Mastercard Completes Acquisition of Northern European Open Banking Innovator Aiia

Mastercard Completes Acquisition of Northern European Open Banking Innovator Aiia

Leading European open banking technology company Aiia is now officially a part of Mastercard.

In a move that will bolster Mastercard’s current distribution channels, technology, data practices, and open banking strategy, the global payments and technology company announced today that its acquisition of the Copenhagen, Denmark-based company has been completed.

“Open banking empowers consumers and small businesses to use their financial data to expand access to financial services, such as demonstrating their financial wellness to increase access to credit, aggregating financial data to improve personal financial management, and to more seamlessly set up and manage payments,” Mastercard Chief Product Officer Craig Vosburg explained. “Together, we’ll continue to build up on our API connectivity and our multi-rail strategy to enable greater consumer access, control, and choice around the world.”

Aiia is the company known formerly as Nordic API Gateway, the leading open banking platform in Northern Europe. More than 40 financial institutions, as well as a number of enterprises, rely on the platform to integrate financial data and offer A2A (account-to-account) payments. Via a simple API, the solution supports a wide variety of payment services ranging from one-off, e-commerce payments to bulk payments for SMEs. The company demonstrated the technology at its Finovate debut at FinovateEurope earlier this year.

Founded in 2017, Aiia includes Danske Bank, OP Bank, Lunar, DNB, and Santander Consumer Bank among its partners. A licensed Payment Initiation Service Provider (PISP) and Account Information Service Provider (AISP), Aiia has raised more than $15 million (€13.5 million) in funding to date. This includes a $5 million investment from DNB and Danske Bank in April of last year.

“For the past decade, we have worked to build Aiia into a leading and quality-driven open banking platform, which has onboarded hundreds of banks and fintechs onto safe and secure open banking rails,” Aiia founder and CEO Rune Mai said when the acquisition news first broke in September. “We have worked closely alongside banks, customers, and local authorities to ensure that our APIs show the true effect of open banking. We’re excited to become a part of Mastercard and progress our journey of empowering people to bring their financial data and accounts into play – safely and transparently.”

Aiia is the latest fintech acquisition by Mastercard. The purchase comes a year after the completion of its acquisition of real-time financial data and insights company Finicity.


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Beyond Crypto Curious: How Apple, Mastercard, and Revolut Are Embracing Digital Assets

Beyond Crypto Curious: How Apple, Mastercard, and Revolut Are Embracing Digital Assets

Three headlines in the cryptocurrency space this week show how seriously Big Tech, Big Fintech, and the world’s largest financial services companies are taking the rise of digital assets. And while each of the three companies listed below varies in the degree to which it is embracing our increasingly crypto-friendly future, their continued interest in the space suggests that the pace of adoption of digital assets – and the proliferation of use cases – is only likely to grow in the months and years to come.


Are Cryptocurrencies Coming to ApplePay? – AppleInsider reported early this week that Apple is considering integrating cryptocurrencies into its Apple Pay solution.

The report is based largely on an interview that Apple CEO Tim Cook had with Aaron Ross Sorkin as part of the DealBook Online Summit sponsored by The New York Times. That said, those looking for a firm commitment from Apple in Cook’s conversation with Sorkin will be disappointed; while Cook expressed interest in cryptocurrencies from a “personal point of view … for awhile” and admitted that he believed that it was “reasonable to own (cryptocurrencies) as part of a diversified portfolio,” the idea of Apple accepting cryptocurrencies as payment for Apple products and services remains just that – an idea. Cook also expressed skepticism toward the notion of Apple investing in cryptocurrencies as part of a corporate investment strategy.

Apple’s relationship with cryptocurrencies has been cautious, to say the least. Back in 2014, Apple removed a number of Bitcoin wallets from its App Store, including one trading and storage app with 120,000 users, and another wallet app from Coinbase. More recently, there has been some softening of Apple’s stance, with Apple Pay VP Jennifer Bailey conceding the the company is “watching” the space and sees “interesting long-term potential” in digital currencies just a few years ago.

It’s worth noting that Apple’s reputation in technology is less as a first-mover and more that of a technology enhancer that often comes along and does a better job at innovations initiated by others. So the idea that Apple’s approach to embracing cryptocurrencies would be similarly slow-rolling is consistent with how the company has long operated. Nevertheless, Apple Pay’s fintech rivals – such as PayPal, Square, and Stripe – have been far more eager to pursue opportunities in crypto. Add to this the fact that Google Pay has teamed up with digital asset marketplace Bakkt in a deal that will enable users to spend Bakkt Card crypto funds directly from their Google Pay accounts. Together, it seems much more likely that a closer relationship between cryptocurrencies and Apple Pay is a question of “when” rather than “if.” As interest in digital currencies accelerate, and the solutions and services from these crypto-friendly fintechs become more widespread and even mainstream, it is hard to imagine Apple Pay remaining on the sidelines.


Revolut Takes Steps Toward Building a Cryptocurrency Exchange – The rumor that aspiring super app Revolut is looking to build a cryptocurrency exchange hinges largely on a job posting at LinkedIn. According to reports, Revolut wants to hire an individual with at least seven years experience in technology and in building order matching engines to lead a technical team to “architect and built Revolut Crypto Exchange.”

The crypto exchange would further establish Revolut as a leading player in the cryptocurrency space and potentially enable the company to diversify its services and create new cash flow, which could help Revolut establish another reliable revenue source going forward. The exchange news also follows reports that Revolut was looking into launching its own crypto token. And while Revolut has not commented on what it has referred to as a “mere rumor”, the report, first shared by Coindesk earlier this fall, does bolster the notion that Revolut is deepening its commitment to digital assets – a space the company has enjoined aggressively since introducing in-app cryptocurrency trading functionality in 2018.

In April of this year, Revolut added 11 new crypto tokens to its platform. The following month, the company launched its public beta for Bitcoin withdrawals. “I said before that 2021 would be the year of crypto and Revolut is here to deliver on that promise,” company Head of Crypto Edward Cooper announced in June when the company revealed that it would add Dogecoin to its current cryptocurrencies offerings for traders. “One of the most popular user requests over the past couple of months has been to add Dogecoin and we have answered the call!”

Revolut has more than 16 million customers around the world, and conducts more than 150 million transactions a month on its platform.


Mastercard Introduces Crypto-Linked Cards for the APAC Region – Also this week, Mastercard announced that it has secured partnerships with a trio of cryptocurrency companies – Amber, Bitkum, and Coinjar – who will issue crypto-funded Mastercard payment cards. The collaboration represents the first APAC-based cryptocurrency service providers (Amber and Bitkum are based in Thailand, Coinjar is headquartered in Australia) to join Mastercard’s Crypto Card Program, an initiative designed to enable companies to offer secure payment cards that meet regulatory requirements with regards to cryptocurrencies.

“Cryptocurrencies are many things to people – an investment, a disruptive technology, or a unique financial tool,” Mastercard EVP for Digital and Emerging Partnerships and New Payment Flows in the Asia Pacific region Rama Sridhar said. “As interest and attention surges from all quarters, their real-world applications are now emerging beyond the speculative. In collaboration with these partners that adhere to the same core principles that Mastercard does – that any digital currency must offer stability, regulatory compliance, and consumer protection – Mastercard is expanding what’s possible with cryptocurrencies to give people even greater choice and flexibility in how they pay.”

Mastercard’s APAC announcement comes on the heels of news that the company will enable the banks and merchants on its payment network to integrate cryptocurrency offerings into their products. The new arrangement comes courtesy of a partnership with Bakkt and will empower bitcoin wallet providers as well as issuers of credit and debit cards that offer rewards in crypto and enable digital assets to be spent. Also benefitting from Mastercard’s plan are those companies that offer loyalty programs that allow points from travel or hotel stays to be converted in to cryptocurrencies.

“Mastercard is committed to offering a wide range of payment solutions that deliver more choice, value, and impact every day,” Mastercard EVP for Digital Partnerships Sherri Haymond said. “Together with Bakkt and grounded by our principled approach to innovation, we’ll not only empower our partners to offer a dynamic mix of digital assets options, but also deliver differentiated and relevant consumer experiences.”


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Instant Payments, TED, and PIX: Open Banking Advances in Brazil

Instant Payments, TED, and PIX: Open Banking Advances in Brazil

This week marks the beginning of Phase 3 of Brazil’s embrace of open banking. Phase 3 is the second-to-last stage of the implementation plan set out by the Brazilian Central Bank. According to reports, Phase 3 arrives about one month late – the original date was September 30th – but the changes that the newest phase of the open banking initiative will bring are significant enough to be worth the wait.

Divided into four parts, the goal of Phase 3 is to usher in the regulation of payment initiation from any online platform. This will initially involve enabling consumers to pay for products and services using PIX – without the consumer having to use their bank’s app. PIX is the smartphone-based, instant payments technology launched by the Brazilian central bank almost a year ago. The second part of Phase 3, enabling payments made with TED (transferência eletrônica disponível) and transfers between accounts of the same bank, is set to begin in mid-February of 2022; the third part, enabling payments via bank slip, is slated to begin in late June; and the fourth and final part of Phase 3, enabling payment by debit account, is set to go live at the end of September.

Payment initiation is only one component of the open banking project Brazil has undertaken. Giving consumers the ability to make price comparisons, as well as compare rates and credit offers, are also major new possibilities for consumers that will be available thanks to the introduction of open banking in the country. These elements are expected to begin at the end of March 2022.

“The initiation will have a great impact especially on fintechs, which may offer more practical solutions for consumers or improve your internal financial processes from direct payment,” Belvo General Director Albert Morales explained. “Large banks, on the other hand, should start to rethink prices and solutions offered, both to attract new users and to retain users.”

Brazil’s open banking project, approved in 2019 by the country’s central bank, is part of a larger modernization effort for the Brazil’s entire financial system. And while the global pandemic has played a major role in complicating the project’s original timeline, officials expect open banking to be fully implemented in the country by September of next year.

Read more about Brazil’s open banking project in this interview with Otávio Damaso, Regulation Director for Brazil’s central bank, conducted by The Paypers last month. Damaso explains why Brazil has embraced open banking, and how open banking fits into the larger context of regulatory changes and trends in the country.


Here is our look at fintech innovation around the world.

Sub-Saharan Africa

Central and Eastern Europe

Middle East and Northern Africa

Central and Southern Asia

Latin America and the Caribbean

Asia-Pacific


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From Affirm to Visa: The Latest from the Buy Now Pay Later Beat

From Affirm to Visa: The Latest from the Buy Now Pay Later Beat

The Buy Now Pay Later (BNPL) revolution shows no signs of abating any time soon. A combination of newcomers, Buy Now Pay Later pioneers, and even credit card companies like Visa and Mastercard are figuring out new ways to integrate themselves into the biggest consumer commerce phenomenon since shopping by smartphone.

According to CNBC, which bases its analysis on data from FIS Worldpay, the Buy Now Pay Later market has an estimated value of $60 billion globally as of 2019 – though there are even higher estimates. Excluding China, this sum represents 2.6% of all e-commerce. And while BNPL represents less than 2% of sales in North America, the overall BNPL market, CNBC believes, could reach $166 billion by 2023.

Here is just a smattering of this week’s headlines from the Buy Now Pay Later beat that only underscores the velocity of the flight from credit cards and traditional consumer financing.

Stripe teams up with Klarna as BNPL competition from Square, PayPal intensifies

Klarna, a company with a long pedigree in providing consumers with alternative payment options, announced this week that it was partnering with ecommerce innovator and payments platform Stripe. The deal will enable Stripe customers in 20 countries to offer Klarna as a payment option to their customers. As part of the partnership, Klarna will use Stripe to accept payments from consumers in both the U.S. and Canada.

“Over the past years, Klarna and Stripe redefined the e-commerce experience for millions of consumers and global retailers,” Klarna Chief Technology Officer Koen Köppen said. “Together with Stripe, we will be a true growth partner for retailers of all sizes, allowing them to maximize their entrepreneurial success through our joint services. By offering convenience, flexibility, and control to even more shoppers, we create a win-win situation for both retailers and consumers alike.”

The partnership is widely seen as a way for Stripe to compete with payments rivals PayPal and Square, which have deepened their commitment to BNPL in recent months. Square agreed to acquire Australia’s Afterpay for $29 million in August. A month later, PayPal announced its $2.7 billion acquisition of Japanese Buy Now Pay Later company Paidy.


Affirm partners with American Airlines to ease cost of holiday travel

In a move well-timed to take advantage of end-of-year travel trends, American Airlines has announced a partnership with Buy Now Pay Later innovator Affirm. The collaboration will enable eligible travelers to pay for the costs of airfare over time on an installment basis, providing them with “flexibility, transparency, and control,” according to Affirm Chief Commercial Officer Silvija Martincevic. Using Affirm, travelers can pay for flights costing at least $50 with monthly installments without having to pay late fees or worry about hidden charges.

“While consumers are as eager as ever to get away,” Martincevic said, “they remain conscious of fitting travel into their budget.” Martincevic cited a survey conducted by the company that indicated that 74% of Americans queried said they would spend more on holiday travel this year “than ever before,” but that 60% were worried that they would not be able to “afford to travel as they would like to.”

The offering is currently available only to select customers, but will be expanded to include more U.S. consumers in the weeks to come. The collaboration marks the first time that American Airlines has integrated BNPL options into its website.


Marqeta and Amount announce collaboration to help banks offer BNPL

The partnership announced this week between card issuing platform Marqeta and bank technology provider Amount will make it easier for financial institutions to get into the Buy Now Pay Later business. Marqeta and Amount have forged a virtual card and loan origination partnership that will enable banks to go to market with their own BNPL/virtual card offering in months. This will help them boost revenues, grow market share, and promote loyalty.

Echoing the challenge that banks and other financial institutions face from Big Tech and fintech alike, Amount CEO Adam Hughes pointed to the partnership with Marqeta as a way for banks to close the consumer expectations gap between themselves and more tech-savvy, tech-native enterprises entering the financial services space. “Banks must compete or continue to lose market share to digital challengers who offer a more flexible way for their customers to pay,” Hughes said.

Part of what makes the Marqeta/Amount partnership interesting is how it takes advantage of research that suggests that a significant number of consumers who have used BNPL would prefer it if the service came from their bank or credit card provider. Amount’s modular approach to BNPL is configurable, easy to deploy, and integrates readily with banks’ legacy platforms, giving FIs the ability to introduce BNPL offerings over a variety of different channels and payment methods.


Berlin-based Billie banks $100 million in funding

The latest reminder of the international growth of Buy Now Pay Later comes from the $100 million investment secured by Berlin, Germany-based, B2B Buy Now Pay Later startup, Billie. The Series C round was led by U.K.-based Dawn Capital and featured participation from Tencent and, interestingly enough, Klarna. In fact, Klarna’s investment comes in the wake of a strategic partnership with Billie in which the two companies will integrate their service to better leverage their core competencies, with Billie serving business customers and Klarna handling retail consumers.

“BNPL for B2B is still in its infancy phase,” Klarna CEO and co-founder Sebastian Siemiatkowski explained, “even though the demand has never been higher. We are here to solve problems and by being able to offer this service to our merchant partners together with Billie, we are doing just that.”

The Series C round gives Billie a valuation of $640 million, and is believed to be the largest B2B Buy Now Pay Later funding round to-date. Co-founder and co-CEO of Billie, Dr. Matthias Knecht noted that those companies buying from larger businesses and individual retailers are increasingly embracing a “digital-first” approach that includes not just “modern user interfaces, high limits for shopping carts, as well as real-time decisions for B2B” but options like BNPL, as well. “There is nearly no provider of a BNPL product (for these companies) like what Klarna offers for B2C,” Knecht said. “We aim to close this gap.”


Visa expands BNPL offerings in Canada via partnership with Moneris

International card company and financial services provider Visa has been making inroads of its own into the Buy Now Pay Later market. This week, the company made headlines in the Canadian fintech news space via a new collaboration with unified commerce company Moneris.

“We’re happy to be working with a trusted brand like Visa Canada on providing a buy now pay later option to Canadians,” Moneris Chief Product and Partnership Officer Patrick Diab said. “Bringing flexible payment methods like buy now pay later to our merchants helps them offer their customers more options when it comes time to pay.”

Courtesy of the new collaboration, merchants partnered with Moneris will be able to leverage Visa’s BNPL solution – Visa Installments – to give eligible Canadian credit cardholders access to installment payments on qualifying purchases. Cardholders can use the existing credit on their cards to pay for purchases in smaller, equal payments over a defined time period, with no additional, new service sign ups or requirement to apply for a new line of credit.

Moneris is set to begin offering Visa Installments to its customers by the spring of 2022.


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Mastercard Launches Touch Card to Support Visually Impaired Consumers

Mastercard Launches Touch Card to Support Visually Impaired Consumers

Mastercard introduced its latest innovation to help ensure that visually impaired and partially sighted consumers can use its spending and credit solutions as readily as any other cardholder. The company’s Touch Card, announced this week, enables the visually impaired to easily determine whether the Mastercard they are holding is a credit, debit, or prepaid card thanks to a few simple design elements to the physical card itself.

At a time when payment cards are becoming sleeker, eschewing the boldly embossed letters and numbers that have distinguished these cards for decades, the new Touch Card features a new design that, while not bucking the trend toward flatter, thiner cards, provides the kind of tactile cues that visually impaired consumers can use to select and use the right card. With a series of notches on the side of the card – a round notch for credit cards; a broad, square-shaped notch for debit cards; and a triangular notch for prepaid cards – Mastercard’s new Touch Card is another example of what Mastercard Chief Marketing and Communications Officer Raja Rajamannar called innovation “driven by the impulse to include.”

“The Touch Card will provide a greater sense of security, inclusivity, and independence to the 2.2 billion people around the world with visual impairments,” Rajamannar said. “For the visually impaired, identifying their payment cards is a real struggle. This tactile solution allows consumers to correctly orient the card and know which payment card they are using.”

The new cards have been endorsed by The Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) in the U.K. and by VISIONS/Services for the Blind and Visually Impaired in the U.S. Co-designed by augmented identity specialist IDEMIA, Mastercard’s Touch Card works with bot point-of-scale terminals and ATMs, meaning that the new solution can be readily deployed at scale.

“With one in seven people experiencing some form of disability,” Rajamannar said, “designing these products with accessibility in mind gives them equal opportunity to benefit from the ease and security of a digital world. No one should be left behind.”

It is worth mentioning that the Touch Card is only one of Mastercard’s initiatives to empower those with visual impairments. The company includes its signature melody, which signifies that card transactions have been completed successfully at the checkout counter, among these efforts.


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Mastercard, Fiserv Team Up with Bakkt to Bring Digital Assets to Loyalty Programs

Mastercard, Fiserv Team Up with Bakkt to Bring Digital Assets to Loyalty Programs

A partnership between cryptocurrency exchange Bakkt and Mastercard is being heralded as a major breakthrough in bringing digital assets into the mainstream.

“Mastercard is committed to offering a wide range of payment solutions that deliver more choice, value, and impact every day,” Mastercard EVP of Digital Payments Sherri Haymond. “Together with Bakkt and grounded by our principled approach to innovation, we’ll not only empower our partners to offer a dynamic mix of digital assets options, but also deliver differentiated and relevant consumer experiences.”

The collaboration will enable Mastercard partners to leverage the company’s network and Bakkt’s trusted digital asset platform to enable consumers to buy, sell, and hold digital assets using custodial wallets powered by Bakkt’s platform. Additionally, consumers will benefit from streamlined issuance of branded crypto debit and credit cards.

Mastercard will also make cryptocurrencies a bigger part of its loyalty programs. Mastercard partners will be able to offer cryptocurrency as rewards and enable consumers to transfer value between loyalty points and digital assets. This will allow users to effectively use cryptocurrencies for everyday transactions and, perhaps even more significantly, marry cryptocurrencies to their preferred purchases.

“We’re incredibly excited to partner with Mastercard to bring crypto loyalty services to millions of consumers,” Bakkt EVP for Loyalty, Rewards, & Payments Nancy Gordon said. “As brands and merchants look to appeal to younger consumers and their transaction preferences, these new offerings represent a unique opportunity to satisfy increasing demand for crypto, payment, and rewards flexibility.”

In addition to its partnership with Mastercard, Bakkt also announced that it had entered a strategic relationship with Fiserv that will also help support mainstream adoption and use of cryptocurrencies. A major feature of the collaboration will be the integration of Bakkt into Fiserv’s Carat omnichannel ecosystem. This will enable businesses to offer both B2B and B2C cryptocurrency payouts, loyalty programs, and transactions. Fiserv and Bakkt also announced plans to introduce Bakkt technology that enables customers to store and transact with digital assets to Fiserv’s financial institution clients.

Founded in 2018 and based in Alpharetta, Georgia, Bakkt became a publicly traded company only a few days ago, launching on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker symbol BKKT. The listing came courtesy of a SPAC sponsored by Chicago investment firm Victory Park Capital. In the weeks leading up to the company’s debut as a public company, Bakkt had announced partnerships with other Finovate alums including Finastra, Google, and, earlier this year, Blackhawk Network.


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Cryptocurrencies, Financial Inclusion, and a Look at El Salvador’s Big Bitcoin Bet

Cryptocurrencies, Financial Inclusion, and a Look at El Salvador’s Big Bitcoin Bet

One of the biggest experiments in bringing cryptocurrencies to the mainstream is taking place in the small Central American nation of El Salvador. Earlier this summer, the country’s legislative assembly authorized granting Bitcoin status as legal tender inside El Salvador beginning September 7th. One month after Bitcoin joined the U.S. dollar as the second official currency in the country, what can be said of the project so far?

This morning, Reuters took up the question of Bitcoin adoption in the country and discovered that the initiative has boosted use of the cryptocurrency, but that increase in use has come with more than a few “headaches” for many Salvadorans who have attempted to withdraw cash from Bitcoin wallets or make other transactions with the digital asset.

On the adoption front, Forbes reported late this week that the Bitcoin project has resulted in more Salvadorans having digital, Bitcoin wallets than traditional bank accounts. According to the article, approximately three million Salvadorans have downloaded Chivo, the new, government-sponsored digital wallet to facilitate Bitcoin transactions. This adds up to 46% of the country’s 6.8 million population. “By contrast,” Forbes noted, “as of 2017, only 29% of Salvadorans had bank accounts.” The Forbes account also observed that Chivo is not the only option available to those seeking to transact in the cryptocurrency; the availability of other digital wallets suggests that the estimates on early Bitcoin adoption by El Salvador’s citizens could be significantly higher.

El Salvador president and long-time Bitcoin backer Nayib Bukele boasted recently of negotiations with the country’s largest gas stations to offer reduced prices for those paying for gasoline using the Chivo app. But widespread adoption by the country’s retailers will still be one of the initiative’s biggest hurdles. Part of this issue is likely timing- a Reuters story reported that, according to the Salvadoran Foundation for Economic and Social Development, 12% of consumers have used Bitcoin in the month since the Bitcoin Law was implemented, and that 93% of the 233 companies it surveyed were reporting no payments in Bitcoin over the same time period. But another part of the issue may be easily explained by Chivo itself, which provides instant conversion from Bitcoin to dollars – meaning Salvadorans who own Bitcoin can still readily pay for transactions in dollars if they choose to.

Nevertheless, early indications are that the project may accomplish its most important role of promoting financial inclusion – especially among the country’s poorer, rural-based citizenry. While some in the business community remain skeptical – and more aggressive opponents of the measure have resorted to vandalizing and defacing Chivo ATMs – others point to the possible use of Chivo as a way for expat Salvadorans living in places like the U.S. to send money to family still in El Salvador as a use case that could help drive Bitcoin adoption in the country. Potential cost savings of using Chivo instead of traditional money transfer services – as well as the Salvadoran government’s willingness to incentivize Chivo use with Bitcoin bonuses of up to $30 – could help Bukele’s Bitcoin brainchild sustain the momentum it already has achieved in its first 30 days.


Here is our look at fintech innovation around the world.

Central and Southern Asia

Latin America and the Caribbean

Asia-Pacific

Sub-Saharan Africa

Central and Eastern Europe

Middle East and Northern Africa


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Mastercard Acquires CipherTrace to Sharpen Security Around Digital Assets

Mastercard Acquires CipherTrace to Sharpen Security Around Digital Assets

Mastercard has agreed to acquire cryptocurrency intelligence company CipherTrace for an undisclosed amount.

Founded in 2015, CipherTrace offers security and fraud monitoring activities for clients’ crypto-related programs. As CipherTrace CEO Dave Jevans states it, the company helps “banks or cryptocurrency exchanges, government regulators or law enforcement to keep the crypto economy safe.”

Mastercard will combine CipherTrace, which offers insights into more than 900 cryptocurrencies, with its own cyber security solutions to provide customers “the same trust and peace of mind that consumers currently experience with more traditional payment methods.”

CipherTrace’s solutions will help Mastercard differentiate its card and payments offerings and help the company’s clients protect their own clients, comply with regulations, and build their own digital asset products. Additionally, Mastercard’s purchase will help the payments company increase its presence with new clients such as fintechs, crypto-wallet providers, and governments.

“Digital assets have the potential to reimagine commerce, from everyday acts like paying and getting paid to transforming economies, making them more inclusive and efficient,” said Mastercard President of Cyber & Intelligence Ajay Bhalla. “With the rapid growth of the digital asset ecosystem comes the need to ensure it is trusted and safe. Our aim is to build upon the complementary capabilities of Mastercard and CipherTrace to do just this.”

Today’s move isn’t Mastercard’s first foray into the crypto realm. The New York-based company already holds partnerships with Uphold, Gemini, and BitPay to create crypto cards; has created tools support CBDCs; and has launched programs to support blockchain technology, NFTs, and stablecoins on its network.


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FinovateSpring Celebrates International Fintech Innovation

FinovateSpring Celebrates International Fintech Innovation

Finovate Global extends a special thanks to the demoing companies, keynote speakers, and attendees that joined us for FinovateSpring this week via our digital platform. On Demand video from the conference will be available soon.

And for Finovate Global readers with an interest in innovators from outside of the U.S., here are some of the companies to look out for when the On Demand video is made available in the coming days.

Aisot Technologies (Switzerland) with its technology that provides next-generation, real-time analytics and forecasts, allowing financial services to enhance returns, reduce risks, and increase efficiency.

Coconut Software (Canada) with its customer engagement platform for financial institutions that want to improve their digital and physical engagements.

DigiShares (Denmark) with its white-label platform for tokenization of real estate to provide automation and liquidity to the real estate markets.

Dreams (Sweden) with its technology that leverages cognitive and behavioral science to help banks increase their end users’ financial wellbeing and engagement, and attract new audiences. Best of Show winner.

Flybits (Canada) with its customer experience platform for the financial services sector, delivering personalization at scale.

FormHero (Canada) with its SaaS solution that enables rapid creation of digital front-end experiences to solve for complex data collection needs.

Expect an even greater international representation next month at our all-digital FinovateAsia event!


Here is our look at fintech innovation around the world.

Sub-Saharan Africa

Central and Eastern Europe

Middle East and Northern Africa

Central and Southern Asia

Latin America and the Caribbean

Asia-Pacific


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Mastercard to Acquire Digital Identity Specialist Ekata for $850 Million

Mastercard to Acquire Digital Identity Specialist Ekata for $850 Million

Mastercard’s announced $850 million acquisition of digital identity firm Ekata is a reminder that there is no way forward in digital commerce without a 21st century attitude toward issues of security and trust.

“The shift to a more digital world requires real solutions to secure every transaction and instill trust in every interaction,” Mastercard president of cyber and intelligence solutions Ajay Bhalla said. “With the addition of Ekata, we will advance our identity capabilities and create a safer, seamless way for consumers to prove who they say they are in the new digital economy.”

Seattle, Washington-based Ekata offers global identity verification to enable businesses around the world to link digital transactions to the people who make them. Via APIs and a SaaS tool, Ekata leverages data science and machine learning to help businesses detect fake accounts, cross-verify consumer data, reduce payment risk, and fight transaction fraud. With more than 2,000 corporate partners ranging from global merchants and financial institutions to marketplaces and digital currency platforms, Ekata enables its businesses to gain unique and valuable insights that allow them to make better risk decisions about their customers.

“The acceleration of online transactions has thrust global digital identity verification to the forefront as one of the biggest opportunities to build digital trust and combat global fraud,” Ekata CEO Rob Eleveld said. “The right identity verification solutions enable inclusive and frictionless experiences while, at the same time, ensuring customer privacy, control and security. Becoming part of the Mastercard Identity family ensures a broader, collective approach to meeting the growing demands of the digital economy.”

Founded in 2019, Ekata unveiled its merchant onboarding solution earlier this month. Designed to meet the needs of PSPs, B2B lenders, and marketplaces working with smaller, micro-merchants and sole proprietors, Ekata’s new platform automates the onboarding process via API and provides for more efficient manual review with a SaaS solution.

“Merchants today have plenty of options and will quickly turn to another payment service provider if an organization adds too much friction at onboarding or takes too long on approvals,” Ekata VP of Global Marketing Beth Shulkin said in a statement. “This is much more than a customer experience issue for PSPs and lenders; losing the lifetime value of a merchant has real bottom-line impact.”


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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 Coins.ph (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

Asia-Pacific

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.