Tech’s raid on the banks

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The Economist | May 2, 2019

digital pig - Tech’s raid on the banksOVER THE past two decades people across the world have seen digital services transform the economy and their lives. Taxis, films, novels, noodles, doctors and dog-walkers can all be summoned with a tap of a screen. Giant firms in retailing, carmaking and the media have been humbled by new competitors. Yet one industry has withstood the tumult: banking. In rich countries it is perfectly normal to queue in branches, correspond with your bank by post and deposit cheques stamped with the logo of firms founded in the 19th century.

See:  Why Open Banking Represents a Seismic Shift for Fintech

Yet, as our special report this week explains, technology is at last shaking up banking. In Asia payment apps are a way of life for over 1bn users. In the West mobile banking is reaching critical mass—49% of Americans bank on their phones—and tech giants are muscling in. Apple unveiled a credit card with Goldman Sachs on March 25th. Facebook is proposing a payments service to let users buy tickets and settle bills (see article).

The implications are profound because banks are not ordinary firms. It is one thing for Blockbuster Video to be wiped out by a technological shift, but quite another if the victim is Bank of America. It is not just that banks have over $100trn of assets globally. Using the difficult trick of “maturity transformation” (turning deposits that you can demand back at any time into long-term loans) they enable savers to defer consumption and investment and borrowers to bring them forward. Banks are so vital that the economy reels when they stumble, as the crisis of 2008-09 showed.

Bankers and politicians may thus be tempted to resist technological change. But that would be wrong because its benefits—a leaner, more user-friendly and more open financial system—easily outweigh the risks.

Banking is late to the smartphone age because entrepreneurs have been put off by regulations. And, since the financial crisis, Western banks have been preoccupied with repairing their balance-sheets and old-fashioned cost-cutting. Late is better than never, however. Several new business models are emerging. In Asia payment apps are bundled with e-commerce, chat and ride-hailing services offered by firms such as Alibaba and Tencent in China and Grab in South-East Asia. These networks link to banks but are vying to control the customer relationship. In America and Europe big banks are still more or less in control and are rushing to offer digital products—JPMorgan Chase can open a deposit account in five minutes. But threats loom. Mobile-only “neobanks” that do not bear the cost of branches are nibbling at customer bases. Payments firms like PayPal work with Western banks but are expected to capture a greater share of profits. Lucrative niches like foreign exchange and asset management are being harried by new entrants.

See:  Open banking data tapped to speed up laundering checks

The pace of change will accelerate. Younger people no longer stay with the same bank as their parents—15% of British 18- to 23-year-olds use a neobank. Tech firms that people trust, such as Apple and Amazon, are natural candidates to grow big financial arms. The biggest four American banks are spending a total of over $25bn a year on perfecting better customer applications and learning to mine data more cleverly. Venture-capital firms invested $37bn in upstart financial firms last year.

The benefits of technological change are likely to be vast. Costs should tumble as branches are shut, creaking mainframe systems retired and bureaucracy culled. If the world’s listed banks chopped expenses by a third, the saving would be worth $80 a year for every person on Earth. In 2000 the Netherlands had more bank branches per head than America; it now has just a third as many. Rotten service will improve—it is easier to get money to a friend using a chat app than it is to ask your bank to transfer cash. The system will get better at its vital job of allocating capital. Richer data will allow banks to take risks that currently baffle underwriters. Fraud should be easier to spot. Lower costs and the democratising effect of social media will give more people better access to finance. And more firms with good ideas should be able to get loans faster, boosting growth.

Yet change also poses risks. Because the financial system is embedded in the economy, innovation tends to create turbulence. The credit card’s arrival in 1950 revolutionised shopping but also sparked America’s consumer-debt culture. Securitisation lubricated capital markets in the 1980s but fuelled the subprime crisis. In addition, it is unclear who will win today’s battle. One dystopian scenario is that power becomes more concentrated, as a few big banks learn to exploit data as ruthlessly as social-media firms do. Imagine a crossbreed of Facebook and Wells Fargo that predicts and manipulates how customers behave and is able to use proprietary economic data to squeeze rivals.

See:  Fintech firms want to shake up banking, and that worries the Fed

Another dystopia involves fragmentation and destabilisation. Banks could lose depositors to untested neobanks, creating a mismatch between their assets and liabilities that could lead to a credit crunch. If bank customers transact via tech or payment platforms, banks could end up with huge balance-sheets but without a direct connection to their clients. If they thus became unprofitable, they could be broken up, with the job of financing mortgages and absorbing short-term savings left entirely to capital markets, which are volatile.

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NCFA Jan 2018 resize - Tech’s raid on the banks 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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AS/COA | Luisa Horwitz | February 19, 2020 In a region where a large portion of the population is underbanked, fintech offers an innovative solution for Latin America, paving the way for wider financial development, competition, and inclusion in the region. In the case of Argentina, fintech startups are sprouting and spreading fast. Pierpaolo Barbieri, founder of the startup Ualá, talked with AS/COA Online’s Luisa Horwitz about what motivated him to make the financial system more accessible in Argentina, a country where more than half of people have never had access to a non-cash payment method. “What we try to do is democratize access to financial services,” says Barbieri, who in this episode also covers the generational divide when it comes to fintech, as well as what the sector looks like across Latin America. “We don’t want to change the system from within; what we want is a new system.”  Continue to the full article --> here See Fintech Friday Podcast Episodes 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 ...
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UK FCA | Feb 21, 2020 This analysis also contributes to the decisions we make affecting consumers, market integrity and competition. Drivers of change The first chapter describes the common themes across sectors with a focus on those themes that are having the greatest impact on the sectors we regulate. And in the light of EU withdrawal and its impact on financial services markets, we give an overview of our position in the current international context. The 7 sectors The remaining chapters cover all the markets we regulate: retail banking and payments retail lending general insurance and protection pensions savings and retirement income retail investments investment management wholesale financial markets Continue to the full article --> here Download the 86 page PDF Report - Sector Views (Key Areas of Harm Identified) 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, ...
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TransUnion Canada | Release | Feb 24, 2020 New TransUnion study considers common myths around the profile of FinTech borrowers in Canada FinTechs are not just attracting younger Canadians: 46% of FinTech borrowers are over the age of 40 Short-term loans are not the primary focus for FinTechs: 88% of FinTech loan terms are between 13-60 months FinTechs are not just catering to 'underbanked': 51% of FinTech consumers have 3 or more existing credit products TORONTO, Feb. 24, 2020 /CNW/ - A new study from TransUnion explores the evolving trends around the FinTech lender landscape in Canada. The research study analyzed over 21 million non-mortgage credit products originated in Canada from Q1 2017 to Q2 2018. The study's findings reveal key insights that appear to debunk commonly held beliefs around the profile of FinTech borrowers in Canada, as well as the ways that FinTech lenders are employing and embracing different credit strategies compared to some of the more traditional lenders. See:  Robocop vs. Terminator in Fintech; Comparing DeFi originations to Digital Lenders in the early years The study defined FinTech lenders as those who rely on advanced computer algorithms or other technology as their primary platform to enable, support or ...
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Forbes | Michael del Castillo | Feb 19, 2020 Credit card giant Visa has granted its principal membership to a cryptocurrency company for the first time. Officially awarded to cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase in December, but not revealed to the public until today, the membership cuts out a crucial, and expensive middleman from the process of issuing a debit card that lets users spend their own bitcoin, ether and XRP anywhere Visa is accepted. Perhaps even more importantly though, the principal membership makes Coinbase the first cryptocurrency company with the power to issue debit cards for others, including other cryptocurrency companies and more traditional firms alike. Visa confirmed it granted Coinbase the principal membership, clarifying that the company itself won’t actually accept cryptocurrency when the project goes live later this year. See:  Visa R&D Arm Develops a Blockchain System That Could Replace Financial Data Aggregators While Coinbase says it’s not planning on issuing cards to others anytime soon, the principal membership status marks a potentially important new revenue stream for the company, which Forbes estimates saw a 40% decline in earnings last year. By simplifying the process of spending cryptocurrency anywhere Visa is accepted, the membership also lays the foundation for ...
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Forbes | Ron Shevlin | Feb 21, 2020 LendingClub, one of the nation’s first peer-to-peer lenders (oops! I mean, “marketplace” lenders—real ”peer to peer” lending lasted all of about a month), announced it plans to acquire Radius Bank, a relatively small Boston-based bank, unknown to most people outside of the industry (and within, for that matter). The press release announcing the pending deal contained the usual platitudes from the acquiring CEO: “This is a transformational transaction that allows us to reimagine banking in a way that is free from legacy practices and systems. We will create a category-defining experience for our members that will dramatically enhance the resilience and earnings trajectory of our business.” Despite the buzzword-laden proclamation, this acquisition makes a lot of sense for both parties for reasons that go beyond what many observers have reported on. The Short-Term Benefits Aren’t About Radius Bank Much of the discussion about the deal has focused on the obvious and shorter-term benefits of the acquisition, including a more stable source of funding and a $40 million reduction in bank fees and funding costs, both of which will help boost the spread Lending Club earns on the loans it keeps on its ...
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Pymnts | February 18, 2020 Online bank N26‘s decision to exit the U.K. has customers feeling left behind, CNBC reported. The Berlin-based digital bank said it would not be able to operate in the country anymore in the wake of Brexit, as it will no longer have a license to do business there. The startup will shutter all of its U.K. locations on April 15. N26 made its entry into the U.K. in October of 2018 — more than two years after the U.K. made its decision to leave the European Union, but six months before Brexit was officially planned. However, the fact that N26 used Brexit in its reasoning to leave the U.K. hasn’t sat well with some. One customer in London told CNBC that he was “outraged” that the company had used Brexit as an excuse, calling it “fake news.” He said N26 needed “an excuse” for investors, and had found in Brexit a convenient scapegoat so that it wasn’t N26’s own failure. Others said they were disappointed in the closure, enjoying the extra bonuses that come with accounts. See:  Majority of London FinTechs not prepared for no-deal Brexit N26 is one among a new breed of branchless ...
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Betakit | Isabelle Kirkwood | Feb 10, 2020 PwC Canada and CB Insights have released the MoneyTree report on Canadian investment trends for the second half and full year of 2019 (all figures in USD). “Increased competition for funding from global investors has created a healthy funding environment for Canadian startups.” Last year saw Canadian venture capital (VC) funding rise to a record-setting $4.1 billion. Although Canadian funding experienced an 11 percent decline in deal count last year, the report tracked a 16 percent increase in year-over-year funding. Some massive rounds from last year were not included in this year’s report, including Verafin’s round, as the company did not disclose the debt and equity break out, and Sonder’s $210 million raise as the company is now headquartered in the United States. A strong year for AI, FinTech, cybersecurity Artificial intelligence companies saw increased investor attention in 2019, investment in Canadian AI companies more than doubled in the second half of 2019. Last year’s funding to Canadian AI companies saw a 49 percent year-over-year increase in 2019 to $658 million with deal count reaching a new record at 57 deals. See:  The paradox of 2020 VC is that the largest funds ...
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Forbes | Billy Bambrough | Feb 18, 2020 Samsung, the South Korean technology giant and creator of the Galaxy smartphone range, could soon become one of the biggest drivers of bitcoin, crypto and blockchain adoption. While bitcoin traders and investors are focused on the upcoming bitcoin halving, a looming U.S. bitcoin crackdown, and rocky crypto trading volume, Samsung is putting the power of bitcoin, crypto and blockchain in people's hands. Last week, Samsung, which makes up 19% of global smartphone sales and last year sold almost 300 million phones according to data site Statista, unveiled it latest Galaxy smartphone range with its new flagships the S20, S20+ and S20 Ultra models. These new 5G enabled smartphones build on the Galaxy S10 ranges' bitcoin, cryptocurrency and blockchain support, which last year was revealed to boast a built-in bitcoin and cryptocurrency wallet. "We created a secure processor dedicated to protecting your PIN, password, pattern, and Blockchain Private Key," Samsung wrote on its website, announcing the new S20 Galaxy phones. "Combined with the Knox platform, security is infused into every part of your phone, from hardware to software. So private data stays private." Samsung's so-called Blockchain Keystore was introduced last year, initially with ...
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Bank Innovation | Rick Morgan | Jan 22, 2020 HSBC is improving payments for its business clients through a suite of tools launched last week called Treasury APIs, which are designed to speed up payments for small businesses and large corporate clients alike.  HSBC’s Treasury APIs embed payment capabilities into other workflows. According to the bank, this allows treasurers to make payments from their own workstations without logging into a proprietary bank platform. Clients receive confirmation that a payment request has been received and can track payments from their accounts to recipients. Nadya Hijazi, head of digital, global liquidity and cash management at HSBC, said clients using the tool include e-commerce platforms, treasury teams and mutual fund teams.  The new products let HSBC business clients pay suppliers more quickly; Hijazi said payments that used to take anywhere from one or two days in the past now take about 10 or 20 seconds.  HSBC, which is headquartered in London, has $2.7 trillion in assets. Treasury APIs are now available in 27 markets throughout Asia, Europe, the Middle East and the Americas. The bank piloted the tools in India last summer.  See:  HSBC Canada Breaks from Big Six Banks in Call to Encourage Fintechs In addition to paying suppliers, HSBC business customers can also issue ...
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