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Q&A: Ex-Mt.Gox exec Thomas Glucksmann-Smith shares the perils of the fintech frontier
FinTech
For every success on a new frontier there is also a horror story. For many Bitcoin users that horror was Mt. Gox, the Japanese Bitcoin exchange that went from handling 70% of all bitcoin transactions in early 2013 to losing $473 million of the cryptocurrency a year later. Thomas Glucksmann-Smith had a front row seat on the collapse. He joined the
Bitcoin dismissed as 'kind of cute'
FinTech
<p>A couple of financial heavyweights don't think much of bitcoin. J.P. Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon told delegates at Wednesday's Fortune Global Forum that: "It's just not going to happen. You are wasting your time," reports The Daily Telegraph.</p> <p>"There will be no real-time, non-controlled currency in the world. There is no government that is going to put up with it for long. It's kind of cute now, a lot of senators and congressmen will say, 'I support Silicon Valley innovation', but there will be no currency that gets around government controls."</p> <p>Sharing the platform, Christine Lagarde, managing director of the IMF, was equally scathing.</p> <p>"Pause for a second. As long as those new technologies are going to abuse and take advantage of the yield for anonymity, I think the banking industry has quite a few good days ahead of it; as long as it takes ownership of those issues of capital and culture in order to restore trust, without which no trade, no transaction, no business can take place," she said.</p> <p>It's hard to know whether their scorn is a genuine expression of contempt or hides a deeper feeling of panic.<br /> Photo: BTC Keychain</p>
ING mulls China online banking venture
FinTech
<p>Dutch financial services giant ING says it's looking into the prospect of launching a joint online banking venture in China with its long-term local partner Bank of Beijing.</p> <p>Reuters reports that ING CEO Ralph Hamers let slip the plans during an earnings call on Wednesday. The two institutions reportedly signed an MOU last week and are now researching the feasibility of the venture. </p> <p>This is not the first time ING has dabbled in fintech ventures, after all it was an early backer of PayPal, but like many of its banking peers the Dutch lender has been pushing extra hard on the fintech front in recent months. </p> <p>ING launched its first fintech accelerator in Belgium in July and just chipped in for a $135 million Series E round of funding for U.S. fintech startup Kabbage last month. If this latest venture comes to fruition, however, it will be will be ING’s first notable fintech play into Asia.<br /> Photo: ING Nederland<br /> &nbsp;</p>
Betterment hits $3B in AUM
FinTech
<p>Betterment has been crowned the new king of the robo-advisors.</p> <p>The 7-year-old wealth management platform now holds more than $3 billion in assets under management, almost three time as much as it managed in January, reports the New York Post. Betterment has made strides across the industry, as Goldman Sachs recently approved the platform for Goldman employees to use for investing. Betterment is also in talks with JP Morgan for a similar agreement.</p> <p>Wealthfront, Betterment's main fintech rival, manages "nearly" $3 billion in assets, according to its website. Charles Schwab's robo-platform has the backing of a traditional firm, but a product that rivals fintech firms like Betterment. The Schwab robo-platform manages more than $4 billion.<br /> Photo: OTA Photos</p>
The three big challenges facing fintech founders
FinTech
<p>As large as the fintech opportunity is in Asia, it is also complex and full of pitfalls for even the most capable entrepreneur. </p> <p>At Accenture's Fintech Innovation Lab Investors' Day at Hong Kong’s  Cyberport on Wednesday — during which seven fintech startups pitched to an audience of prospective investors — Jonathan Allaway, senior managing director at Accenture, highlighted three of the key challenges facing fintech startups entering his company's  accelerator program:</p> <p> Anticipating demand</p> <p>"Many founders underestimate the sheer demand in the market for their innovation. They have to learn to prioritize, and learn that adopting a less-is-more management approach is a good thing. That is probably paradoxical when there are entrepreneurs who want to capture as much market share as possible. But they can't physically do it given the scale of their business so they must always prioritize." </p> <p> Balancing scale and innovation</p> <p>"A lot of financial institutions want to differentiate and become bespoke. There is a tendency to take a startup's standard product that is already innovative and to try and make it unique to each instance it's applied it in. Founders will have to make management choices about how they can get standardization to scale and also keep innovating." </p> <p> Human resources</p> <p>"Another challenge is that founders underestimate the importance of people in their business for pre-sale and post-sales support as the company grows and accelerates. One CEO told me he felt like the chief HR officer not the CEO, spending more time looking at people issues. But that is just a natural reality of being innovative and being in a market that is growing and investing."<br />  Photo: NexChange</p>
Financial services get a 'wake-up call' as Asian fintech deals quadruple
FinTech
<p>Fintech investments in Asia Pacific are set to quadruple this year as venture capitalists and financial institutions hungry for piece of the action pile cash into the rapidly growing sector.</p> <p>These are the findings of a report released by management consulting firm Accenture on Wednesday. The report estimates 122 deals netted $3.46 billion of investment in the region's fintech space for the first nine months of the year, dwarfing the $879 million raised over 117 deals for the whole of last year. Beat Monnerat, senior managing director at Accenture and the company’s Financial Services lead in Asia Pacific, commented:<br /> “The increasing deal size should serve as a wake-up call to financial services companies in China and across Asia-Pacific that if they do not offer truly useful, customer-friendly digital solutions, competitors will step into the breach not just on the retail front but also in commercial transactions.”<br /> The report neatly  coincides with the Fintech Innovation Lab Investors' Day being hosted by Accenture at Hong Kong's Cyberport. The event — which marks the culmination of Accenture's 12-week fintech accelerator program — showcases seven of the most promising fintech startups operating in Hong Kong.<br /> Photo: Peyri Herrera<br /> &nbsp;</p>
Coming soon to a gas station near you: A car (or smartphone) that pays for your next refill
FinTech
<p>No more fumbling for your wallet or your smartphone.</p> <p>In a new deal inked between FIS and SAP, your car's computer system will be able to pay for your next trip to the gas station.</p> <p>Mobile payments are hot -- but not nearly as widespread as everyone dreams. Acccording to one study, in 2013 only 1% of gas station customers used their mobile phone to pay to fell 'er up.</p> <p>Could this be the tipping point? Perhaps. Think of all those gas stations from coast to coast and spending a tad less time on a cold, rainy night at the gas pump. Sounds pretty compelling.</p> <p>Oh, and if you insist, you can use your smartphone rather than the car to pay.<br /> Photo: loubeat</p>
An innovative course for China
FinTech
<p>The Fifth Plenum of the Communist Party concluded last week with several major decisions. The world's media was hooked by the change to the one-child policy, but there was also another important statement of intent.</p> <p>“Innovation will play a critical role in growth strategy over the next five years,” notes Zhiwei Zhang, Deutsche Bank Chief Economist for China.</p> <p>“The [Plenum] press release specifically mentioned "internet +" and "national big data strategy" which we believe will get government support.”</p> <p>Zhang points out that President Xi also emphasized the role of innovation in a government meeting on August 18, 2014.</p> <p>Xi argued that innovation could be promoted by: identifying the right areas to spend resources; strengthening incentives to attract talent; developing institutions to promote innovation; and cementing international collaboration.</p> <p>“The focus on innovation likely reflects that the leaders recognize investment driven growth model is not sustainable, hence the search for productivity growth is critical for the next five years,” says Zhang.<br /> Photo: xdxd_vs_xdxd</p>
Star-backed UK crowdfunding platform to launch in US
FinTech
<p>U.S. investors will soon have another option for easily buying small amounts of stocks.</p> <p>Seedrs, a U.K. crowdfunding platform, will launch in the U.S. in the coming weeks, with a full, official launch due in early 2016, reports Business Insider. The online platform has star power: It's backed by fund manager Neil Woodford and venture capital firm Lord Rothschild and boasts tennis star Andy Murray as an advisor. Seedrs enables individuals to buy stocks in startups for as little as 10 pounds. Startups can join the platform with a funding goal, and agree to sell a certain number of shares to meet that.</p> <p>Seedsr has been eager to break into the U.S., and bought a similar California-based platform called Junction Investments in 2014. Before Friday, Seedrs was prohibited from a U.S. expansion by the JOBS Act. The act previously prevented non-accredited investors, or those with a net worth of less than $1 million or an income of less than $200,000 for the last two years, from investing in equity crowdfunding platforms.<br /> Photo: adifansnet </p>
Wear your payment on your sleeve, literally
FinTech
<p>Swiping will soon be a thing of the past.</p> <p>MasterCard and fashion designer Adam Selman teamed up for the latest in wearables- clothes that hold mobile payment devices. A dress, gloves, jewelry, or sunglasses can all be embedded with discrete minichips, reports The New York Times. The idea, debuted at the Money 20/20 conference on Monday, links to the Bluetooth app in a phone to contain credit card information. Just wave the chip-holding accessory for payment and go.</p> <p>"We wanted to use things that were already a part of life," says Sherri Haymond, group head of digital channels for MasterCard. "Fashion and jewelry are a big part of that."</p> <p>But how great is it that consumers can pay with almost anything? Credit cards have already broken the tangible connection between spending and cash, and merely using sunglasses or a coat sleeve could take that disassociation a step further. We may need to think this one through.<br /> Photo: LWYang</p>