because of its long-standing history in the fintech space, the Iowa-based company has been through a lot of changes as it evolves with banks, fintechs, and consumer demand.

Since its start, Dwolla has focused on offering an alternative to the traditionally slow ACH money transfer system. Initially, the company tackled this objective through a direct-to-consumer (DTC) product, which allowed individual users to sign up for Dwolla to make peer-to-peer money transfers and transact with the company’s merchant partners.

As part of its DTC solution, Dwolla even offered a cardless credit product called Instant. The tool would lend users up to $5,000 for one month, with no interest, in exchange for a $3 per month subscription fee.

As an evolution of its credit offering, the company partnered with Alliance Data to launch Dwolla Credit. The ecommerce point of sale product worked much like PayPal in that users would select a Pay with DWOLLA button at the point of sale to complete their purchase. Funds would transfer on Dwolla’s rails to enable merchants to receive the funds instantly in their Dwolla account.

Despite the company’s numerous innovations in the consumer space, Dwolla received the most traction from its bank-focused product, FiSync, a payments protocol for real-time money transfers. The success of this tool prompted the company to exit the consumer space in 2016 to focus on creating payment APIs.

Today, Dwolla’s API helps organizations integrate payments into their application to send, collect, and facilitate payments. Earlier this year the company doubled down on its roots in faster payments to deliver real time payments in collaboration with Cross River Bank. The new, instant payment option leverages the RTP Network to send money directly to a bank account in seconds.

In a post-COVID world in which consumers have been trained to conduct more of their daily transactions online, Dwolla’s real-time payments capability will play a key role. “The immediacy of real-time payments will fundamentally change how businesses operate,” said Dwolla CEO Brady Harris. “As electronic payments continue to grow in adoption, RTP is the perfect complement to our ACH and Push-to-Debit offerings.”

Dwolla, a three-time Finovate alum, most recently demoed at FinovateSpring 2015 where it debuted FiSync. The company has raised $51.4 million from investors including Union Square Ventures, High Alpha, and Foundry Group.

Photo by Egor Myznik on Unsplash