Hello Fintech Friends,
Someone asked me recently what books I would recommend on fintech and personal finance - how would people answer that question?
There seems to be more reading time these days, so I’ve started a list of Recommended Long Reads. Please send your favorites!
Please enjoy another week of fintech news below.
Quote of the week
“Amazon Web Services is the perfect model for evaluating where we are in the evolution of financial technology and articulating what we still need to really power the next generation of products in finance.”
- Gil Akos. Co-Founder, Astra (source)
Open role spotlight
TrueAccord, which uses machine learning to change the debt collections process and help financially vulnerable consumers, is looking to hire a Vice President of Product and a Director of Enterprise Product. Reach out to Ohad Samet for more detail.
Read of the week
The city of Glasgow in the UK launched Street Change Glasgow, which introduced contactless card donation points around the city to help give money to the homeless. The donations, which can be paid at points sponsored by businesses around the city, will help “pay for items such as travel to, or clothing for, job interviews, to provide tools or protective clothing required to take up a job offer or continue employment or to help people access training.”
The initiative is a great step forward, but the donations notably do not go directly to the beggars themselves. It will be interesting to observe whether the system ultimately ends up competing for the spare change donations that beggars need to buy food and other essentials. This effect could be mitigated by establishing identities for the homeless, such as through recipient QR codes, but digital identity comes with its own set of challenges.
Banking and Credit Cards
Barclays is one of the first banks taking advantage of Open Banking technology, by letting its customers make payments from other checking accounts within its mobile app.
OakNorth Bank released its 2019 financials, with nearly 2x pre-tax profits of £65.9 million - a notable contrast to consumer-focused neobanks, with its loans between £500k to £25m.
BBVA is changing its Open Talent competition to set specific challenges that it wants to work on with fintechs.
Standard Chartered launched its Hong Kong digital bank, Mox, in partnership with PCCW, HKT and Trip.com. The bank this week became the first bank to join the TradeLens, the blockchain shipping logistics platform developed by IBM and Maersk.
In a move to draw awareness to mobile wallet and ATM connectivity, Wells Fargo will offer customers a one-time statement credit of $5 for withdrawing cash from an ATM through Apple Pay or a mobile wallet. Meanwhile, Board Chairman and former Fed Governor Elizabeth and member James Quigley both quit the beleaguered bank’s board ahead of a Congressional inquiry tihs week. They had been expected to testify on the bank’s credit card sales scandal.
Colorado-based FirstBank will selectFinxact to power its banking core-as-a-service so that it can more quickly develop digital products. Deutsche Bank will work with wealth management software provider Qplix to offer a digital investment office.
Mastercard and Phos are partnering for four weeks, powered by Paynetics, to test PIN-based contactless transactions without a card reader with 200 European merchants. And Visa will partner with Clinc to offer conversational AI tools to credit card issuers and with Paga to offer payments services in Africa.
The Reserve Bank of India, which last week put a freeze on the operations of Indian-based YES Bank, has caused a ripple effect through the third party fintechs such as Walmart’s payments app PhonePe, who relied on the bank’s payments processing UPI. The Indian Supreme Court, meanwhile, lifted a ban on banks working with cryptocurrency products.
StoneCo., the Brazilian payments company that last year IPO’ed, announced that it will expand its offering into insurance and credit card products.
The FDIC is looking to address the spate of Industrial Loan Company banks renting their licenses to fintechs this week.
The UK government, meanwhile, pledged to provide more funding support to the country’s successful fintech sector and protect consumers’ access to cash in the wake of ATM closures. And the Bank of England is debating offering a state-backed digital currency and soliciting feedback.
Alipay this week opened up its platform to third-party developers, in a move that could be huge as it enables fintechs to build versatile new consumer finance tools on top of a ubiquitous payments platform.
Australian neobank Xinja Bank is turning away new customers looking to get into its 2.25% interest-bearing savings account as the Reserve Bank of Australia cuts rates.
Many vertical-specific neobanks are launching and starting to tailor their offerings more narrowly to customer segments, such as Rizqfor Sharia-compliant investing (one of many), Inshafor charitable donations, Pinchfor gamers, and Longevityfor the elderly.
Finastra bank will allow customers access to its conversational AI product.
Meanwhile, Cogni, a neobank backed by Barclays, launched this week to offer (yet another) fee-free checking account to millennials and Credit Sesame added a free digital bank account to its product offering.
In an odd story this week, venture capital firm Sequoia will walk away from its $21 million investment into fintech Finix due to a conflict of interest with portfolio company Stripe.
French startup Alma launched this week to offer an installment loan checkout finance service, comparable to Klarna, and raised €12.5 million.
The OCC is expected to provide guidance on data sharing, which fintechs say could stifle innovation by limiting data access.
Robinhood reportedly maxed out its commercial credit line from banks last month, though it paid the line back, and the app crashed again on Monday during a volatile trading day for markets, placing it in dubious company.
InvestCloud launched a digital platform for retirement accounts. And Libra competitor Celo Foundation announced the first 50 members of its Alliance for Prosperity to use blockchain for ‘prosperity for everyone.’
Metro Bank will partner with Ezbob to deliver a digital small business lending platform.
Saudi Payments will partner with HPS to launch a national QR code platform for banks and fintechs in Saudi Arabia.
Kenyan lawmakers are opening an investigation into high-rate lending apps.
American VC Quona Capital raised a $203 million financial inclusion fund.
- Australian cross-border payments fintech Airwallex is looking to raise a $200 million Series D to bring its business global.
- UK neobank Tandem secured new funding of £60 million to acquire an (unnamed) green lender for consumer solar panels.
- Personal financial management app Albert raised a $50 million Series B.
- Spoton, which provides payment processing software for small businesses to integrate payments with their financial tools, raised $50 million in new funding.
- SME Corner, an Indian small business lender, raised a $30 million Series b.
- Airbase, an all-in-one business non-payroll spend management solution, raised a $23.5 million Series A.
- NorthOne, a New York neobank focused on small business clients, raised a $21 million Series A.
- FinCompare, a German small business specialty financing fintech, raised an additional €12 million to bring its Series A to €22 million.
- Empower Finance, a banking app that uses a combination of AI and human financial advice, announced it has 600,000 active customers and raised a $20 million Series A.
- QRails, a payment solutions and deployment fintech for payroll, bank, insurance, and other clients, raised an $8m Series A.
- Family finance app Jassby, a digital wallet and shopping app, secured $5 million in new funding.
- Oriente, an online lending platform in the Philippines and Indonesia, raised $20 million in debt financing for its loans.
- Global KYC and ID verification platform WorldWatch raised a $2.9 million Series A.
- ING invested in securities lending platform HQLAx.
Exits and M&A
- Nets, a Danish payments fintech,boughtPolskie ePłatności, a Polish merchant acquirer with 125,000 terminals, for €405 million.
- First American Financial acquiredDocutech, a document and deal-closing platform for the mortgage industry, for $350 million.
- Santander Bank acquiredMercury TFS, a developer of trade finance software, for €30 million.
- Moody’s acquired retail bank training and certification program RBA International. Financials were not disclosed.
- UK-based global workplace finance platform Salary Finance acquiredGoldman-backed employee benefits platform Neyber. Terms were not disclosed.
- Greensill, the UK-based supply chain finance platform, acquired Australian Earnd, a payroll installment fintech for an undisclosed amount.
- Jefferson Capital Systems acquired credit collections and charge-offs agency Canaccede Financial Group. Financial terms were not disclosed.
- Financial data partner Refinitiv acquiredScivantage, a software provider for digital wealth management solutions.
- Accuity, which builds KYC and payments software, acquiredApply Financial, a provider of automated payment validation solutions.
- Public equities market Nasdaq purchasedSolovis, a portfolio management and analytics solution.