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WE NEED FINTECHS NOW MORE THAN EVER

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Lubaina Manji, Senior Programme Manager, Nesta Challenges

 

Whilst the sun is far from setting on the COVID-19 pandemic, predictions and hopes for a new “normal” are shimmering on the horizon.

 

Amid the trail of devastation left by the virus, there has to be some semblance of change and positivity to be taken. One such shift is the increase in digital services usage which poses a huge opportunity for our fintech community. Confinement has forced even the more sceptical of us to dabble in digital, and embrace how it has made many everyday tasks more easy and convenient.

 

Online and mobile banking has been helping many people stay on top of their finances for some time. Research conducted by Open Up 2020 Challenge last summer found half (48%) of people would like to use online tools and apps to help them manage their money[1].

 

Then along came a global pandemic that has undoubtedly forced the hands of even the more sceptical to log on, download and transact – quickening the pace of long-lasting change in terms of how we manage our money. Recent figures from deVere Group suggest the virus is behind a 72% rise in the use of fintech apps in Europe[2]. Never before have we been so reliant on technology in maintaining some sort of normalcy and in helping us continue day-to-day tasks, like everyday banking.

 

Another unfortunate byproduct of protecting communities from the virus means many people have been left out of work and with less or no income. In times of financial strain, the need for people to engage with their finances – be it budgeting, saving or shopping around for better deals – is far greater.

 

Issues of trust in traditional banking services and a lack of awareness of the helpful money management services available are some of the barriers preventing people from taking more control of their finances. But the solutions made possible through open banking can provide people with a lifeline to build their financial resilience and better manage their money.

 

Open banking has the potential to revolutionise financial services, by giving people control over their financial data in order to access innovative products tailored to them. Since it launched in 2018, open banking technology has opened the door for new fintech innovators to create cutting-edge tools designed to help people better manage their money – from budgeting, debt management, comparing and switching banks to automating savings and more. These could have a significant impact – it is estimated that UK consumers could gain as much as £12bn over the course of a year from open banking-enabled tools[3].

 

So far, it’s been effective – the UK FinTech’s State of the Nation report[4] totted up more than 1,600 fintech firms in the UK in 2019, whilst predicting this could more than double by 2030. Figures from the Open Banking Implementation Entity showed there were 243 regulated providers, 169 third party providers and 74 account providers as of April 2020[5]. The UK adoption rate of fintech is 42% – higher than the global average of 33% – making it ripe for opportunity[6]. Coupled with lockdown restrictions creating greater dependence on technology – including ATM cash withdrawals falling by half[7] – fintechs are well placed to be part of the solution – and offer help to those struggling to manage.

 

With more than a fifth (21%) of the adult population saying financial stress is having a bigger impact on their mental wellbeing than physical health concerns during the crisis, and a quarter more stressed about money than usual[8], fintechs can be part of the support available to them.

 

However, in order to fully realise the opportunity we need to ensure budding entrepreneurs with bold ideas have the means to turn them into reality. Nesta Challenges exists to design and run challenge prizes that incentivise people to help solve pressing social problems that lack solutions. Through our Open Up 2020 Challenge we are supporting 15 fintech finalists to develop their solutions to enable more people – particularly those underserved by traditional financial products – to manage their finances better, whatever their circumstances.

 

Of the 15 finalists, some offer app designed to help people budget,, save, switch and invest – aided with alerts and notifications that allow people to stay on top of their finances and make their money work harder for them for the long term. For example, Cleo is an AI financial assistant that is already helping more than 3 million customers monitor their spending, budgeting and saving, while Moneyhub empowers people to do more with their money by offering actionable insights from a review of all of their accounts.

 

Some of the apps are designed for those with more specific circumstances, such as Mojo Mortgages, which analyses income and transaction data for first time buyers to produce mortgage affordability scores and savings recommendations if they aren’t quite ready to apply. Finalists Portify and Wagestream cater for workers with irregular earning patterns.

 

As well as monetary grants, Open Up 2020 Challenge provides these companies with non-financial support and promotion to help them on their way to achieving their full potential – which in turn helps them reach many people to help them achieve their monetary goals.

 

While COVID-19 has created personal finance headaches for many, it has been inspiring to see how quickly fintechs have been able to innovate and develop digital solutions that help solve these problems and equip people to better manage their money.

[1] Open Up 2020 Challenge

[2] Forbes 2020

[3] Open banking Consumer Priorities for Open Banking report

[4] UK Fintech State of the Nation

[5] Open banking Highlights April 2020

[6] UK Fintech State of the Nation

[7] https://www.link.co.uk/about/statistics-and-trends/

[8] Open Up 2020 Challenge

Finance

ENLISTING TECHNOLOGY TO HELP FIGHT FINANCIAL CRIME

By Rachel Woolley, Director of Financial Crime Fenergo

 

Million-dollar properties, private jets and parties on luxury yachts with celebrity friends. Although it might sound like the plot for a new reality series, this is what corruption, illicit funds and political connections can buy at the expense of ordinary citizens.

Following an investigation by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ)[1], thousands of leaked documents, known as the Luanda Leaks, suggest that the daughter of Angola’s former president, Isabel Dos Santos, acquired her enormous wealth through favourable access to lucrative deals. These activities were often to the detriment of Angola’s poorest citizens.

We’ve also started to see the application of unexplained wealth orders (UWO) in the UK, with the first UWO issued in 2018. The latest UWOs relate to the grandson of Kazakhstan’s former president, Nurali Aliyev[2], is currently being investigated by Britain’s National Crime Agency (NCA) to explain where he got the money to buy a £80 million house in one of London’s most expensive neighbourhoods. It is thought that the funds used to buy the property have criminal origins.

But these aren’t isolated stories. There have been countless examples in recent years of how corruption, fraud and political connections has resulted in billions of dollars being stolen worldwide in countries such as Brazil, Malaysia, Gabon, Russia and many more.

A recent report by Fenergo found that regulators have issued over $36 billion in AML/KYC and sanctions-related fines (and rising) since the financial crisis. This staggering number shows that related financial institutions had inadequate policy, processes, procedures and systems, in addition to poor governance and oversight in many cases.  Interestingly, a similar report found that the vast majority of these regulatory costs were associated with an AML/KYC-specific labour force.

Not surprisingly, the methods used to hide the illicit wealth are pretty similar; invoice fraud, suspicious transfers, offshore companies and complex ownership structures to disguise beneficial ownership of assets and property. Another commonality is the detrimental impact this has on some of the poorest citizens in these countries and the global economy.

But what can we learn from these scandals? And perhaps more importantly, what can be done?

For financial institutions, the importance of leveraging technology to unwrap complex hierarchies, related parties and identifying individuals with political connections cannot be understated. Understanding the ownership and control structure when onboarding entities is critical, along with robust screening practices to enable sufficient oversight of the relationship, accounts and transaction activity. Enhanced due diligence measures must be applied to politically exposed persons (PEPs), their immediate family members and known close associates. Relationship patterns are also significant, as the same service providers are often used, as was the case with Mossack Fonseca in the Panama Papers scandal.

It’s critical that financial institutions are vigilant in the detection and prevention of financial crime before it’s too late.  By automating KYC/AML compliance and leveraging rules-based technology, financial institutions can ensure that internal policies are fully in-line with constantly changing regulations across multiple jurisdictions.  However, human input will still be necessary when red flags are identified by the system.

 

Biography:

Rachel Woolley, Global AML Manager at Fenergo, has over 10 years’ experience in the Financial Services industry having worked primarily in the funds industry and retail banking. She has a strong background in regulatory compliance, particularly in the areas of anti-money laundering and counter terrorist financing (AML/CTF).

Rachel holds a BSc (Hons) Degree in Applied Accounting from the Oxford Brookes University and is an ACCA Affiliate. She currently holds three professional designations; Licentiate of the Association of Compliance: Officers in Ireland (LCOI), Certified Financial Crime Prevention Practitioner (CFCPP) and Certified Data Protection Officer (CDPO).

[1]https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-51218501

[2] https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2020/mar/10/uk-issues-unexplained-wealth-order-over-kazakhstan-familys-house

 

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Business

CONSUMERS ARE READY FOR BIOMETRIC PAYMENT CARDS

Lina Andolf-Orup, Head of Marketing at Fingerprints

 

We’ve come a long way in the evolution of digital payments. Magnetic stripe cards, chip & PIN and contactless technology have all played a role in dethroning cash as ‘king of payments’, with many countries well on their way to becoming cashless economies. As with all tech innovation, though, consumer readiness is always the deciding factor in the crowning of new payments royalty.

Now there’s a new technology on the block, ready to help contactless offer even more value: the biometric payment card. In recent years, biometric payment cards have been steadily gathering momentum, currently being trialled by over 20 banks across the world, with the first commercial launch announced last year. A mass-market roll-out is imminent.

But with all the noise from the payments world, it’s important to answer the de facto question that’s key to any technology’s success: are consumers ready?

 

Lina Andolf-Orup

Contactless is (almost) king

Contactless has achieved great success globally, and are now seeing a steep increase across the world.

In addition to consumers being frustrated with having to remember a plethora of PINs and passwords, the current pandemic has also brought to light the unhygienic nature of cash and PIN-enabled payments. Now more than ever, consumers are eager to use a secure, convenient, and hygienic payment method. And contactless almost fits the bill.

Although consumers want to use their contactless card more often, security worries, payment experience frustrations, and the limiting payment cap are all preventing the card from reaching its full potential usage.

The missing link

This is where biometrics comes into play: the missing element that can take contactless into the era of worriless and limitless payments, and provide consumers an experience they expect in the 21st century. With consumers clear about what they want, let’s take a look at what’s top of their checklist and how biometrics can fill in the gaps to realize their ideal payment experience.

 

  1. Smarter, safer contactless. Just for you.

Security is a primary concern for consumers when it comes to contactless, with 38% of consumers citing security as the main reason they are hesitant to use the payment method. For older generations, this number rises to almost 50%.Yet with hygiene concerns at an all-time high, many consumers aren’t eager to use PIN-pads to secure their payments either. By moving the authentication onto the card itself, biometrics secure payments in a way that allows consumers to never touch a PIN pad again.

With the rise of data privacy concerns, consumers can rest assured that their biometric data never leaves the card and won’t be shared with third parties or cloud-based databases. Everything remains securely stored on the payment card itself.

 

  1. Let’s talk about UX

Although every generation is keen to use contactless more, millennials are especially eager to take greater advantage of this convenient payment method. 87% of millennials that own a contactless card use it regularly and three quarters are set to use it more often.

Biometrics bring additional trust to contactless payments, while keeping the same level of convenience, allowing consumers to make a secure payment in less than a second. And with a unified experience so you know what to expect every time you pay; not PIN code sometime, contactless another time, it always works the same no matter where you are in the world.

Because a biometric payment card does not need to be charged – it’s powered from the payment terminal in the same way traditional contactless is – there is nothing standing in the way of efficiency-loving consumers embracing this technology.

 

  1. Contactless made limitless

To offset the lack of PIN security, traditional contactless payments are capped. In light of the current hygiene concerns, countries around the world have already raised contactless payment caps in a bid to reduce PIN entry and cash use. But without any additional strong authentication, the limit has not been lifted completely anywhere to date. This is not only frustrating consumers, but our recent research found this was the primary frustration banks felt regarding contactless.

With the touch of a finger, biometrics brings the robust security needed to remove contactless payment limits altogether. Across contactless cards, mobile, wearables – and even future payment options – biometrics can provide a strong and seamless authentication solution to however we choose to pay or whatever contactless form or shape. Limitless payments with a harmonized UX, wherever consumers are, however much they spend, and wherever they pay: the perfect companion in the age of convenience.

 

  1. Tech nation

A less pressing, although by no means trivial matter, is that consumers are simply ready for something new. Over a third of consumers want to use more modern and personal payment cards, and biometrics sits alongside metal cards, tailored designs and other innovations to do just that. Not to mention that the standard contactless card, the last great innovation in card payments, is now over a decade old!

Featuring the latest fingerprint sensors and an advanced algorithm with AI, biometric payment cards not only meet the criteria for a modern and next-generation payment card but offer the most personal touch imaginable. Your fingerprint.

 

  1. Ready to roll…

We’ve arrived at a crucial point in the evolution of payments. With the technology tested and accredited in line with the rigorous standards of the payments ecosystem, the mass market adoption of this technology is just around the corner. But most importantly, consumers have never been more ready to embrace limitless and worriless contactless.

 

 

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