Hello Fintech Friends,
Because even trade media cannot resist trending conversations, this week we have How Coronavirus Is Disrupting The Fintech Sector, Is Fintech Ready For Coronavirus?, the WHO is urging the switch to contactless payments to slow virus transmission, and more.
I don’t know. I am admittedly a skeptic of the extreme downside case. Do you anticipate that the virus will have an impact on your business? Has it already?
Please find another week of (otherwise virus-free) fintech news below.
Quote of the week
“To be the default, [...] onboarding must be developer-first; a developer must be able to issue, fund and transact on a card or bank account without talking to a human at your company. A whole slew of use cases and demand are trapped behind the high hurdle it takes to interact with the major issuer-processor platforms and card issuing services today.”
- Ayo Omojola, former Square Cash product lead (source)
Open role spotlight
The fantastic team at Blockfi is looking for someone to lead payment products for the cryptocurrency investment platform, and spearhead go-to-market for its fintech solutions.
Read of the week
This week, Robinhood users berated the platform online and threatened class action lawsuits because the exchange was down during one of the most high-volatility market periods in recent history. It didn’t help that the platform shut down during a day of market recovery.
But is this such a bad thing?
Robinhood’s commoditization of trading, which brought the market to a no-fee consensus, has supposedly democratized access to stock trading. But removing barriers to trade may incentivize riskier behavior or facilitate the poor impulses of retail investors, who can easily get caught up in rallies and bursts. Maybe some guardrails are good.
Banking and Credit Cards
American Express is in hot water after it was revealed that aggressive salespeople to its small business segment misrepresented details like rewards and fees, checked credit reports without consent and even issued cards without consent.
UK bank Barclays will cut over 1,000 staff across the bank in the next year. Meanwhile, Irish bank AIB will sell off over 500 of its standalone ATMS to the cash management operator Brinks andneobank Starling has opened its 3rd UK office, hiring 400 data science and fraud professionals.
Nationwide bank has delayed the launch of its business banking account, while it works on open banking account aggregation and switching technology for its users.
The Emirati bank NBF partnered with Ripple to open a consumer remittance corridor to India for cross-border payments to Indus Ind Bank account-holders.
The CFPB’s symposium on Consumer Access to Financial Records led to a fierce debate this week on how banks are (or are not) making customer data available to fintechs. The bank and fintech relationship is decidedly at a nadir in many cases, with most banks saying they distrust and fear new services such as payments. (Relatedly: Fight Over Consumer Data Ownership Pits Banks Against Fintechs and ‘Screen scraping is not evil’: Bankers, fintechs, aggregators face off.)
The Supreme Court, meanwhile, is considering scaling back the authority of the consumer protection agency and the CFPB will release a proposal for studying discrimination in small business lending practices and consult with consumer groups on the study.
Neobanks in the UK now account for over 20 million customers - in a country of 66 million - but account growth is slowing and deposit balances are declining, putting a strain on banks to achieve profitability. This will continue to be a challenge as open banking technology creates a double-edged sword: facilitating customer acquisition but reducing switching costs, so that banks have to compete on price to retain customers.
Walmart is competing fiercely against Amazon not just in retail but also in fintech, with the launch of Walmart Pay, Walmart MoneyCard, and Walmart2Walmart money transfer.
The race to the bottom finally hit the bottom: Square Cash released a money transfer service to rival Transferwise and other cross-border remitters, with free instant transfers. Also, the app grew 60% year-over-year in number of users and fully half of Square Cash’s revenue now comes from Bitcoin services.
Transferwise, meanwhile, is on-pace to cross legacy Western Union in volumes, but growth is slowing.
Facebook has decided to drastically reshape it Libra program, and will now offer digital versions of fiat currencies such as the dollar or euro, alongside its flagship cryptocurrency.
Venmo has become a household word, with frustrated Mets fans asking their GM if they can Venmo him due to its thrifty player budget.
Klarna, the Swedish checkout installment lender, reported its first ever annual loss, driven by higher charge-offs and credit losses, mostly centered in its US expansion.
Aion, a subscription-only digital bank that charges €19 per month to customers but promises to use AI to advise investment decisions, launched in Belgium.
Neobank Mercury launched instant on-demand virtual card issuance (for online purchases) and seamless Venmo card integration. Customers of neobank Monzo and legacy bank Natwest in the UK will now be able to look up their credit scores for free when applying for a loan, functionality available through services like Credit Karma or Mint in the US.
Australian neobank Xinja is opening up its $20 million Series D fundraising round to accredited investors, asking for a minimum of $20,400 per investor. The neobank now boasts 41,000 accounts across 25,000 customers.
Google Nigeria and fintech company Flutterwave are teaming up to train 5,000 Nigerian small businesses on how to leverage the internet for growth.
Canadian savings and spending tracker Neo Financial is getting ready to launch a merchant rewards-based credit card.
Text message platform Podium added a new payments feature, following in the footsteps of non-fintechs like Bird.
(h/t Fintech Today Slack for this gem)
- Thought Machine, a UK-based banking software provider to Europe and Asia, raised an $83 million Series B.
- Utah-based small business loan marketplace Lendio raised a $55 million Series E.
- Public, which wants to be the Pinterest of stock-buying apps, raised $15 million in new funding to build a social investing platform.
- TerraPay, a Dutch fintech solution that provides money transfer services through Africa and Asia, announced a $9.6 million fundraising round.
- Leap Finance raised $5.5 million to build a finance platform for Indian students studying abroad.
- Spanish fintech Cobee raised a €2.1 million “pre-Series A” to build an employee benefits app with a payment card.
- Zabo raised $2.5 million to build an API that connects brokerages, banks, and fintech apps to cryptocurrency wallets.
- Chinese fintech conglomerate Ant Financial provided an undisclosed amount of financing to Swedish lender Klarna (less than 1% of existing share value), fueling acquisition rumors. The deal values Klarna at $5.5 billion.
Exits and M&A
- SBI Cards and Payment Services, credit card arm of the State Bank of India, successfully completed a $1.4 billion IPO.
- The Brazilian credit bureau Boa Vista filed for an IPO on Brazil’s stock exchange. Chinese multinational Fosun is nearing a deal to acquire German lender Bankhaus Lampe for €250 million.
- Alabama-based Regions Bank will acquire equipment finance lender Ascentium Capital. Terms were not disclosed.
- Refinitiv has acquired Scivantage
- Fiserv, the core banking infrastructure provider, will acquire MerchantPro, a distribution partner. Terms were not disclosed.
- LexisNexis will acquire Emailage, a financial risk-scoring and identity solution.