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Tracking fintech, banking & financial services innovations since 1994
For those who may find North Carolina an atypical location for some of the country’s most innovative fintech companies, recall that many of these fintechs are benefitting from the proximity of the famous Research Triangle. This area of the state includes three universities – Duke University, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and North Carolina State University, and has had a reputation as a technology hotspot since the 1950s. Hall of Fame caliber technology firms from IBM to Cisco Systems to Red Hat have made “The Triangle” their home over the years, solidifying the region’s high-tech reputation and helping attract new generations of entrepreneurs and technologists.
Recently we learned of big news from one of the members of this new generation. Cognitect, which provides engineering and software development talent and technology to clients in industries ranging from health and science to fintech, announced that it has agreed to be acquired by long-time client Nubank, a financial institution based in Brazil.
Cognitect founder and President Stuart Halloway called the company’s relationship with Nubank “a spectacular success story” for its two signature offerings: Clojure – Cognitect’s general purpose programming language – and Datomic – the company’s transactional database. Nubank currently has 600 Clojure developers, running 2.5 million lines of Clojure code in 500 microservices on 2000+ Datomic servers. “Cognitect has been there every step of the way, helping Nubank’s developers translate Clojure’s ideas into business agility,” Halloway wrote at the company’s blog.
The acquisition, according to Halloway, will pave the way for bigger teams for both Clojure and Datomic – technologies Finovate fans were first introduced to via our FinDEVr developers conference in 2016. In that presentation – and in the company’s return to the FinDEVr stage the following year – the Durham, North Carolina-based company demonstrated how its solutions enable companies to have more control over and insight into their data – including the ability to conduct analytics on real-time information without hindering performance.
Nubank’s relationship with Cognitect in general and Clojure and Datomic in specific stems from the Brazilian neobank’s decision to use those technologies to provide a data infrastructure for its microservices platform. The result, for Nubank’s customers, has been greater clarity and complete history on transactions, as well as insight into the origins of suspicious cyber incidents or problems with data.
“Because we use Clojure and Datomic, we’ve built a tool that has already moved beyond what many of our competitors do, and our speed of innovation – new features, continuous deploys – increases with every passing day,” Nubank CTO and cofounder Edward Wible said in a statement. Founded in 2013, Sao Paulo-based Nubank is Latin America’s largest fintech with more than 20 million customers. Cognitect is the firm’s second acquisition of the year, having purchased software engineering company Plataformatec in January.
Going forward, Cognitect will benefit from the continued leadership in its Clojure and Datomic teams, and the company itself will remain a U.S. C corporation. Datomic customers will continue to receive professional services from Cognitect, though the company expects to transition away from general consulting development. Customers also will likely get the next Datomic feature “a bit sooner” Halloway added, pledging to users that “the resources behind (their) software are greater than ever before.”
After nCino’s impressive initial public offering this week – the largest, one-day gain for a U.S.-based tech IPO since the Dot Com Days – everyone now will be able to name at least one Finovate alum from the great state of North Carolina.
But there’s more to Carolina fintech than nCino. Among Finovate alums alone there are at least a dozen other companies from the Tar Heel State whose innovations in and contributions to fintech are also worth noting.
In a $460 million deal, Texas-based ATM operator Cardtronics has acquired Canada-based DirectCash Payments. The deal is expected to help Cardtronics expand into Canada and the United Kingdom. DirectCash Payments has 25,000 ATMs around the globe, primarily in Australia, Canada, and the U.K. Once the deal closes in Q1 of 2017, it will boost Cardtronics’ network to 225,000 ATMs across North America, Europe, and Asia Pacific.
Jack Henry & Associates (F10) teams up with Visa (F10)
In a new partnership, Jack Henry & Associates has integrated with Visa to allow customers to send P2P payments directly to a recipient’s Visa debit card. This eliminates the need for a recipient to provide their account and routing number to the sender. With increased competition in the P2P payments industry (PayPal/Venmo (FDNY 16), Square Cash, Zello), banks are feeling pressure to compete by offering faster delivery of funds. The partnership enables banks to offer funds-transfers a day sooner, or even same-day. Jack Henry began offering P2P payment capability in 2005 and expects the new method to boost usage.
Sberbank (F16) and MasterCard (F11) partner to launch ApplePay in Russia
Starting this week, Mastercard cardholders in Russia can now pay using ApplePay, thanks to a new partnership between Russian bank Sberbank and Mastercard. In a statement, the bank’s Deputy Chairman of the Executive Board, Alexander Torbakhov, said, “Apple Pay is driving the popularization of contactless payments in Russia and globally. Many of Sberbank clients actively use new technologies, and an increasing number of them will prefer cash-free and contactless payment using their smartphones.”
This is the Russian bank’s second big move this week. On Monday the company inked a partnership with Hyperledger to begin working on the Hyperledger Project.
PayPal (F11) and Vodafone partner for in-store NFC mobile payments
Acting on a partnership it first initiated in February, PayPal partnered with Vodafone to enable U.K. users to make NFC payments from their PayPal accounts using their Android phones. The agreement enables consumers to make transactions of up to £30 ($36.60) at 400,000 retail locations. For more expensive purchases, Vodafone Pay users can use their Vodafone wallet (launched in 2013), which requires a PIN.
The NFC payment capability with Vodafone was piloted in Spain. PayPal also has agreements in place with other global telcos, including America Movil, Telcel, and Claro.
Happy birthday, U.S. EMV. It’s been one year since EMV regulation in the United States was placed into effect. If you live in America, you’ve likely noticed that adoption is low. In fact, according to a recent report from Mastercard, 88% of consumers have been issued chip cards, but only 33% of merchant locations accept them.
Though usage remains low, Mastercard reported this week that it has seen an overall decrease in fraud since the EMV change. The company reports that between April 2015 and April 2016, retailers who have transitioned to EMV experienced a 54% decrease in counterfeit fraud.
Ready, set, ACH
As of September 30, a new rule from NACHA requires all banks to process incoming same-day ACH credits. Most ACH payments are currently settled on the next business day: the new rule-change offers originators the option to send an ACH transaction to any recipient account for same-day processing. NACHA has imposed a same-day fee on every same-day ACH transaction to help financial institutions receiving the funds to recover the cost to enable same-day ACH. Phase two of NACHA’s Same-day ACH initiative will take effect 15 Sept 2017.
Technologies: AI, chatbots, and natural language processing (NLP)
The industry-wide obsession with chatbots continues. Finovate last month showcased a dozen variants on the chatbot theme. One of our newer alums, Personetics (F16), is even holding a Chatbot Bootcamp next month in San Francisco. And our chatbot-banking post in March is our fourth most-read. But the bigger conversation is around natural language processing (NLP) and how it can be used to retrieve information and perform tasks. A new report from Juniper Research estimated that NLP would drive $2.1 TRILLION in annual purchases via mobile five years from now (2021).
The annual Sibos 2016 conference in Geneva took place at the end of September—between the last Fintech Trending meeting and this one. Organized by SWIFT, Sibos is considered to be the world’s premier financial services event covering areas such as payments, securities, cash management, and trade.
So what was big at Sibos 2016 this year? The blockchain. 2016 was the first year that Sibos dedicated a track “exclusively to distributed ledger” technology. And the event’s startup-industry challenge was all about how to use the blockchain in the securities industry. The three startups that won the challenge will develop PoCs using technologies like smart contracts (SmartContract), distributed ledgers (Rise Financial Technologies), and open-source blockchain platforms (Coin Sciences).
Some have ascertained the irony in SWIFT’s embrace of the blockchain: Its $6 billion payment-messaging service is one of the technologies “widely perceived to be at risk for disintermediation” by blockchain technology. And indeed, companies like Finovate alum Ripple (F13) have made great strides in helping FIs like Bank of America, Santander, and Royal Bank of Canada use distributed-ledger technology to provide a global blockchain-payments network with “near-instant” settlement. Interestingly, Ripple recently hired former SWIFT board member Marcus Treacher as its new global head of strategic accounts. Treacher told CoinDesk in September that SWIFT was the “de facto way everyone moves money through countries.” And cross-border payment is something he specifically believes Ripple “can do better.”
Global Banks Partner to Form Blockchain Payments Network—CoinDesk
Speaking of blockchain, a number of companies with blockchain and distributed-ledger technologies will be presenting at our developers conference, FinDEVr Silicon Valley, next week. These companies include PwC, which will present its blockchain-as-a-service technology to improve trade finance, and IBM with its hyperledger implementation in the cloud that helps manage and test blockchain-dev projects. Also on hand will be distributed database specialists Aerospike (FD16) and Cognitect (FD16).
From FT Partnersrecent report on the boom in insurance-technology innovation, to InsurTech Rising’s event, Informa, to launch on 21 Oct, this area of financial technology is garnering increasing attention.
Why? As FT Partners pointed out in their 247-page report, the insurance industry is one of the areas of finance that so far has been least affected by the technological disruption nearly commonplace elsewhere. The insurance industry is a multitrillion dollar business; property and casualty insurers alone generated more than $64 billion in net income in 2014. And it sits at the nexus between the drive to better engage customers (is there anything enjoyable about insurance from a consumer perspective) and the need to accommodate complex and shifting regulatory landscapes (something the rest of finance is becoming increasingly familiar with).
What are the focuses of insurtech? Most technology innovation in the area revolves around trends in distribution and administration: data and analytics, and marketing and customer engagement. This includes everything from the kinds of products offered to consumers, such as micro-insurance, to using mobile channels and interactive technologies to make insurance products easier to understand, choose from, and purchase.
How are industry players responding and what to watch for? From partnering with innovative startups to acquisitions, incumbent insurance firms are increasingly aware of the challenge. FT Partners reports that more than 40% of traditional insurers surveyed by Ptolemus Consulting said they were planning to “acquire, or have already acquired, innovative startups to help them expand their digital capabilities” and more than half say they have already invested in social media, data mining, and predictive modeling. Nearly 70% have embraced mobile technology.
Wave Mechanics: FT Partners Report Highlights Trends Driving Rise of Insurtech—Finovate
Prepare for the InsurTech Wave: Overview of Key Insurance Technology Trends—FT Partners
Note: Finovate alums have the year of their first appearance listed after their name. For example, FIS first appeared at Finovate in 2009, so there is a (F09) after their name, with a link to that first demo.
Like proud grandparents counting the place-settings at a big family dinner, we were thrilled to realize that with FinDEVr Silicon Valley 2016 (tickets still available) we have onboarded our 1,000th alum. Durham, North Carolina-based Cognitect helped us make the milestone, and will join us next week at our upcoming developers conference in the Bay Area.
Founded in 2013, Cognitect specializes in enterprise software and data management. The company’s suite of technologies includes Datomic, a distributed database solution that leverages both traditional database functionalities with new features that enable full auditability and the ability to model future scenarios. Writing about Datomic in a blog post titled, “The New Normal: Data Leverage,” Cognitect VP Michael Nygard explained how the legacy of object-oriented programming (OOP) poorly serves developers in an era when “the majority of our work is with data.”
This is why I like working with Datomic. My transaction is data, just a vector of vectors or a vector of maps. What I get back as a result is data, a set of tuples. If I want to look at any of the built-in attributes of any of the attributes I’ve added—any of the metadata—I just do an ordinary query and get back ordinary data. My query is specified as data. Results come back as data.
Nygard said that developers have come up against an “upper bound” when it comes to scaling with OOP. “Too many companies have created golden anchors out of their multimillion-line code-bases,” he said. “We are uncovering new ways to structure applications that enforce even stronger encapsulation and decision-hiding than object-oriented programming.”
Join Cognitect and more than 40 other innovative companies next week at FinDEVr Silicon Valley 2016. Our two-day event begins on Tuesday, 18 October, and continues through Wednesday, 19 Oct, with live, 15-minute presentations, and extended, high-quality networking opportunities to enable you to get to know the talent behind the technology. So stop by our registration page and pick up your ticket today.
Cognitect will introduce you to Datomic, its immutable database that never forgets. It’s naturally distributed, built for modern architectures, and it scales with your data—without sacrificing your existing storage investments. The company will share how Datomic’s built-in history has been used in fintech to more effectively manage critical data.
Why it’s a must-see
Cognitect’s approach to auditability will change your world. Using Datomic, an immutable database that never forgets, you can query across all history, without any extra effort on your part. No more loss of valuable time and critical resources to answer basic questions. No more workarounds to understand the story of how your data got to now.