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Tracking fintech, banking & financial services innovations since 1994
There is not much fintech to come out of the state of Wyoming (a quick search on Crunchbase yields 28 results). Today, however, one more startup is added to that mix.
That’s because Avanti Financial, headquartered in Cheyenne, Wyoming, announced plans to launch a bank to serve the digital asset industry. The company recently applied to obtain a bank charter from the Wyoming Division of Banking under the Cowboy State’s special-purpose depository institution (SPDI) law.
If Avanti’s application is approved by the state of Wyoming, the startup will begin operations in early 2021.
Avanti seeks to fill the gap where traditional U.S. financial institutions fall short. In many cases, institutional customers that use digital assets lack a place to engage in payment, custody, securities, and commodities activities.
Founder and CEO Caitlin Long said, “A crucial step in the digital asset industry’s evolution is the formation of a new bank dedicated to bridging digital assets with the U.S. dollar payments system in a compliant manner, and the provision of custodial services that meet the strictest institutional standards.” Long added that Avanti’s launch will “unlock many new products and services around digital assets that only a regulated U.S. bank can provide directly.”
Avanti, which recently landed an undisclosed amount of seed funding, is partnering with Blockstream, a Canada-based group that creates “products and networks that make financial markets more efficient.”
Dr. Adam Back, Blockstream CEO and co-founder, said, “This partnership combines the best in Bitcoin applications with the optimal regulatory vehicle for delivering products and services to institutional customers that require regulated providers. Blockstream’s platforms fit well with Wyoming’s property-rights centric digital asset laws, which will enable Avanti to introduce products into U.S. dollar markets that do not exist today.”
For consumers with credit scores below 600, options for securing financing can be a major challenge. A new company on the scene, Self, has locked in $20 million in new funding to help make those financial hurdles a little easier for Americans with poor credit histories to overcome.
In a Series C round led by Altos Ventures and Conductive Ventures, Self has added $20 million to its total capital, which now stands at $37 million. The Austin, Texas-based company, founded in 2015, offers a Credit Builder Account in which borrowers apply for a modest loan with a Self bank partner that is held on a certificate of deposit. Borrowers make monthly payments, which are reported to the major credit agencies to help establish a credit history. Once the term is complete, the CD matures and the principal amount comes back to the customer.
“Our goal from the beginning was to create a mission-driven company that gives the power back to consumers and helps them achieve their financial goals,” company founder and CEO James Garvey said.
Since inception, Self has worked with 500,000+ customers and provided $400 million in CD-secured loan originations. The company recently launched its Self Visa Credit Card, a secured card that does not require a credit check. The card allows holders to build their security deposit in installments rather than with one large deposit upfront. The card has an annual fee of $25, average for secured cards, but features a higher than average minimum APR for secured cards at 23.74% based on a review by U.S. News.
Named one of the best fintech places to work in 2020 by Ariznet Brands – publishers of American Banker – Self rebranded itself from Self Lender last August and reincorporated as Self Financial. The fintech has partnered with firms including Atlantic Capital Bank, an Atlanta, Georgia-based bank holding company with assets of $2.9 billion, income optimization platform Steady, and nonprofit social enterprise Neighborhood Trust Financial Partners.
“Self inspires us with their dedication to helping consumers take control of their financial future,” Conductive Ventures’ Paul Yeh said. “Today, it’s imperative to be aligned with partners with a shared vision that is meaningful and delivers change for the greater good.”
How’s $7 billion for good karma? One of Finovate’s earliest alumsCredit Karma is reportedly the target of what would be Intuit’s biggest acquisition to date. According to The Wall Street Journal, the cash and stock deal could be announced as early as Monday.
Credit Karma will continue to function as an independent company with founder and CEO Kenneth Lin at the helm. The acquisition gives Intuit, maker of online tax filing service TurboTax, another contact point with the online personal finance world. Credit Karma provides its members with access to their credit scores and borrowing histories, helps them monitor their accounts for security breaches and, perhaps most relevantly, has offered a free online tax preparation service since 2017.
If the deal holds up, Intuit will be paying a significant premium for Credit Karma. The personal financial wellness company was last valued at $4 billion, based on a 2018 private market transaction.
The victory may have been especially sweet for Sonect, whose Best of Show award-winning demo was also the company’s Finovate debut. The Switzerland-based start-up offers what it calls “the world’s first social cash network” that enables consumers to access cash without having to visit a bank branch or ATM. Sonect offers merchants the ability to grow their business via increased traffic and gives financial institutions a way to extend their ATM networks without the cost of additional hardware.
The Best of Show win was also a first for Horizn. The company, which made its Finovate debut three years ago at FinovateEurope, offers a platform that helps employees and customers maximize the opportunities of digitized financial services. Horizn uses simulator microlearning, as well as gamification and advanced analytics, to promote digital adoption across channels.
And last but not least, a special tip of the hat to Dorsum, Glia, iProov, and W.UP, all of whom won Best of Show honors at FinovateEurope for a second year in a row.
Here’s a round up of recent news from our Finovate alumni.
Larkyenters reseller agreement with Access Softek.
Bison Bank in Lisbon, Portugal selects PSD2-ready software from ndigit.
OurCrowdexpands focus on growing early stage tech companies.
Finovate Alum Features and Profiles
eToro’s Evolution – Social trading and investment platform eToro has never been one to stand still for very long. The company’s development cycle is fast enough to make even the most sprightly fintech jealous.
Lending Club Snaps Up Radius Bank for $185 Million – When Lending Club was founded in 2007, the startup aimed to serve as a place to help borrowers avoid dealing with banks. In a somewhat ironic move today, that same startup is becoming a bank itself.
Banking giant BBVA and VC firm Anthemis have backed U.K.-based Wollit in a $1.3 million (£1 million) Seed round.
Founded last year, Wollit aims to support the 43% of U.K. residents who lack a stable income by helping gig economy workers and independent contractors smooth out their cashflow.
Wollit will use the funds to fuel its flagship product, the Wollit Income Promise. According to Wollit CEO Liad Shababo, the new tool “offers a financial safety net for the 14 million U.K. workers whose income fluctuates from month to month.”
The Wollit Income Promise is different from credit cards and loans because it personalizes financing to each user’s individual financial situation. When workers earn less than usual, Wollit provides interest-free top-ups that the user repays once they start earning more.
“With this, we set to end [gig workers’] monthly gamble of feast or famine and provide a safer, more sustainable option than the short-term, risky alternatives,” said Shababo. “Wollit is here to establish a new status quo in financial services. We want to make sure everyone has access to financial wellbeing.”
The investment is one of the first from the BBVA & Anthemis Venture Creation Partnership, which was formed in 2018. “The BBVA & Anthemis Venture Creation Partnership identifies early-stage fintech companies who are looking for both financial and strategic support to accelerate the growth of their business,” said Farhan Lalji, Principal at Anthemis. “This means Wollit now has access to mentors and resources inside the Anthemis and BBVA ecosystems beyond pure capital – including product development, data science, business development, and talent resources – as they grow their business.”
Startups such as Wollit underscore society’s need for financial services geared toward the gig economy. Banks have historically failed to serve consumers with unpredictable income. As Ron Shevlin points out in his piece Gig Economy Banking Is Booming (And Banks Are Missing The Boat), fintechs and challenger banks have been the first to take a chance on this growing consumer segment by serving them with unique products and services that cater to their fluctuating income.
Grab, the Singapore-based ride-hailing company well en route to becoming a full-fledged fintech, as well, will get $700 million in new funding from MUFG Bank according to the Nikkei. The investment will be part of a collaboration designed to bring services like lending and insurance to markets in Southeast Asia via smartphone apps. MUFG Bank is a subsidiary of Japan’s Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group.
The Nikkei report has not been confirmed by MUFG or Grab, but Bloomberg notes in its coverage that the firms “intend to announce their alliance soon.” The partnership allegedly will consist of MUFG Bank overseeing lending and insurance operations, while Grab will leverage its AI and data analysis technology to analyze customer data to help MUFG match the right insurance and financing offerings with the right customers.
Grab is one of the top examples of a company leveraging its analytics and networking technology to expand beyond its original offering. Founded as a ride-hailing service in 2012, Grab is now developing a regional super app that combines a variety of services – including payments and financial services – along with rides. With a reported 166 million downloads in the region, the company operates in eight Southeast Asian countries, including Indonesia and Thailand. Grab has an estimated valuation of $14 billion, and includes SoftBank Group among its investors.
Ratna Sita Handayani, Senior Research Manager with Euromonitor International discussed the rise of the super app during her presentation at FinovateEurope earlier this month. Other examples of super apps in Asia include Tencent’s WeChat and Alibaba’s Alipay. Like Grab, Indonesia super app Gojek leverages its role in the everyday transportation lives of its consumers to expand its offerings – in Gojek’s case, for food delivery, hiring cleaning help, and billpay.
E*TRADE, the digital brokerage behind the stock trading baby commercials in the early 2000s (remember those?) has agreed to be acquired by investment banking giant Morgan Stanley. The all-stock transaction is valued at $13 billion.
The deal is expected to close in the fourth quarter of this year.
Since it was founded in 1982, E*TRADE has built up 5.2 million client accounts and $3.6 billion in assets under management. This will bolster Morgan Stanley’s 3 million client relationships and $2.7 trillion in assets under management. Adding E*TRADE’s digital capabilities to Morgan Stanley’s more traditional offerings will grant Morgan Stanley a more well-rounded approach that ranges from high tech to high touch.
“E*TRADE represents an extraordinary growth opportunity for our Wealth Management business and a leap forward in our Wealth Management strategy. The combination adds an iconic brand in the direct-to-consumer channel to our leading advisor-driven model, while also creating a premier Workplace Wealth provider for corporations and their employees,” said Morgan Stanley CEO James Gorman. “In addition, this continues the decade-long transition of our firm to a more balance sheet light business mix, emphasizing more durable sources of revenue.”
Logistically, E*TRADE CEO Mike Pizzi will lead Morgan Stanley’s E*TRADE business and be charged with overseeing the integration. “By joining Morgan Stanley, we will be able to take our combined offering to the next level and deliver an even more comprehensive suite of wealth management capabilities,” said Pizzi. “Bringing E*TRADE’s brand and offerings under the Morgan Stanley umbrella creates a truly exciting wealth management value proposition and enables our collective team to serve a far wider spectrum of clients.”
Today’s deal comes at a time when brokerages across the U.S. are in a race to zero, lowering trading fees as much as possible to compete with consumer attention. Last year Charles Schwab eliminated fees for stock trades and a month later bought TD Ameritrade for $26 billion.
The acquisition adds a top-20 U.S. credit card platform and a top-15 merchant acquiring business to Ally Financial’s direct bank deposit, auto financing, insurance, and commercial product lines. The combined entity will serve 11+ million customers in 50 states when the transaction is closed in Q3 of this year.
CardWorks founder, chairman, and CEO Don Berman praised Ally Financial as an “ideal partner” for the “people-centric, compliance-focused” and technology-enabled organization he built in 1987. “In leveraging Ally’s commitment to innovation and adaptiveness, the combined company will be well positioned to meet the financial needs of our ever-growing customer base and deliver sustainable growth and performance,” he said. After the deal is closed, Berman will join both Ally Financial’s Board of Directors as well as the company’s executive management team.
Detroit, Michigan-based Ally Financial was founded 101 years ago as the General Motors Acceptance Corporation (GMAC) and retained that name until 2010. The company is one of the largest auto financing firms in the U.S. by volume, and is a top-20 U.S. bank by assets ($180+ billion). Ally Financial trades on the NYSE under the ticker ALLY, and has a market capitalization of $10 billion.
Ally Financial also has an online bank, Ally Bank, which is headquartered in Sandy, Utah, and offers mortgage financing as well as deposit and other banking services. As part of the acquisition, CardWorks subsidiary Merrick Bank will merge into Ally Bank.
When Lending Club was founded in 2007, the startup aimed to serve as a place to help borrowers avoid dealing with banks. In a somewhat ironic move today, that same startup is becoming a bank itself.
The move is made possible through Lending Club’s acquisition of Radius Bank, an online-only community bank founded in 1987 with more than $1.4 billion in assets.
It’s a logical purchase. Both Lending Club and its U.S. competitor Prosper have struggled with the classic chicken and egg conundrum– they can’t lend money to borrowers without investors ready and willing to lend, and they can’t find people willing to lend without enough qualifying borrowers. By becoming a bank, Lending Club has now adopted a pool of borrowers while having access to customer deposits to lend to those borrowers.
The deal is subject to regulatory approval and is expected to close in 12 to 15 months.
Radius President and CEO Mike Butler called the acquisition “a perfect marriage.” He added that, “with LendingClub bringing the leading digital asset generation platform, and Radius contributing a leading online deposit gathering platform,” they are set up for “long-term success.”
“This is a transformational transaction that allows us to reimagine banking in a way that is free from legacy practices and systems and where the success of LendingClub is aligned with the success of our customers,” said Scott Sanborn, CEO of LendingClub.
Lending Club isn’t the only alternative lender with aspirations to become a bank. U.K.-based P2P lender Zopa is currently working on launching a bank of its own and small business lender On Deck Capital plans to seek out a bank charter this year.
Fraud detection and prevention company Breach Clarity announced this week it has developed a new platform to help financial service providers offer personalized protection for their customers.
The machine learning-powered platform, dubbed Breach Clarity Premium for Financial Services, offers two sets of tools, one for the financial services company and one for the end consumer.
“Financial institutions are in a bad spot when it comes to data breach fallout,” said Breach Clarity founder Jim Van Dyke. “These breaches, most of which they have zero control over, are coming fast and furious, yet the actual damage can take years to occur. We first developed Breach Clarity to help the consumer fight back against the routine theft of their personal information. Now, we’re equipping their financial providers with much greater intelligence to help them strengthen everyone’s financial health.”
Founded in 2019, Breach Clarity analyzes data breaches, scores them in real-time based on 1,000 factors, and offers ideas for protective measures. The database behind the consumer-facing tool includes more than 4,000 data breach incidents, a number that grows by 50 each week.
Breach Clarity Premium for Financial Services has multiple benefits for financial services and their customers. The new tool details the most effective actions both parties can take, based on the information that was compromised, to mitigate loss in the event of a breach. The offering also enables consumers to search for data breaches that impact them without leaving their bank’s website or mobile app.
Breach Clarity is headquartered in Walnut Creek, California. Van Dyke recently demoed Breach Clarity at FinovateFall 2019 in New York.
The company that has helped bring fintech innovation to e-commerce with its mobile point-of-sale (mPOS), card reading solutions now offers merchants a card of their own.
SumUp announced this week the launch of the new SumUp Card. In partnership with Mastercard, the new card will make business payments easier for merchants, giving them both faster access to their funds, as well as enhance their ability to monitor their accounts.
When merchant cardholders accept payments via their SumUp readers, the payments will now flow directly to their SumUp Card. The card guarantees next-day payouts including on weekends, has no upfront cost or monthly fee, and offers free overseas payments. Available initially in the U.K., Italy, Germany, and France, the SumUp Card will be expanded to other markets over the course of the year.
The card comes in the wake of consultations with the company’s SME partners, as well as a successful beta-test with more than 25,000 merchants. The partnership with Mastercard reprises a collaboration the two firms undertook last summer which was designed to boost the number of electronic payment acceptance locations in 27 markets in Europe. The company noted in its statement that the card makes SumUp a more comprehensive solution for SMEs by facilitating “both the making and taking of payments.”
“Since launching our first reader, we have been dedicated to empowering merchants so they can focus on making their business as successful as possible,” SumUp co-founder Marc-Alexander Christ said. “We had this in mind when we designed our latest product, with the SumUp Card being a smart solution so we can continue being the driving force behind small businesses across the globe.” He referred to the new offering as “a small card for big ideas.”
SumUp was founded in 2001. The small business payments facilitator offers a variety of solutions that provide merchants with inexpensive payment acceptance options wherever their business is. The U.K.-based company has raised more than $425 million in total funding, most recently securing €330 million ($356 million) in debt financing. An alumni of FinovateEurope 2013, SumUp forged a partnership with German challenger bank Penta in December, and collaborated with U.K. challenger bank Starling Bank in July.
As Finovate goes increasingly global, so does our coverage of financial technology. Finovate Global is our weekly look at fintech innovation in developing economies in Asia, Africa, the Middle East, Latin America, and Central and Eastern Europe.
Central and Eastern Europe
Dusseldorf, Germany-based apoBank partners with Avaloq.
German challenger bank N26 announces withdrawal from the U.K. market.
Sifted highlights the “fastest growing fintech startups in Germany.”
Middle East and Northern Africa
A partnership between Moven and STC Pay seeks to launch a new challenger bank in Saudi Arabia.
The biggest bank in the country by assets, the National Bank of Egypt (NBE), has joined the RippleNet payment network.
Wamda interviews more than 600 startups as part of its examination of pre-seed startups in the MENA region.
Central and Southern Asia
Uber establishes its Uber Money team at India’s Hyderabad Tech Centre.
Deal Street Asia looks at how fintechs in India are re-invigorating banking.
BusinessWorld reviews ways fintech in India can help “bridge the gap” between banks and the public.
Latin America and the Caribbean
In a round led by DOMO Invest, Brazilian P2P marketplace IOUU locks in $1.3 million in its latest funding round.
Chile-based investment platform Fintual teams up with Invermerica in new foray into Mexican market.
Brazilian fintech Bloxs Investimentos raises $690,000 in new funding to build out its collective investment platform.
Vietnam’s central bank refuses to cap foreign ownership of e-payment companies at 49%.
Fintech News Singapore features “6 Agri-Fintech Startups in Asia to Follow in 2020.”
Thailand-based “crowdfunding bonds” fintech PeerPower announces pre-Series A round funding.
Nigerian fintech Aella Credit secures $10 million in debt financing.
CNBC Africa looks at how fintechs can help South African consumers avoid “credit traps.”
VentureBurn highlights the work of South African financial inclusion specialist Meerkat.
It’s a big week for Flywire. The global payments platform made a dual announcement yesterday that it closed a round of funding and sealed the deal on an acquisition.
The $120 million in funding brings Flywire’s total raised to $260 million. Goldman Sachs led the Series E round. The Massachusetts-based company will use the funding to digitize payments across education, healthcare, and travel.
“We are thrilled to lead the Series E round for Flywire”, said Ashwin Gupta, Managing Director at Goldman Sachs’ Merchant Banking Division. “They bring together a unique blend of a payments network, platform and vertical-specific solutions to completely digitize the payments experience for their clients across industries. We look forward to continuing to help accelerate Flywire’s growth.”
Along with the investment news, Flywire unveiled that it has acquired healthcare billing and payment solutions company Simplee for an undisclosed amount. The acquisition blends Flywire’s tech platform with Simplee’s solution that focuses on patients and providers. The combined companies power four of the top ten U.S. healthcare systems and together process $10 billion+ in payments per year.
“Flywire is uniquely built on a global payments network, which is the cornerstone of how we move billions of dollars across 200+ countries and 150 currencies, and an industry-leading payments platform” said Flywire CEO Mike Massaro. “This digital foundation enables us to develop vertical-specific applications that make payments more efficient and cost-effective for our global clients. The Simplee acquisition improves patient engagement and healthcare affordability and extends these capabilities to a broader customer base.”
Flywire, which originally launched has peerTransfer in 2009, has processed $12 billion+ in payments for 2,000 clients. The company has office locations at its headquarters in Boston, as well as Chicago, London, Manchester, Valencia, Shanghai, Singapore, Tokyo, Cluj, and Sydney.