Fintech Fridays Ep34: Accelerating Fintech Growth with Brendan Holt Dunn

NCFA Canada | July 6, 2019

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Ep34-July 6: Accelerating Fintech Growth

HOST: Manseeb Khan, Fintech Friday's show host

GUEST:  BRENDAN HOLT DUNN, Founder Holt Accelerator, (Linkedin)

BIO: 
Brendan is an investment guru who has close to 15 years in managing multi-billion dollar asset portfolios. He is currently the CEO of Holdun, a 5th generation family business which offers family office services, wealth management services, trust services, corporate services, concierge services and financial services and was awarded best Multi-Family Office in the Caribbean 2017 for Holdun Family Office. A tech savvy investor, he has made many investments in startups including Stradigi AI, Addepar, Uber, LeAD Sports Accelerator, Sway Ventures, and Falcon 5. He has accumulated five finance and investment certificates to compliment his finance degree from King’s University College. He’s considered by entrepreneurs to be founder friendly.

About this episode:

On this week's episode of NCFA's Fintech Friday's Podcast, our host Manseeb Khan sits down with Brendan Dunn the Managing partner of the Holt Accelerator program. They talk about why are accelerators are important, how the can find the right companies and what their Fintech Show is. Enjoy!

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Transcription of Interview

Intro: Welcome fintech Friday's a weekly podcast brought to you by the National Crowdfunding and Fintech Association of Canada and partners.Covering all things fintech block chain be AI and alternative finance.

Manseeb Khan: Brendan thanks so much for sitting down today.

Brendan Dunn: Thank you for having me. Appreciate it and excited to talk.

Manseeb Khan: Yeah for sure. So, Brendan for I guess the five or six people that may not know what the Holt accelerator is. Could you tell us a little bit more about what it is and a little bit more of your background?

Brendan Dunn: Sure. Maybe the easiest way to start is my background and kind of segway into how we started the Holt accelerator. So originally, we are a fifth-generation family office. That's our core business called The Holden family office where that came from is from my great great grandfather Sir Herbert Holt came over from Ireland to Canada was extremely successful control over 300 businesses around the world for non-Canadians most notably longest serving president chairman of the Royal Bank of Canada for around thirty five years C.P. rail and Montreal light heat power which is one of the largest energy producers in North and South America that was nationalized and still exists today as Quebec hydro. Since then we're a single family office for four generations and now we're multifamily office which means we manage our family's assets alongside those of our friends and other friends high net worth individuals other families or charitable institutions or foundations we don't manage any institutional money but our background has always been in finance. And then as we got more clients in the multifamily office we were investing as our family always had in venture capital private equity. We had to take into consideration we had other clients to look after and when we started to do more V.C. specifically we realized that anything outside of finance related investments were better off being a CO investor not being really a lead acting and more of a passive approach and relying on our partners who are experts in the field be it real estate or wherever to source better deals and bring us on. But on the finance side that's where we believe we really have an expertise. We have a knowledge base and our network is all around finance giving our banking history. So, we felt that we wanted to be more active in the fintech space when we're doing our investments. And we felt that given that the best way to do that is have our own accelerator. So that's where  Holt fintech accelerator came from obviously named at Holt in honor and my great great grandfather and only focused on fintech investments. So, we're super laser focused on what we're doing. We're not diverging into real estate or anything else and we can't pretend to be experts. So it's fintech only and it's there for us and for all of our partners or our clients and our investors and our network to source the best top 10 roughly quality fintech ideas every year from around the world to bring them to Montreal to encircle them in our in our ecosystem and embrace them in our network and help them grow.

Manseeb Khan: How important are accelerators such as yourself in the fintech space right. Because you know startups are really hot right now. I mean there's just tons of accelerators there's tons of incubators and there's tons of other programs for financial tech companies or just any startup company to really get into. So, I guess my question to you is why are accelerators such as yourself important for fintech companies?

Brendan Dunn: Yeah well, I am thinking a first has be on quality the accelerator itself. Obviously, you know if it's a sub performing company or partner, you're working within the quality of you're going to get out of it isn't that great. But let's put aside and say any good accelerator in any industry is very beneficial for startups so that's a general approach now if we talk about fintech specifically or for or Holt fintech. I think it's very important in the sense that all these startups want. They want what they need. They need access to a network be it investors or strategic partners or financial institutions to work with. They need capital and they need guidance on how to structure an operating professional manner and get their due diligence in everything or their corporate governance in order. That's what an accelerator does if it's doing its job. We have over 200 advisors from a you know 30 to 50 of the top 50  VC funds around the world. Most of the most about all the banks in Canada some from the states and we're growing our banking partnerships globally and access to capital and then we have legal teams, financing teams and accounting teams and that also down and helped them structure themselves and that's what we do we accelerate their growth so they come and work with us in a three month very intense program. At the beginning we figure out what their top three needs are during that program. So, each company might have a different need and we tailor the program for them. So, some might need their first institutional client they've got their product ready they've got the marketing anything else is great they just need network we'll focus on making the proper introductions to C-level executives at banks or financial institutions or  VC funds to them. Others might need help structuring or getting the product finalized so we'll tailor the program to them. But we're building is a customized program where the goal is at the end of program, they're ready for the race. They've got our restructured they've got their valuations are financials everything prepared where they can be successful. And we've opened them up to our network to allow them to access where they need to get, they’re either the first client or to grow revenue.

Manseeb Khan: That's incredible yeah. You mentioned something really important customized programs right. I mean having accelerator having a incubate or having a program to help start companies grow is very important to be as flexible as you possibly can because in the startup world everything changes on a day to day to day basis if not an hourly basis right. Things change things get moved around so like creating more flexible program creating a program that is right for every single company that does come in. I think it's very crucial, so we have had Commercial Passport on the show in the past. Yes, actually a part of the Holt accelerator. So I guess could you just let us know what do you guys look for in a company before you take them on and what your bar of entry is right because you talked about you guys you have an intensive program, customized program. Could you just give us I guess a walkthrough of how to get into Holt and take it from there?

Brendan Dunn: One hundred percent Bryce is a Rockstar he's one of our we have a lot of great teams I think all of them are great in the first call so we're quite lucky. I think that also comes down to our screening process. And you know Bryce is a testament to that. He's doing very well, and congratulations is his success to date as it relates in general to how you get in the accelerator. Obviously everyone first goes to our Web site and they fill out an application during the application window which is now closed for this year and our first year if a referencing Bryce for example I think we had four hundred and five applications during a two month application window from around the world. I forget all the stats, but I think from over 50 companies’ sorry companies 50 countries from there it whittles down between who's actually fully completed the entire application. So, I say out of the 400 I assume 250 to 300 those are fully complete the ones that weren't completed. Obviously, we don't throw out, but we say they can't move the next step. Then we let them base on you know we know, or we are in constant communication with our VC funds and our financial tensions and they give us lists of the challenges the problems are looking to solve. So we take that list because those are our partners and those are the ones most likely if it's a V.C. fund to be writing a check at the end of the program or a financial institution to be there partnering or doing a PMC with them or entering some type of relationship with them. So, it's important for us to see what challenges or what the market is looking for in terms of fintech’s for that year. So we take that and we take the top three hundred and we'll narrow that down to 100 not saying the other 200 aren't good it just means you're not a fit currently for what our partners are looking for or what the demand is in the marketplace currently of that top 100. That's when we go into what we call it. It's the face to face conversations. Obviously not everyone's looking in Montreal or Toronto. So we do that all through video chats on those video just 30 minutes and it's always someone from Holt myself or Jan Arp or our team and an adviser mostly V.C. funds at that point because they're very good at getting the due diligence and asking the correct questions about vetting a startup. But there's always an adviser on the call which shows the commitment that our advisors are bringing in providing support. So, we use their feedback. We have 30-minute calls with those top hundred teams. We take the feedback from whoever's on the call. There's two or three people on the call. And we add up the scores and then obviously we have a ranking of the top hundred people the top hundred companies and then we'll top 30 roughly 30 to 40 times or whatever are invited to a formal what we call selection day event in Montreal where they have to hopefully attend in person on our first year we unfortunately had a couple of people that due to visa requirements had to participate remotely. But the goal is to have all the top 30 and 40 teams in-person in Montreal for it to do that. What happens there is a speed dating. So they will have a booth they can set it up and obviously get everything ready and every 15 minutes there's meeting a team of three to five advisors we group the advisers together maybe it's like four people from one bank or four people from different funds we also to make sure it's a good team of people they don't all have to be related but it's speed dating for about five or six hours each day. And in the first day will be 15 teams in the second they will be the next 15 teams. So that's very powerful just for the startups alone and get access to I think last year we had 300 attendees at that event. So very powerful, very valuable for the startups just to attend that event. And then from there once again all the advisors and all the participants and attendees of those speed dating speed dating event in Montreal they score every team based on a system that we prepared. And then we ranked the top 30 teams and get feedback and if we know it Hey every single bank is rated this company in the top five that obviously we're going to pick those. So, we take the ratings and the feedback from all of our participants and advisors which are the V.C. funds and the banks and financial institutions and or angel investors and we use that and we put it all together and hopefully we have a consensus of the top 10. And then the goal is from there to pick the top 10 and invite them formally to invite them to participate in that year's cohort that was last year. This year we had over five hundred and thirty applications even more fully completed. So, it's showing that our brand and our reputation is growing globally and shocking we've actually I think we have extremely strong forward this year which is hard to compete to beat last year's cohort which I think was amazing for our first year. So, we're getting we're constantly getting strong teams around the world. Obviously since we haven't picked the top teams, I can't give a breakdown of where they're going to be based but it's definitely a global reach. So, it's very exciting and I think a very valuable process for startups to go through and hopefully they can be in the top 10.

Manseeb Khan: Yeah. That's incredible. I mean I guess from the start of the show people may have had the I guess idea in their head like oh you know Holt accelerator  is a very small accelerator they're just you know they're on their way to growing you know they're on the route to be something big but like the fact that you guys are growing from 300 to 500 already going globally and under what five years that's in and of itself is a pretty incredible. So, you guys do have if people actually check out the Holt accelerator website you guys have a pretty great breakdown of all the companies that did get accepted in your cohort which happens to be a very diverse group of people. How do you how you see yourself expanding into maybe other aspects of I guess technology and I guess hopefully you can answer as well the programs do you see roll out in the future. I mean do you guys see yourself maybe even having a very AI focused kind of an accelerator or maybe something else. How do you guys kind of see have hold accelerator growing in the next I guess 5 to 10 years.

Brendan Dunn: That's a great question. And we actually have a full shareholding After selection days which are next week in Montreal to discuss that. I think first off on the growth we're still going to always remain laser focused. It's only going to be fintech. We're not going to pretend to become real estate experts and create a real estate accelerator that's on our vision here. We don't want generalists. We don't want to dilute our brand or get greedy and try to do something stupid and pretend to be something we're not. So, anything we do in the future it's always going to be fintech related. That's our expertise that's our background that's our network and that's our reputation. So, it's always going to fintech as it relates to maybe something specific. AI in fintech you can argue that any fintech company needs some type of AI. So, whether they've incorporated or not the most of them could or will benefit from AI. So, you know  we're able to partner with one of the top companies in Canada Stradigiai as well as universities and schools in Montreal as well the nonprofits which as we all know is one of those very Montreal is one the  world leader in AI. So, if we see a fintech company that needs or guidance or help in their A.I. we have the network and the partners be able to assist them in that. But to have an A.I. focused fintech not really possible something fintech most in techs already will need AI if we could have a A.I. focused company accelerator wouldn't really be fintech focused so I think we'd stay away from that. Because again we won't be laser focused on fintech as relates to our growth. What we have seen is not everyone can make the trip or the journey to Canada for the accelerator. So how do you grow and still work with these great startups from around the world. I think our vision is to create hubs in different jurisdictions around the world the same strategy the same vision. It's just having more specific local partners. So obviously in Canada we have strong relationships with the Canadian banks. Does your key demographic. If you're going to be doing business in Canada. So, if we were looking to do something in Australia we would then partner with the Australian banks and they get a network of Australian venture capital funds or  Australian angel investors or Asia Apex Pacific Partners. Same thing for Europe and Latin America. So, I think our growth is to create hubs of the whole fintech accelerator. Different jurisdictions so that we can basically let's say Latin America we can get all the Latin American teams to go to the Latin American fintech accelerator and have relationships with the financial institutions the V.C. funds and the angel investors that are very well-connected and do business in Latin America. Which can be different partners and in Canada. Because if you're a Latin American company which that made it in the Canadian fintech accelerator. Hopefully we can definitely if we bring you we know we can add value but it might not be in the Canadian banks might not be the partners that you're looking for really you want to be strong in your local market which would be back in Latin America. Same for Europe or Australia or other areas around the world. So, I think our growth model is to create specific hubs and different jurisdictions to allow more localized partners in those areas to work with the local fintech’s really create localized ecosystems. So, these companies can then you know basically grow and dominate their local market and then work with our other hubs around the world to expand throughout our network. So basically, creating a global ecosystem with local hubs and then piggybacking from that into other jurisdictions with trusted friends and partners through the accelerator.

Manseeb Khan: Yeah, no doubt mixed that that seems to make a lot of sense. I mean Fintech is globally it's a very it's becoming a very powerful industry. You're having like some of the places you've mentioned like Latin America specifically there's a lot of really amazing fintech companies coming out of Latin America do some really incredible work which is going to help with tons and tons of people. So, what is the most exciting aspect of fintech for you and what are you most excited about when it comes to fintech. I mean you guys have a lot of amazing companies you might be biased on some maybe not but yeah to what are you most excited about when it comes to fintech because of your very deep-rooted family history.

Brendan Dunn: It's a very good question and try and figure out how to answer that. I think fintech in general excites me simply because it's constantly evolving how the world does business. Everyone touches financial institutions as a client as a partner etc. right. So fintech and you know any of our fintech’s that we were honored to work with last year and the ones that we will be working with this year and the future cohorts every one of them is solving a problem to make these a business better whether it's from the KYC AML problem like Bryce was from credit's credit scoring like Curu other ways or just all fintech do is they have these they see these problems in their personal lives or however they come up with their ideas. That they've had in the financial industry and they create a  solution through their startup. So, I'm just excited about fintech in general simply because they're they are trying to make everyone's lives around the world better and easier. You know all this touch finance. Sometimes we have we have headaches, we have problems, we don't wait like waiting in line to the banks et cetera et cetera wires get loss, clearance takes too long to get approved. Invest in the fund takes a month nowadays. So, everyone we're looking at is taking a problem in the financial industry and solving that. So, in general everyone should be supportive of fintech startups because they make people's lives around the world easier.

Manseeb Khan: Yeah. No. I couldn't agree more. FinTech’s really make a lot of lives easier. I mean that's kind of the reason why since I kind of started in the first place Could you let the audience know what the not sure if you can share this what the FinTech show is, I tried googling this. I tried; I didn't find anything on this. What is the FinTech show. Could you let us know?

Brendan Dunn: I just going back to last question is thing you know exciting is the fact that all these giant banks they are amazing they're very good at what they do, and we need them right. But any business that that's big it can't move quickly right. So, the point of fintech or any startup in any industry bespoke some Fintech is to is to solve the problems that the banks can't right. They are small they are nimble they can move quickly they can come up with ideas and they can test them out. And if it works then they have the partners will can adopt it and take it to a global scale to their client base. So definitely very excited about fintech because they can work with their partner. They can solve the current problems that people have in the world and then we can bring them to the partners basically take that out to the masses. As it relates to the with the show itself. That is Jan Arp the managing partners baby. So, whatever you mostly every accelerator does around the world at the end of the three-month program is that they have what's called maybe Demo Day. That's when all the teams have finished the three-month program and you put on a basically a pitch, a pitch show, a pitch contest in the sense where you invite as many people as you can. All your advisors, V.C. funds, potential investors and all the teams you'll get on stage and a present. Who they are? So, it's their final chance at the end to present their companies. You know we've been polishing them and their pitch for the last three months and they open up the round. So, I'm Brendan Dunn I started this company this right do you know it's about a five- or 10-minute presentation and raising this amount of money at this valuation. This one uses the money. That's the standard right. But what we've done is what Jan has done give him full credit is make it more fun. Most those things are dry just blah blah blah, and everyone falls asleep Jan has taken it to the next level. We've gotten great feedback from last year and he's even going to up the ante this year. He's turned it into a show a full actual entertaining enjoyable show just like not going to a movie but it's like going to a live play. The teams still have the chance to put across and pitch what they're doing but the audience is engaged in their interactive and they're not falling asleep so they you know from last year which their first year. Nothing but amazing feedback and chopping on what we've accomplished in that show. And hats off to Jan the end of the day. It's as simple as it is a demo day where the teams are pitching but it's more entertaining enjoyable atmosphere with a little bit of entertainment around there potentially maybe some cirque du soleil people there this year so it's just making it more audience friendly and allowing people to enjoy the moment and focus more and have some cocktails some food. It's a great it's a great evening where people are actually excited to go you know other normally people go. I have to go to a demo day because I'm an adviser this can be quite boring. People have said when is your Fintech Show?  I'm excited to go. Last year was amazing let's do this again. Hats off to what you've done. So that's what it is and congratulations Jan to coming up with that vision. And you know he kind of keeps it closely guarded so I'm excited to see what he does this year to.

Manseeb Khan: I'm excited with the Cirque du Soleil people you sold me on that I'm like that's all I expect and I'm like I'm expecting like a magician maybe some standup. I don't know some like crazy really.

Brendan Dunn: We tried it we tried to make it fun and it did it but at the end of the day the teams this is important part each team still has their time to present themselves. It's just that the audience is more awake and having fun and therefore able to focus on what people are saying.

Manseeb Khan:  Now think of somebody pitching their company or juggling knives. OK. So, Brendan Could you lastly but not leastly could you let us know the best way for the audience to either reach out to you personally. And or Holt accelerator.

Brendan Dunn: Yeah. Generally, the holds accelerator. The info it holds accelerator.ai my personal e-mail is Brendan@holtaccelerator.ai. I am happy to talk to anybody. If people want to apply. I think it's on the website holtaccelerator.ai/apply. The applications close closed for this year but people can already start submitting for next year. You know it's always somewhat open for people to apply and then we close it a couple months before we start selection days for next year. But we have a database of thousands of startups around the world now we're tracking them or monitoring them and we're going to be creating an ecosystem where everyone even if you don't make the accelerator can still participate in our network. So very excited for the future and looking forward to meeting this year's cohort.

Manseeb Khan: Hey you and me both. Brendan Thank you so much for sitting down with me today and I am super excited to have you back on.

Brendan Dunn: It's a pleasure. Thank you so much and always available.

Manseeb Khan: Awesome.

Brendan Dunn: Take care

Outro : you've been listening to fintech Fridays brought to you by NCFA and partners. Tune in weekly for the latest fintech Friday podcast by subscribing to this channel. The National crowdfunding and FinTech Association of Canada is a non-profit actively engaged with social and investment fintech sectors around the globe and provide education research industry stewardship services and networking opportunities to thousands of members and subscribers. For more information please visit and see if a Canada dot org. Oh yea.

 

End of Podcast

 

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NCFA Jan 2018 resize - Fintech Fridays Ep34:  Accelerating Fintech Growth with Brendan Holt Dunn The National Crowdfunding & Fintech Association (NCFA Canada) is a financial innovation ecosystem that provides education, market intelligence, industry stewardship, networking and funding opportunities and services to thousands of community members and works closely with industry, government, partners and affiliates to create a vibrant and innovative fintech and funding industry in Canada. Decentralized and distributed, NCFA is engaged with global stakeholders and helps incubate projects and investment in fintech, alternative finance, crowdfunding, peer-to-peer finance, payments, digital assets and tokens, blockchain, cryptocurrency, regtech, and insurtech sectors. Join Canada's Fintech & Funding Community today FREE! Or become a contributing member and get perks. For more information, please visit: www.ncfacanada.org

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The New York Times | Ruchir Sharma | Jan 20, 2020 To outsiders, China may seem like a surveillance state. But tech has fueled growth and helped stave off recession. Landing in Shanghai recently, I found myself in the middle of a tech revolution remarkable in its sweep. The passport scanner automatically addresses visitors in their native tongues. Digital payment apps have replaced cash. Outsiders trying to use paper money get blank stares from store clerks. Nearby in the city of Hangzhou a prototype hotel called FlyZoo uses facial recognition to open doors, no keys required. Robots mix cocktails and provide room service. Farther south in Shenzhen, we flew the same drones that are already making e-commerce deliveries in rural China. Downtown traffic flowed smoothly, guided by synced stoplights and restrained by police cameras. Outside China, these technologies are seen as harbingers of an “automated authoritarianism,” using video cameras and facial recognition systems to thwart lawbreakers and a “citizen score” to rank citizens for political reliability. An advanced version has been deployed to counter unrest among Muslim Uighurs in the inland region of Xinjiang. But in China as a whole, surveys show that trust in technology is high, concern about ...
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Driverless delivery bot in China - Fintech Fridays Ep34:  Accelerating Fintech Growth with Brendan Holt Dunn
TechCrunch | Danny Crichton | Jan 17, 2020 I talked yesterday about how VCs are just tired these days. Too many deals, too little time per deal, and constant hyper-competition with other VCs for the same equity. One founder friend of mine noted to me last night that he has already received inbound requests from more than 90 investors over the past year about his next round — and he’s not even (presumably) fundraising. “I may have missed a few,” he deadpans — and really, how could one not? All that frenetic activity, though, leads us to the paradox at the heart of 2020 venture capital: It’s the largest funds that are writing the earliest, smallest checks. That’s a paradox because big funds need big rounds to invest in. A billion-dollar fund can’t write 800 $1 million seed checks with dollars left over for management fees (well, they could, but that would be obnoxious and impossible to track). Instead, the usual pattern is that as a firm’s fund size grows, its managing partners increasingly move to later-stage rounds to be able to efficiently deploy that capital. So the $200 million fund that used to write $8 million Series As transforms ...
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VC funding rounds 1 - Fintech Fridays Ep34:  Accelerating Fintech Growth with Brendan Holt Dunn
NCFA and TFI | January 23, 2020 Strengthening Canada's fintech and financial reach through collaboration, competition and networking at FFCON20 TORONTO, ON / ACCESSWIRE / January 23, 2020 / The National Crowdfunding & Fintech Association of Canada (NCFA) and Toronto Finance International (TFI) announced today a collaborative partnership and the joint launch of the 2020 Fintech and Financing Conference and Expo (FFCON20) to be held in downtown Toronto on March 23-24, 2020. The theme for the 6th annual FFCON is RISE, reflecting the joint efforts of the two associations, NCFA and TFI, to build and increase the success and sustainability of Canada's fintech and financial sector. With finance and fintech touching virtually every business and entity of people's lives, FFCON draws national interest and global participation from high-growth startups and leading industry experts across a variety of disciplines and backgrounds. You will find fintech entrepreneurs from across all fintech sectors including digital banking, peer to peer finance, AI, capital markets, wealth management, payments, crypto and blockchain along with innovative financial institutions, investors, regulators, government and major industry stakeholders, all in one place. FFCON facilitates thought-provoking and relevant discussions, lively debates and personal networking for the cross-pollination of ideas and experiences ...
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FFCON20 Homepage Banner v1 - Fintech Fridays Ep34:  Accelerating Fintech Growth with Brendan Holt Dunn
Wealthsimple | Press Release | Jan 21, 2020 Wealthsimple Cash offers 2.4% interest rate and lets Canadians save and spend through a mobile app and metal card TORONTO, Jan. 21, 2020 /CNW/ - Wealthsimple has launched its first hybrid saving and spending product: Wealthsimple Cash. The new account offers users the ability to save and spend with one of Canada's highest non-promotional interest rates of 2.4% - in addition to a host of features that help people earn more on every dollar in their Cash account. Wealthsimple Cash combines a saving and spending account to give Canadians the power to have both an account that allows for everyday purchases while also providing a safe place to grow their money. Cash clients will benefit from no monthly account fees, no low balance fees, no foreign transaction fees worldwide, and ATM fee reimbursements - all through a sleek, metal card designed to make spending responsibly easy. "Canadians are used to the status quo when it comes to everyday banking - multiple accounts, high fees and low interest," said Michael Katchen, CEO and co-founder, Wealthsimple. "With Wealthsimple Cash, users can enjoy the power of a high interest savings account for all of their day-to-day spending needs ...
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wealthsimple account - Fintech Fridays Ep34:  Accelerating Fintech Growth with Brendan Holt Dunn