Latvian Gen Z Neobank Scores Pre-Seed Funding; Top Philippine Fintechs

Latvian Gen Z Neobank Scores Pre-Seed Funding; Top Philippine Fintechs

Zelf, a messenger-based challenger bank based in Latvia and focused on Generation Z customers, announced earlier this week that it has secured $2 million in pre-seed funding. The round was led by Austrian venture capital firm 3VC, and featured participation by Seed X, Hard Yaka, Goldfinger, and angel investor Chris Adelsbach.

The company, founded by CEO Elliot Goykhman, will use the capital to fuel growth and expansion throughout Europe, particularly in Spain, Germany, Poland, and Italy. Zelf also sees the funding as an opportunity to establish itself in the U.K. and the U.S., as well. Most recently, the company launched operations in France and said it has 13,000 people currently using its Zelf Cards there.

“We started building ZELF in 2018 with a vision of a cashless and contactless society of the future,” the Zelf Team noted on its blog in a look back at 2020. “and the shockwave of COVID-19 in 2020 proved that it was the right path not only businesswise, but also sadly healthwise.”

Zelf accountholders get a digital Mastercard and an IBAN account which can be used to send and receive money on instant messaging apps like Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, Telegram, and Viber. Zelf also features an AI-powered voice interface that can be used to perform basic PFM functions like requesting money, sending invoices, and checking account balances.

“We are confident that our business model of eliminating cumbersome banking apps, as well as physical plastic cards, will prove to be the winning strategy,” Goykhman said.

This week’s Finovate Global Lists takes a look at the fintech industry in the Philippines. IBS Intelligence recently leveraged the Startup Genome’s Global Startup Ecosystem Report to analyze the adoption of digital financial services in the country and pick five companies to keep an eye on this year.

The Philippines, as the article noted, is an interesting case study insofar as the country’s capital of Manila has signficant English-speaking population and what IBS Intelligence called “a more western inclined culture” that is a “natural fit for the growth of fintech.”

Compared to larger neighbor Indonesia and smaller neighbor Malaysia, the Philippines is younger and has a faster growing population. The Philippines also has a marginally higher literacy rate, as well as higher real GDP growth and greater per capita mobile phone penetration (based on subscriptions).

Looking specifically at the country’s fintech industry, Startup Genome noted that fintechs comprise 15% of the startups in Manila, the Philippine capital. The report gave the country’s fintech market a transaction value of $10 billion in 2019 and anticipated a growth of 24% in 2020. Among the fintechs highlighted in the report are digital wallet and exchange (recently acquired by Indonesia mobility company Go-Jek for $72 million) and online financing platform for SMEs, First Circle.

For more, check out IBS Intelligence’s selection of their 5 Top Fintechs in the Philippines to Watch Out for in 2021.

Here is our look at fintech innovation around the world.

Middle East and Northern Africa

Central and Southern Asia

Latin America and the Caribbean


Sub-Saharan Africa

Central and Eastern Europe

Photo by Aleksejs Bergmanis from Pexels

Buy Now Pay Later Meets Open Banking; Payment Cards and the Post-Plastic Era

Buy Now Pay Later Meets Open Banking; Payment Cards and the Post-Plastic Era

Buy Now, Pay Later Still Paying Off: One of 2020’s most unanticipated ecommerce trends, buy now pay later (BNPL) installment payment schemes, continues to show no signs of slowing down as the year draws toward a close. QuadPay, a BNPL innovator based in New York City that we featured earlier this month, just announced that it has added a new Chrome browser extension enables users to access Quadpay across all devices that can power a Chrome web browser.

“The introduction of Quadpay for Chrome will accelerate overall BNPL adoption for pandemic-weary consumers who are looking for flexible payment terms anywhere they shop without accruing new debt,” Quadpay Co-CEO Brad Lindenberg said. “It will also serve to drive new customers and increased loyalty for retailers at a critical time.”

Meanwhile, across the Atlantic, a U.K.-based startup that is trying out its own version of the buy now, pay later strategy has become the first BNPL outfit in the U.K. to be granted a consumer credit authorization with the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).

Zilch, which was founded in 2018 by Philip Belamant, specializes in using open banking data and soft credit checks to help ensure that customers who use its BNPL service have sufficient creditworthiness and can afford their purchase. The company is partnered with Mastercard, enabling the merchant-agnostic Zilch to be used as an installment payment solution wherever Mastercard is accepted.

“Zilch was built with customer affordability at the forefront of everything we do and we have been working towards this point since our conception,” Belamant said. “Having secured our consumer credit authorization with the FCA is another step towards improving consumer financial wellness and removing credit related anxiety for our customers.”

Corn on the Card? A few weeks back we read about a $1 million investment that eco-friendly, U.K.-based search engine Ecosia made in TreeCard, a company that offers a debit card made out of wood.

And not just any wood. According to a post at the Ecosia blog, “each TreeCard will be unique, since the debit cards are made of sustainably sourced cherry wood.” The announcement notes that a single one of these trees can produce 300,000 cards.

Not to be outdone, Swiss-based UBS has introduced a credit card made out of an equally unlikely substance: corn.

Specifically, the new Optimus Foundation Credit Card Eco is composed of a plastic substitute known as PLA. This substance is derived from animal feed corn, and has a biodegradability of more than 80%.

“The transition to a more sustainable society is one of the greatest challenges of our time,” Karin Oertli, COO, personal and corporate banking and Region Switzerland, said. “UBS wants to be a part of the solution and lead the way with innovative ideas. Our new cards, which are made without plastic, are contributing to this.”

FinovateWest Digital is taking place this week. Our all-digital fintech conference runs from Monday, November 23 through Wednesday, November 25. Join us for both live and on-demand access to hours of innovative fintech demos, insightful analysis, and robust debate and discussion on the most important topics in fintech today.

Juvo Brings Digital Identities to the Underbanked; BondIT Merges with Scorable

Juvo Brings Digital Identities to the Underbanked; BondIT Merges with Scorable

Financial-identity-as-a-service (FiDaaS) pioneer – and FinovateFall alum – Juvo announced earlier this week that it is working with Mastercard’s Latin America and Caribbean (LAC) team to bring its FiDaaS platform to financial institutions throughout the region.

“Financial institutions across LAC face a dilemma,” Juvo CEO and founder Steve Polsky explained. “Consumers can’t demonstrate their creditworthiness to gain access to credit. Without access to credit, however, consumers can’t establish creditworthiness.”

Juvo’s technology leverages machine learning to analyze transaction data to assess an individual’s ability to repay loans and meet other financial obligations. The company’s partnership with Mastercard is in large part a product of its participation in Mastercard’s Start Path fintech startup engagement program last August. Headquartered in San Francisco, California, Juvo was founded in 2014.

Innovation in the wealth management space is increasingly an international affair. This week, Israel-based portfolio construction technology provider BondIT announced that it has agreed to merge with Germany’s Scorable. Headquartered in Berlin, Scorable provides AI-powered credit analysis and will, per this transaction, combine its technology with BondIT’s in order to offer an integrated portfolio-management-and-research-as-a-service solution for asset managers and financial advisors.

“Fixed income investors still rely heavily on manual-driven procedures, but in light of market and cost pressures, intelligent automation is increasingly necessary to stay competitive,” said BondIT CEO Etai Ravid. “Merging our technologies allows us to even better serve the evolving digital needs of our clients by helping them optimize their portfolio and risk management to boost efficiency, performance and scale.”

Making its Finovate debut at FinovateFall in 2016, BondIT offers a scalable platform that uses both machine learning and data science to provide financial analysts and advisors with optimized portfolios and portfolio analysis. Founded in 2012 and based in Herzliya, Israel, BondIT has raised $18.5 million in funding from investors including Fosun International.

Here is our look at fintech around the world.

Central and Southern Asia

  • Fintech Futures profiles Indian fintech PayNearby that is leveraging small, brick and mortar retailers to provide ATM and branch banking services.
  • Pakistan fintech Tag earns “in principle” approval for an electronic money institute license from country’s central bank; plans to launch financial superapp.
  • Express Computer looks at the evolution of fintech in India.

Latin America and the Caribbean

  • Banco Pichincha Peru teams up with U.S.-based no-code mobile security platform Appdome to secure its mobile app.
  • The Central Bank of the Bahamas launches digital sand dollar, a central bank digital currency (CBDC).
  • Brazil’s central bank launches PIX instant payments platform; suggests possible return of WhatsApp.


  • Singapore’s Lu International and Thailand’s Kasikornbank (KBank) partner to introduce new wealth management platform.
  • P2P investment network SeedIn, based in Singapore, announces rebranding to BRDGE; expansion to Indonesia.
  • Hong Kong based digital payment services platform Statrys raises $5 million in funding.

Sub-Saharan Africa

  • The days of paper checks in South Africa are numbered according to a joint communique from the country’s Reserve Bank, Financial Sector Conduct Authority (FSCA), and other government agencies and banking industry associations.
  • Chipper Cash, which offers no fee, P2P payment services in seven African countries, raises $30 million in funding.
  • Nigerian fintech Wallets Africa partners with Visa to provide customers with physical Visa cards for domestic and international payments.

Central and Eastern Europe

  • Revolut introduces Open Banking options for its German customers.
  • German fintech and challenger bank Vivid Money secures $17.6 million in funding.
  • Austria’s Raiffeisen Bank International (RBI) goes live with its API marketplace.

Middle East and Northern Africa

  • UAE-based payment service for retailers Spotii announces expansion to Saudi Arabia.
  • Trade Arabia takes a look at the fintech agreement between the Israeli Securities Authority (ISA) and the Abu Dhabi Global Market Financial Services Regulatory Authority (ADGM FSRA).
  • Two Israeli companies – ChargeAfter and Personeticsjoin Visa Fintech Partner Connect to bring payment technology innovation to Europe.

Photo by Elianne Dipp from Pexels

Infinicept Secures Funding from Mastercard, MissionOG

Infinicept Secures Funding from Mastercard, MissionOG

Another day, another opportunity for Mastercard to find itself in the fintech headlines. Last week, we highlighted a handful of Finovate alums that earned spots in Mastercard’s Start Path program. Then, yesterday, we covered news that the company had enhanced its Mastercard Track Business Payment Service to help modernize business payments. We also reported on Monday that Mastercard had earned the go-ahead from the U.S. Department of Justice to complete its big acquisition of data aggregation innovator Finicity.

Today’s Mastercard-related performance comes in more of a “Best Supporting” role as the company – along with VC firm MissionOG – announces an investment in payments facilitator-services provider Infinicept. The amount of the funding was not disclosed, but Infinicept’s co-CEO and co-founder Todd Ablowitz highlighted adding engineering talent and investments in product management and customer service as ways Infinicept plans to put the new capital to use. He also said that Infinicept is experiencing a 8x growth rate, as well.

“The opportunity in front of us is enormous, and we’re going to invest intelligently and aggressively to meet the needs of our customers,” added Deana Rich, co-founder and co-CEO of Infinicept. “Our customers need the ability to get payments up and running on their own terms, without having to do all the work themselves. While others try to lock-in customers with templated solutions, Infinicept puts software companies in control of their payments experience – and their payments future.”

Infinicept enables businesses to offer embedded payments to a wide variety of customers, including in health care management and hospitality. Infinicept’s platform offers software providers, financial institutions, marketplaces, and more a payments infrastructure that can help them generate payments revenue, onboard merchants faster, and improve the overall customer experience.

This week’s investment is the latest expression of a partnership between Mastercard and Infinicept that extends back to 2012. Infinicept is an alum of Mastercard’s Start Path accelerator, joining the program as part of the 2019 cohort. Infinicept’s first customers were Stripe and Shopify in 2011.

“Infinicept’s technology now supports acquirers and payment facilitators with the critical tools to help businesses around the world manage payments,” Mastercard EVP of Merchant Solutions and Partnerships Zahir Khoja said. “Mastercard’s technology and scale, with partners such as Infinicept, is helping our larger acquirer ecosystem support businesses around the world to accelerate growth, modernize transactions, and ensure businesses have the tools to succeed.”

Founded in 2011, Infinicept is headquartered in Denver, Colorado.

Mastercard Modernizes Business Payments with Multi-Rail Strategy

Mastercard Modernizes Business Payments with Multi-Rail Strategy

Mastercard has been busy this week. In addition to finalizing its acquisition of data aggregation provider Finicity, the company is also enhancing its Mastercard Track Business Payment Service.

Mastercard launched its Track Business Payments Service in May of this year to help modernize the business payments experience. The overall goal of the initiative has been to provide businesses with a richer data exchange experience and greater control over payments.

Today’s launch adds account-to-account (A2A) functionality to the Track Business Payments Service. The new addition offers businesses a similar experience for A2A payments as they had with card payments. That is, businesses can exchange data with greater efficiency and facilitate payments across multiple payment rails including Real Time Payments (RTP) and the Automated Clearing House (ACH). Overall, the new tool enhances security, as it doesn’t require suppliers to share their bank account details with buyers, nor does it require buyers to store those details.

“Today, the vast majority of B2B payments are made through bank account transfers. Extending Mastercard Track Business Payment Service to support these transfers is a step on our way to building out the best and most secure B2B payment network in the world,” said Mastercard EVP of Global Commercial and B2B Solutions James Anderson. “Our commitment to supporting multiple payment rails has always been about helping customers operate more efficiently and effectively leveraging all the capabilities available in the market with as little change as possible.”

The A2A functionality is now available for Track Business Payments Service customers in the U.S. Mastercard plans to roll out the service for users in all geographies by the end of next year.

“This milestone is another step in the journey away from paper-based frustration, incomplete data, and manual reconciliation work and toward a fully digitized business payments process,” added Anderson.

Photo by Natalia Y on Unsplash

U.S. Department of Justice Green Lights Mastercard’s Purchase of Finicity

U.S. Department of Justice Green Lights Mastercard’s Purchase of Finicity

It’s been a tough few weeks for Big Fintech. The Chinese government is dropping the hammer on Ant Group’s IPO. The U.S. Department of Justice is turning up its nose at Visa’s Plaid acquisition.

But, meanwhile over at Mastercard, it is quite the sunny Monday, indeed.

Why? Because the same DOJ that is giving Visa a hard time has granted rival Mastercard the all-clear to pursue its big acquisition: a $825 million deal for real-time financial data and analytics provider Finicity.

“We are pleased to have reached this milestone,” read a statement from Mastercard Monday morning. “The acquisition of Finicity accelerates our open banking strategy and strengthens our ability to offer consumers and businesses more choice in how they pay and how they simplify their lives and maximize their financial relationships.”

Announced in June, the acquisition was heralded by Mastercard as a way for the company to take advantage of global opportunities around open banking. Calling it a “strategically important space,” Mastercard President Michael Mieback said in June that Finicity shared Mastercard’s “commitment to consumer-centric data practices, ensuring consumers have a say in how and where their information should be used.”

Powering solutions from Experian Boost Quicken’s Rocket Mortgage, Finicity offers financial data APIs, credit decisioning technology and financial wellness tools to financial institutions and fintechs. Founded in 2000 and a Finovate alum since 2014, the company won API World’s Finance API of the Year award in 2016 for its TxPush-compliant real-time aggregation service, a technology Finicity unveiled at our developers conference, FinDEVr New York, that year.

In the months since the acquisition was announced, Finicity has continued to innovate and partner with banks and other FIs to help them make better use of their data. Earlier this month, Finicity finalized a data access agreement with BMO Harris Bank. Back in September, in addition to announcing the direct data agreement it forged with Charles Schwab, Finicity launched its next-generation credit decisioning solution, Finicity Lend. The new offering provides banks, lenders, and fintechs with an integrated set of open banking data services that enable borrowers to directly permission data and insights into lending decisioning processes.

“Big news!” Finicity tweeted later this morning. “This DOJ approval brings Finicity one step closer to joining the Mastercard family. It would be an understatement to say we’re excited to become part of Mastercard’s mission to improve financial health and inclusion around the globe.”

Will COVID-19 Mark the End of European Fintech?

Will COVID-19 Mark the End of European Fintech?

A new study from McKinsey & Company suggests that European fintechs are experiencing an “existential crisis” as venture capital funding plunges “from surplus to scarcity.” The report compares the 11% drop in funding for fintech worldwide in the first half of the year with Europe’s far steeper decline in fintech funding of 30% over the same time period, and puts the blame squarely on the economic and social impact of the coronavirus.

But while the report anticipates a significant contraction in European economies – 11% this year with pre-crisis levels remaining elusive until 2023 – and that fintech is “already feeling the squeeze”, the authors note that there are a variety of advantages fintech has that could enable the industry’s most innovative players to emerge successfully if not stronger on the other side of the crisis. Among the main factors are:

  • The fintech sector has grown over the past six years by more than 25%.
  • Fintechs are native to the digital realm.
  • Fintechs are more efficient than many other businesses: with more efficient cost structures, “organizational agility,” and significant customer loyalty.

“As more incumbents struggle to adapt, the winners will be those that quickly recognize the changed context and that are most capable of responding with clear decisions and bold actions,” the report authors note. “Many organizations, both incumbents and startups, have adapted with surprising quickness and rapid decision making through the COVID-19 crisis. This new sense of possibility and potential should inform future action.”

Read the report.

Speaking of Europe – and on the heels of the big news of Yandex‘s agreement to buy Russian digital bank Tinkoff for $5.5 billion earlier this week – we took a look at our favorite Russian fintechs. Check out our Baker’s Dozen of fintechs from Moscow, St. Petersburg, and more.

To learn more about fintech in Russia, here’s an overview from last December that cites an Ernst & Young study that calls the country’s fintech industry “the third most developed market in the world.” This is based on the relatively high, 80% adoption rate of fintech services in Russia, and occurs despite a relatively low participation in fintech areas like securities investment, as well as savings and financial wellness.

“Basically we went from savings books to payments over mobile phone almost overnight,” said Roman Prokhorov, the head of the association Financial Innovations, who was quoted in the study. “Therefore, our consumers are more receptive to fintech innovations, and this explains the popularity of these services.”

Here is our look at fintech around the world.

Latin America and the Caribbean

  • JPMorgan Chase-based Brazilian fintech FitBank Pagamentos Electronicos plans expansion to the U.S. in the first half of 2021.
  • TechCrunch profiles Jefa, a challenger bank that caters to women in Latin America.
  • IFLR looks at the role regulators in Costa Rica will play in the development of the country’s fintech industry.


  • Vietnamese credit scoring technology provider for micro, small, and medium-sized businesses Kim An Group secures Series A funding.
  • Could Malaysia be the “world pioneer” in Islamic fintech? Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation chairman Datuk Wira Rais Hussin makes the case.
  • The Business Times of Singapore highlights an S&P Global Ratings report on Thai consumers pushing Thai banks to embrace fintech.

Sub-Saharan Africa

  • Mono, a Nigerian API fintech startup that seeks to be the “Plaid of Africa,” raises $500,000 in pre-seed funding.
  • Lexology reviews the current state of fintech regulation in Kenya.
  • Innovation consultancy Beta-I partners with Angola National Bank to build the nation’s first regulatory sandbox.

Central and Eastern Europe

  • German fintech Vanta teams up with Marqeta to launch its credit card for startups.
  • Open banking platform Raisin partners with German financial solutions broker Procheck24.
  • Samsung, Visa, and Solarisbank AG work together to bring Samsung Pay to Germany.

Middle East and Northern Africa

  • Commercial Bank of Kuwait teams up with Thales Digital Solutions to drive mobile payments.
  • Could Saudi Arabia top Dubai in terms of fintech funding? Arabian Business looks at the growth of fintech in the Kingdom.
  • PYMNTS profiles Imad Aloyoun, CEO of Jordan-based payments platform Dinarak.

Central and Southern Asia

  • A joint project between U.K.-based and Pakistan’s National Institutional Facilitation Technologies (Nift) will bring new international payment options to the Pakistan.
  • Pakistan’s Silk Bank announces a partnership with MasterCard to boost credit card issuance in the country.
  • Times of India profiles Indian fintech MoneyTap, founded by Anuj Kacker.

Digital Receipts Platform ReceiptHero Joins Mastercard Lighthouse

Digital Receipts Platform ReceiptHero Joins Mastercard Lighthouse

Digital receipts platform ReceiptHero will join Mastercard’s Lighthouse Development Program in September. The Helsinki, Finland-based company made its Finovate debut earlier this year at our Berlin conference, demonstrating how its digital receipts technology makes accounting easier for banks and PSPs while giving customers greater transparency into their spending.

ReceiptHero is one of 15 companies from the Nordic and Baltic countries to be included in the program’s fall cohort. Participating startups will work with program partners such as Swedbank, SEB, and OP Bank, and receive guidance on topics such as communications and marketing, as well as strategic development. The startups also will explore potential collaboration opportunities with program partners. In the final stage of the program, the companies will have the ability to make digital pitches to investors.

“By joining the latest Lighthouse batch, we hope to work closely with Mastercard and its partnering banks on making digital receipts the new normal,” ReceiptHero CEO Joel Ojala said.

Also participating in the fall program are five companies from Sweden: Gimi, Charge, Youcal, Ponture, and FossID; and five companies from Lithuania: Kevin, ConnectPay, Regvolution, Spell, and Savings Pands. In addition to ReceiptHero, there are another four companies from Finland: Voima Gold, XMLdation, Arctic Security, and InvestSuit.

“In every edition of the Lighthouse Program, we can see that the Nordics and Baltics are genuinely leading in payments innovation,” Head of Digital Development and Fintech Engagement for Mastercard in the Nordics and Baltics Mats Taraldsson said. “This proves the importance of strengthening the ecosystem through open innovation platforms such as Lighthouse.”

Founded in 2018, ReceiptHero teamed up with Verifone last fall, enabling digital receipts to be linked to customers’ payment cards. Verifone has a major presence in the Nordic region, and the partnership allowed ReceiptHero to access not only a larger part of the Finland market, but also to expand to other Baltic countries where Verifone “already has a large footprint,” Ojala said. Later that same month, ReceiptHero announced a collaboration with Nordea, which added the company’s digital receipts to its Nordea Wallet app.

ReceiptHero began 2020 with a pledge to plant one million trees by 2025 by donating $1 to conservation charity One Tree Planted for every new merchant that joins its digital receipt platform.

Photo by Aman jha from Pexels

Top Ten Fintech Hires of 2020 … So Far

Top Ten Fintech Hires of 2020 … So Far

This week’s announcement that Stripe had hired former General Motors Chief Financial Officer Dhivya Suryadevara as its own new CFO is a reminder that the hunt for top talent in fintech has never been hotter. As tech titians and financial services giants embrace fintech solutions, the pressure to find the most effective leaders, the most insightful technologists, and other key executives is forcing companies to up their game when it comes to attracting the best of the best.

With that in mind, here are another nine companies who in 2020 have done just that: made a major, C-suite addition to their leadership ranks that should help propel their respective companies to the next level.

Nicolas Weng Kan – Yolt CEO – news. Former Google Compare CEO Kan took the helm of ING’s smart money app, Yolt, as well as Yolt Technology Services (YTS), a provider of open banking services in Europe last month. Yolt won Best Personal Finance App at the Wealth & Finance FinTech Awards earlier this month.

Anna Manz – London Stock Exchange CFO – news. The London Stock Exchange has a new Chief Financial Officer as former Johnson Matthey CFO and executive director Anna Manz succeeds David Warren, who had held the position since 2012. Prior to her time at Johnson Matthey, Manz spent more than 16 years in executive roles with Diageo.

Lucy Hagues – Capital One UK CEO – news. Hagues, who spent three years as Chief Marketing Officer at Capital One UK and is an alum of the firm’s graduate program, replaced outgoing CEO Amy Lenander. Hagues is the first program graduate to reach the CEO’s office.

Nkihil Rathi – Financial Conduct Authority CEO – news. Appointed CEO of the FCA at the age of 40, U.K. head of the London Stock Exchange Rathi is the first member of an ethnic minority to lead the regulatory body.

Steven van Rijswijk – ING CEO – news. ING Chief Risk Officer Steven van Rijswijk is the company’s latest CEO. He took over for outgoing Ralph Hamers who is headed toward a CEO post at UBS. Van Rijswijk’s promotion comes after 25 years of service at the bank.

Brady Harris – Dwolla CEO – news. Former President of payment solution provider Payscape, Harris was tapped by Dwolla founder Ben Milne to lead the company this spring. Milne praised Harris for helping lead Payscape’s merger with Payroc, “creating a full-service payment powerhouse that operates in 46 countries.”

Michael Miebach – Mastercard CEO – news. “Putting products first” might be one way to describe Mastercard’s decision to replace its outgoing CEO Ajay Banga – who is transitioning to the role of executive chairman – with the company’s chief product officer Michael Miebach. A 10-year Mastercard veteran, Mieback is credited for being a “key architect” of the company’s “multi-rail strategy.”

Hironori Kamezawa – MUFG CEO – news. The appointment of Kamezawa as Chief Executive Officer of Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group was a bit surprising, insofar as the outgoing CEO has only been in place for a year. But observers speculated that Kamezawa’s leadership will likely mean a broader and more aggressive embrace of fintech by the company.

Asger Hattel – Signicat CEO – news. A new year, a new CEO for the Denmark-based digital identity solution provider as former CEO and Head of Nets Merchant Services Asger Hattel took leadership of Signicat in January. Hattel replaces company co-founder Gunnar Nordseth, who will remain as a shareholder and help support business development.

Photo by Sebastian Voortman from Pexels

Three Fintechs Driving Financial Inclusion in Nigeria

Three Fintechs Driving Financial Inclusion in Nigeria

A report earlier this year from PwC highlighted the “changing competitive landscape” for fintech and banking in Nigeria. For those looking to learn more about both the growing impact of technology in financial services in one of the major countries in Africa, as well as the challenge created by COVID-19, PwC’s review provides an comprehensive overview.

The report also concludes with nine recommendations the analysts believe would encourage continued growth in Nigeria’s fintech ecosystem. These recommendations range from making it easier to invest in fintech companies to encouraging partnerships and “strengthen(ing) the synergy between banks and FinTech players” in a mutually beneficial way.

Financial inclusion is a huge part of both the challenge of – and the opportunity for – fintech in Nigeria. The report notes that more than 30 million adult Nigerians do not have or use either formal or informal financial services products or solutions. This represents more than a third of the country’s adult population. And while the report points out that mobile money operators have been among the businesses to help bring more financial services to the underbanked, there are some fintechs that have taken up the cause of financial inclusion, as well. A trio of these companies are highlighted below:

Bankly is a cash digitization and savings platform that caters to Nigeria’s unbanked. The company provides a digital wallet that is secure, convenient, and accessible, and all users require in order to open an account is a phone number. Bankly leverages more than 2,000 agents across 29 of the country’s 36 states to scale the company’s offering.

In operation for just over a year, Bankly has already picked up recognition from the 2019 Innovating Justice Awards sponsored by the Hague Institute for the Innovation of Law. The company has also participated in the GreenHouse Capital accelerator program. Tomilola Adejana (CEO) and Fredrick Adams are co-founders.

Covr Branchless offers banks, insurance companies, and government agencies a suite of applications that enable them to leverage cloud, GPS, and mobile channels to conduct a wide variety of financial processes. Account opening, instant debit card linking, cash withdrawals, fund transfer, billpay, KYC validation and loan origination are among the operations enabled by Covr’s technology.

Covr is owned by Advancio Interactive, a Nigerian technology company focused on sustainable financial access that was founded by Olufisayo Oludare (Managing Director). Covr won Advancio first place at the Startup Istanbul Challenge in the fall of 2017, only the second Africa-based startup to do so.

FairMoney is a online micro lender that provides instant loans from N1,500 to N500,000 (approximately $4 to $1,300), with average loans of about N12,000 ($33-$35). Using the company’s Android mobile app, prospective borrowers apply for financing by answering a few questions and providing some basic financial information. The app analyzes this information – as well as the borrowers geolocation and other factors – to make a loan offer in a matter of minutes.

But what makes the company especially interesting is the fact that it is working to launch a challenger bank. FairMoney raised $11 million in Series A funding last fall for this purpose and plans to expand its offerings to include current and savings accounts.

Here is our weekly look at fintech around the world.

Central and Southern Asia

  • Reserve Bank of India (RBI) encourages government to incentivize the use of QR code transactions and promotes the adoption of open, interoperable standards.
  • Amazon to offer car and motorcycle insurance in India courtesy of partnership with Acko General Insurance.
  • National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI) facilitates recurring payments with its new UPI AutoPay feature.

Latin America and the Caribbean

  • Brazil’s Central Bank reverses course to authorize payments system involving WhatsApp.
  • Payscout teams up with Brazilian fintech Rede Celer to grow its payments business in the country.
  • Partnership between FacePhi and Naranja X will help bring biometric recognition technology to digital onboarding processes for firms in Argentina.


  • Finovate: Ant Group’s Double IPO Listing Shuns U.S. Exchanges.
  • Trulioo brings its GlobalGateway identity verification technology to customers in Vietnam.
  • Crowdfund Insider takes a look at the impact of COVID-19 on fintech lending platforms in Indonesia.

Sub-Saharan Africa

  • Telco Orange and bancassurance company NSIA team up to launch Orange Bank Africa to serve underbanked communities in Abidjan and Cote d’Ivoire.
  • Vodacom partners with Ant Financial Services Group to bring Alipay services to South Africa.
  • Uganda-based digital cross-border money transfer startup Eversend raises $1 million via an oversubscribed Seeders crowdfunding campaign.

Central and Eastern Europe

  • Germany’s Scalable Capital lands $460 million valuation with new $58 million funding round.
  • Russian bank Tinkoff unveils new functionalities for its financial and lifestyle services voice assistant Oleg.
  • EstateGuru, a P2P lending platform based in Estonia, launches a new payment service in partnership with Lemonway.

Middle East and Northern Africa

  • Oman’s BankDhofar extends partnership with Diebold Nixdorf to improve the customer experience of its ATM network. Bank Nizwa, also based in Oman, announced an extension of its digital payments partnership with Mastercard.
  • Turkey-based online payments platform Mobilexpress secures $2 million in Series A funding.
  • Spotii, an e-commerce technology provider based in the UAE, unveils new deferred payment option.

Photo by Tope A. Asokere from Pexels

Goldman and Mastercard Back Bond to Help Banks Forge Tech Partnerships

Goldman and Mastercard Back Bond to Help Banks Forge Tech Partnerships

Bond, a company that specializes in helping banks make the most out of their collaborations with technology partners has raised $32 million in Series A funding.

The round was led by Coatue, and featured participation from both Goldman Sachs and Mastercard. Canaan, B Capital, XYZ Ventures, and angel investors including former Morgan Stanley CEO John Mack were also involved in the round.

“The ongoing global pandemic and renewed focus on societal inequities make Bond’s mission of driving financial innovation and inclusion more important now than ever before,” Bond CEO and co-founder Roy Ng said in a statement. “Opportunity starts with access. We look to lead the industry in enabling banks and innovators across industries to level the playing field for consumers and small business.”

Bond offers banks a suite of developer-focused APIs and SDKs that remove friction from many of the critical processes involved in bank-brand partnerships, such as onboarding, technical integration, and product monitoring. Bond’s AI-enabled technology centralizes and streamlines these processes, and uses automation to provide oversight and ensure compliance.

“Today, more than ever, speed to market with a proven, reliable product is a competitive advantage,” explained Sherri Haymond, EVP, Digital Partnerships, Mastercard. “Bond provides an entirely new approach to help its fintech and bank partners deliver for the end user. We look forward to working with them as they move to this next stage.”

In a blog post discussing the announcement, Ng articulated the challenge facing smaller regional banks and community lenders when they try to forge partnerships with technology companies. He blamed a wide variety of factors – from compliance to operational constraints – for making it difficult for these partnerships to even “get off the ground.” This, Ng said, is where Bond comes in. “Rather than have every app and every bank recreate the wheel for each new partnership, Bond now does the hard work in the middle so banks and brands can each concentrate on what they do best,” he said.

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Mastercard to Acquire Finicity in $825 Million Deal

Mastercard to Acquire Finicity in $825 Million Deal

For a year that began with Visa’s headline-making acquisition of Plaid, it seems almost poetic that near 2020’s midway mark, Mastercard would make a major fintech bid of its own.

The company has agreed to acquire Finicity, a real-time financial data and analytics provider and long-time Finovate alum, in a deal valued at nearly $1 billion. This figure represents a combination of the $825 million purchase price of the Salt Lake City, Utah fintech, as well as a potential earn-out for Finicity’s existing shareholders – subject to the company meeting certain performance targets.

“Since our founding, Nick Thomas and I have focused on developing industry-leading technology and building an organization that empowers consumers and organizations to better understand, manage, and use their financial data to improve their financial lives,” Finicity co-founder and CEO Steve Smith said. “Enabling people to access and control their data, while ensuring best practices to protect that data, will continue to drive tremendous innovation that increases financial literacy, inclusion, and health. This partnership with Mastercard helps us accelerate this mission globally.”

Mastercard President Michael Miebach cited open banking as one of the reasons for the company’s interest in Finicity. Referring to open banking as both a “growing global trend” and a “strategically important space,” Miebach praised Finicity’s ability to leverage open banking APIs to enable financial data and insights to streamline lending and mortgage processes, account-based payment initiation, and other PFM services. He also credited the company for its focus on the data rights of the consumer.

“(Finicity) shares our commitment to consumer-centric data practices, ensuring consumers have a say in how and where their information should be used,” Miebach said.

Founded in 2000, Finicity provides financial data APIs, credit decisioning tools, and financial wellness solutions that help financial institutions and fintechs better serve their customers. The company’s technology helps power solutions like Experian Boost and Rocket Mortgage from Quicken Loans. Named a Best Place to Work in Fintech by American Banker for the last three consecutive years, Finicity began 2020 partnering with SaaS-based marketing automation, CRM, and POS solution provider for banks and mortgage companies, Volly.