News > FinTech

What finance can learn from Blockbuster
FinTech
<p>The growth in the number of fintech startups threatening to disrupt the financial sector has sparked both alarm and glee in equal measure. Its not the first time an industry has been flipped on its head by a group of plucky young newcomers, so comparisons are inevitable. One of the most popular is Blockbuster Video.</p> <p>If you don't remember, Blockbuster was the offline video rental giant that pretty much had the monopoly on movie night - that is, before Netflix. To its eventual demise, Blockbuster had dismissed this scrappy young tech startup when came onto the scene in 1997 - it even turned down an offer to acquire the business. The rest is history. </p> <p>The question today is could banks make the same mistake when it comes to fintech? It is a possibility says Ryan Caldwell, CEO of digital banking platform MX. In an article for The Financial Brand he writes that banks and credit unions will only avoid a similar downfall by investing in consumer-centric services like digital account opening, digital lending, and digital payments</p> <p>They also ignore young pretenders at their peril. Caldwell cites the example of San Francisco-based loan platform Lending Club:<br /> “Some people might say that Lending Club represents such a small presence in the loan business that there’s no need to worry. However, it’s worth keeping in mind that when Netflix first started out — nearly two decades ago — Blockbuster said the same thing.”<br /> He is not the first to make this comparison, Bank Director editor Jack Milligan made a similar observation this year, referring specifically to the lending space.</p> <p> However, the extent to which big banks have sought to invest in their would-be disruptive - Barclays, UBS, and DBS to name but three - would suggest some are not prepared to make the same mistake as our erstwhile home video store. <br /> Photo: trebomb</p>
Could China's chaos be a boon for Bitcoin?
FinTech
<p>While China’s ongoing market turmoil has had everyone counting their losses, Bitcoin might just be counting its blessings. The prospect of Beijing bringing in massive the capital controls in a bid to bring outflows under control has set the stage for a surge in the virtual currency’s value, says ZeroHedge.</p> <p>Just as fears of a Grexit, and return of the Drachma, had pushed up the value of the Bitcoin at the beginning of summer - before Bitcoin’s value dropped over fears of a forking last month - China fears also could trigger another digital rally. </p> <p>Looking at the various Bitcoin indices on Coindesk.com this surge is yet to happen.  The volatile currency is now trading at around $229.7 apiece and has been jumping around at that price for past two weeks having hit a trough in the middle of August of around $220. A far cry from mid-July when the Bitcoin was valued at around $310.  </p> <p>But that doesn’t mean it won’t happen, ZeroHedge’s Evander Smart reflects that - with over US$22 trillion on deposit - even a small shift by the Chinese market towards bitcoin could dwarf the surge of 2013, when Bitcoin’s value increased ten-fold with its introduction to China.<br /> Photo: BTC Keychain</p>
The real Apple flop: Do you know what it is?
FinTech
<p>How quickly we all forget. A new dawn, a new day, a new life -- well, never mine. Apple promised to change the face of payments with Apple Pay. And I had been betting the Apple Watch would flop. But the numbers suggest that consumers just don't  mind using their credit cards the old-fashioned way. Once more, the tekkies provide a solution to a problem that doesn't exist.</p> <p>Drum roll, please, for the data on Apple Pay via Bank Innovation:<br /> In a recent post from PYMNTS.com, retail data analytics firm InfoScout is reporting Apple Pay usage has been on a steady decline since a seemingly promising upswing in March 2015. In the three months that followed, usage fell two points from 15.1 to 13.1 percent. What’s more, of the nearly 40 percent of consumers surveyed in March who said they had used Apple Pay to complete a transaction, only 23 percent still said “yes.”<br /> Frankly, we think consumers would be much more excited if banks and retailers could thwart hackers more effectively.</p> <p>Photo: Allen</p>
Wall Street recruiters go casual
FinTech
<p>Being buttoned-up won't always get you in the door, even on Wall Street.</p> <p>Wall Street's biggest, young recruitment firm is taking a casual approach to a formal career path, reports the New York Post. Traditional recruiters have high fees, and old-school approaches to finding candidates and selling them to firms. But Vettery is the OKCupid to their yenta ways.</p> <p>Vettery, founded by Adam Goldstein and Brett Adcock, puts candidates on an online platform. Clients can access the platform free of charge while looking at as many as 100 potential hire profiles each week. Vettery then charges 15% of a hire's base salary, where traditional recruiters normally take 30% of a salary plus bonus.</p> <p>But Vettery isn't open to just any candidate. Less than 5% of its 82,000 registrants have been deemed fit enough for a profile. Candidates are from top-tier schools, with stellar experience.</p> <p>The system is working for them. Vettery says it's connecting more than 150 first-round interviews a week, and placements are looking to hit 500 in the next 12 months, and outstanding placement pace for the industry.<br /> Photo: uberof202 ff<br /> &nbsp;</p>
Barclays becomes the first bank to accept Bitcoin
FinTech
<p>Barclays broke new ground this week by becoming the first bank to accept bitcoin. But don’t get too excited, the UK bank is only taking baby steps.</p> <p>Under a pilot scheme, people will only be allowed to use the crypto currency to make donations. The Wall Street Journal reports that Barclays is teaming up with bitcoin startup Safello to build a program that allows charities to accept bitcoin.</p> <p>Barclays is keeping the details close to its chest for now, but this move is a big boon to bitcoin’s legitimacy. It also galvanizes Barclay's reputation as a fintech pioneer.</p> <p>The bank was one of the first  financial institutions to launch its own fintech accelerator, with the first iteration of the Tech Star-powered platform being rolled out  in 2013. Safello, which has raised $1 million in seed-funding to date, is one its alumni.</p> <p>This is also a feather in the cap for London, where Barclays is headquartered, which is very quickly becoming recognized as the fintech capital of the world, and for good reason.<br /> Photo: Antana</p>
Can Apple Pay turn it around? It's adding banks faster than users
FinTech
<p>This week Apple Pay added 18 more US banks to its roster of Apple Pay card issuers. This is the best bit of news the infant digital payments platform has had since early last month when it was revealed Apple Pay adoption rates had suffered despite strong iPhone6 sales.</p> <p>The survey – conducted by InfoScout and PYMNTS.com – revealed that the number of eligible Apple Pay users trying the service had dropped from 15.1% in March to 13.1% in June. Ouch.</p> <p>Needless to say Apple has been hard at work to ratchet up these numbers. This is the second batch of 18 bank partners Apple has revealed inside a month, bulking up its partnership count by 36 over the past four weeks.</p> <p>We can expect more announcements on September 9 when Apple holds its press event. According to AppleInsider, several changes to iOS 9 have already been confirmed , such as the Passbook app being renamed Wallet, and support for loyalty and reward cards being added to the platform. Here is full list of its recent bank additions:</p> <p> AltaOne Federal Credit Union<br /> American Bank of Commerce<br /> Capital Bank, N.A.<br /> Cardinal Community Credit Union<br /> Del-One Federal Credit Union<br /> Enterprise Bank and Trust Co.<br /> Envision Credit Union<br /> First Commonwealth Bank<br /> First National Bank and Trust<br /> First South Financial Credit Union<br /> FirstMerit Bank<br /> Fort Worth City Credit Union<br /> Leominster Credit Union<br /> Magnolia Federal Credit Union<br /> Monticello Banking Company<br /> Northfield Bank<br /> Southern States Bank<br /> Spire Credit Union</p> <p>Apple is also expected to announce more bank partnerships in the UK where the contactless pay limit was recently upped to 30 pounds (about $46). With a November Canada launch also in the offing, Apple Pay may amaze us yet.<br /> Photo: TheTruthAbout</p>
India joins the global push to bring digital cash to the poor
FinTech
<p>The world’s second most populous country, India, has joined a global initiative to bring digital money to emerging economies.</p> <p>The initiative is called the Better Than Cash Alliance and it is backed by a group of development organisations, foundations and private firms like Citi and Visa.</p> <p>The idea is to bring digital money and financial services to countries like India where the vast majority its impoverished population are unbanked.</p> <p>This mission chimes well with the Indian government’s financial inclusion program; an ambitious effort led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to make sure every Indian household is covered with a bank account in a matter of months.</p> <p>The government - which is targeting those people who typically do not hold accounts: women, small farmers, and laborers - claims it has helped see 175 million new accounts opened with deposits of more than $3.4 billion.  </p> <p>By joining the alliance, the government says it will have access new research, technology, and policy partners as it seeks to exploit new ways of shifting the population toward banking a electronic payments.</p> <p>Which is no doubt fantastic for India’s rural poor, but even better news for the people they will be banking with.<br /> Photo: Sistak via Flickr</p> <p>&nbsp;</p>
Private instant messenger service thumbs its nose at critics
FinTech
<p>Symphony, a messenger software for the banking sector, has taken a lot of flak recently. Backed by around fifteen large banks, the encrypted service had more than a few fans in the financial sector.</p> <p>Regulators hate it. The American Banker reports that Senate Banking Committee member Elizabeth Warren, among others, has come out saying the service would compromise regulators ability to stamp out fraud, and facilitate shenanigans like the Libor rate-rigging scandal. </p> <p>Symphony’s CEO David Gurle - who has had numerous meeting with US officials - appears unfazed by critics’ regulatory sabre-rattling and insists the service will go ahead with its planned September 15 launch. </p> <p>But he is going to have to convince the nay-sayers of Symphony’s merits to shift the focus away from its users. David Weiss, senior analyst at Aite Group, had this to say:<br /> "These are shots across the bow at Symphony's investors, whom they perceive as bad actors, not at Symphony itself. There's no regulatory oversight of Symphony as a company by any of these folks."<br /> Photo: Eleazar</p>
Now there’s a “matchmaking service” for banks and fintech start-ups
FinTech
<p>So banks now have a matchmaking service where they can hook up with financial technology startups. Its called Matchi.</p> <p>The Financial Times reports that Barclays, AIB, and Standard Bank are among a group of lenders partnering with fintech companies through Matchi. </p> <p>Accountancy firm KPMG has also struck an alliance with the online platform which it will introduce to its banking clients. Matchi will then support these clients with technology integration and advise on deals.   </p> <p>By “sponsoring” the platform, banks get privileged access to innovations developed by the startups. For example, the platform recently connected an Israeli fintech firm offering customer authentication with a global bank in India.</p> <p>It is another case of banks looking to embrace fintech start-ups, and the digital services they developing, rather than competing directly with them. In other words, keeping your enemies closer. </p> <p>Hopefully, the banks are getting into fintech for the long run, and not just a meaningless one-night stand they might regret in the morning.<br /> Photo: Jamz196</p>
Secret agents, pirates and cheaters: Bitcoin’s darkside
FinTech
<p>Bitcoin has always had a reputation problem. While the former currency of choice for drug-dealers and porn-peddlers on the so-called dark-net has gained some mainstream acceptance, its shadier past has come to the fore this week.</p> <p>The most recent scandal is the story of Shaun Bridge, a 33-year-old former US secret agent who has pleaded guilty to stealing of $800,000 using bitcoin. According to Reuters, Bridges was supposed to be part of the investigation that brought down Ross Ulbricht, AKA Dread Pirate Roberts, the founder of dark-net marketplace Silk Road. Instead he exploited the chance for an illicit bitcoin windfall.    </p> <p>But perhaps an even more sordid story out this week was about the affair site, Ashley Madison. According to Business Insider, recently leaked user account information from the site is being used to blackmail hapless adulterers en masse...for bitcoin. Here is the message the blackmailers sent:<br /> Unfortunately your data was leaked in the recent hacking of Ashley Madison and I now have your information. If you would like to prevent me from finding and sharing this information with your significant other send exactly 2.00000054 bitcoins (approx. value $450 USD) to the following address…<br /> Unfortunate indeed. While it may be difficult to feel sympathy for people who play away, it does highlight how criminals can easily exploit the anonymity of bitcoin - something that no doubt puts many potential bitcoin adopters and investors ill at ease.   <br /> Photo: Vincent Diamante via Flickr</p>