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Three reasons to be optimistic about fintech in 2022

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by Stephen Lemon, Co-Founder and Vice President, Strategic Partnerships & Corporate Development at Currencycloud

 

It’s become cliched to point out the strangeness of the past few years, but it remains true. In the context of the past 24 months, making bold predictions for the next 12 might seem a bit foolhardy.

But while it’s not been easy, the financial sector has managed to perform well amid uncertainty. Perhaps most promisingly, fintech, an industry that exists to digitise, upgrade, and improve old and outdated processes, has thrived in an era of change and upheaval.

This progressive and reformist nature means that when the fintech industry does well, it brings others with it too – and fortunately, the industry looks to be in a strong position for the year to come. Here are three key reasons to be optimistic about the sector in 2022.

This year will be a tipping point for embedded finance 

2022 will be a big year for embedded finance, the term used to describe the act of companies (often non-financial ones) integrating financial products or services with their existing business. A bicycle retailer, for instance, may see bike sales as its main revenue source – but it could supplement this by offering bicycle insurance products as well.

But why will 2022 be such an important year? Two convergent trends point in this direction.

Firstly, we’ve seen fintech companies increasingly focus on developing services that are made available through APIs. An API is a code that lets two applications talk to one another, and in practice this allows businesses to easily integrate features like payments, credit, and insurance to existing applications or services their customers are already using – like making invoice payments through an accounting package, or trading stocks within your banking app.

The second is the unprecedented digitalisation we’ve seen over the past couple of years. This means there are now many more companies with a strong digital platform onto which they can bolt-on financial products or services.

If you also factor in the need for companies to identify new revenue streams in the wake of economic disruption, it’s easy to see why embedded finance is so attractive.

Niche fintech services begin to broaden their proposition

Over the past few years, companies from fintech subsectors like insurtech and wealthtech burst out of the gate in what you might call the great unbundling – niche providers offering a single, specialist service in insurance or wealth management, and not doing a whole lot else.

Increasingly, we’re seeing that logic flipped. In effect, the great unbundling has become the great re-bundling. Now those same specialists are beginning to broaden their offering – like wealthtechs that have won customers with a core proposition now providing other banking services.

Some forward-thinking industry commentators believe the future of financial services lies with companies that are best able to curate a selection of very high-quality services and APIs and offer them to customers – not necessarily the businesses who develop proprietary propositions.

This means many businesses that were once happy to sit alongside other niche providers are now vying for the same customers. Who wins will play a big part in deciding what the future of the fintech industry looks like.

Crypto mania to mask more interesting emergence of real-world DeFi applications

Few will be surprised if crypto continues to be red hot this year, despite inevitable continued volatility. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of this will be companies, governments, and other groups introducing more practical use cases for crypto and other forms of decentralised finance, or DeFi.

We’ve already seen growing support for Bitcoin as legal tender in Latin America following its adoption by El Salvador, a move derided by some but ultimately carried out as a play to tackle import-driven fluctuations in domestic prices.

We’ve also seen the UK government continue to make noises around the development of a British CBDC – a ‘Britcoin’. A relatively unproven concept, CBDCs are nonetheless a tantalising prospect to many: central banks could gain a razor-sharp monetary policy tool, quite unlike anything they have today, with the potential to apply different interest rates across different parts of the economy.

Of course, cryptocurrency is just one application of DeFi. By removing intermediaries and enabling finance to become an action taken up directly between two individuals, or indeed individual companies, DeFi could have massive implications for banks and other financial institutions, while potentially revolutionising everything from music royalties to contract law.

A year of optimism for the fintech industry

The past few years have been dominated by doom and gloom. Fortunately, there are reasons to be optimistic for 2022. What’s good for the fintech industry – whether a company that moves money around the world more easily, or one that helps businesses spot financial crime more easily – is often good for society too. I think that’s as good a reason as any to be optimistic for 2022.

 

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How to Build Your Credit Up Safely

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by Taylor McKnight, Author for Compare Credit

 

What Is Credit?
Credit is money owed by a person that allows them to pay off debts at a lower interest rate. Most banks use your credit score to determine how much they should lend you. Any business loan or mortgage requires that you have a good credit history. However, if someone has poor credit(www.comparecredit.com/credit-cards/credit-range/poor/), they may struggle to pay back these loans, resulting in higher interest payments, making it more difficult than ever to repay the debt. Lenders are aware of this issue and keep a close eye on your credit rating to ensure that no negative information gets reported. This could prevent you from getting another loan in the future. It is important to note that having a bad credit score does not mean you have had a bankruptcy or other kinds of defaults. Many people often face this problem because of unpaid bills or late payment fees. However, this does not mean that you cannot repair your credit – it simply means that all parties involved must work together to solve the problem.

How to build your credit safely
Building your credit score is a major concern for most people, especially if they plan to purchase something as big as a home or car. A good credit score will help one get better rates in the future and make it easier to finance their next venture. Here are some things you should know to improve your credit to be used for the best possible purposes.

1. Keep paying down your balances every month: One of the biggest mistakes that could hurt your credit score is not paying your balance down each month. People who don’t pay their credit card down within the agreed-upon time typically have high-interest rates and expensive monthly costs.

2. Pay your bills on time: The same goes for making payments on a bill. Not paying it within the specified timeframe will result in negative information being added to your report, further lowering your credit score. Ensure that your bank statements are accurate and that all accounts are up to date.

3. Become an authorized user: Some companies will allow customers to become authorized users after meeting certain requirements. Take a look at the terms and conditions before applying for this option. These programs usually give access to one particular service, such as checking or ATM transactions, but are helpful when you need additional coverage.

4. Set up automatic credit card payments: There are several ways to set up auto payment options on your credit cards, including sending them directly to your checking account via email or the phone. In addition, you may want to consider enrolling in online banking services that automatically make payments from your checking account into your credit card accounts.

Other tips when it comes to credit
1. Learn how to manage debt responsibly. This is true for both personal and business debts. Many people tend to spend more than they earn, especially during rapid growth and expansion. If you find yourself facing difficult circumstances, you can seek assistance by talking to friends and family members, getting professional advice, or using online budgeting tools.

2. Don’t skip any repayments. This rule applies specifically to late payments. You need to continue making regular payments, even if you’re behind by a few days or weeks. Once you miss a payment, you’ll start accumulating late payments that negatively impact your score.

3. Try consolidating your loans. Consolidation involves combining multiple small loans from various sources into one large loan, thereby lowering the total interest cost of the loan and reducing the risk associated with it.

4. Be wise with your credit report. One huge mistake most people make is neglecting to pay their bills on time or paying only the minimum due balance each month. As a result, bad information remains on their reports, impacting their scores. All outstanding balances must be paid off completely. Otherwise, negative items that remain on your report can keep you from achieving the best borrowing potential.

5. Get your questions answered. If you have any questions regarding your credit, ask for answers now rather than waiting until you’re experiencing trouble. With a little research, you should be able to learn enough to begin repairing your damaged credit report.

What to look out for that can harm your credit
1. Not checking your credit report: Most people use their credit cards frequently but fail to check their credit reports periodically. Checking at least every 12 months can give you valuable insight into whether or not there are errors on your credit.

2. Paying your bills late: Late payments can lead to hard inquiries affecting your score, which means it appears that you’ve applied for more credit elsewhere. Make sure you never miss a bill.

3 You Close Old or Inactive Credit Cards: If your close old cards, they may show up on your credit report for some time. Closing accounts can impact your score by causing “hard inquiries” that appear on your credit report. Before closing them, look for inactive or closed card accounts on your credit report.

4. You Have Negative Records: Many people think they’re protected because they haven’t had past credit problems. However, many factors may cause a “bad” rating to linger. A single application for a credit product with a low limit may count towards a negative review.

5. There Are Errors on Your Report: Mistakes such as missing debt or inflated balances can damage your credit report. Find out how much money you owe and what types of products you purchased, then try to dispute those entries on your credit report. Ensure you correct any information that needs to be corrected. Failing to do so could hurt your chances of getting approved for future credit.

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2022 ESG Investment Trends

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Jay Mukhey, Senior Director, ESG at Finastra

 

Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) themes have been front and center throughout the pandemic. While the framework has been surging in popularity for several years, COVID-19 served as a period of reflection causing many companies, investors and other individuals to take these factors seriously. It’s something that we can no longer afford to ignore.

Jay Mukhey

We are witnessing drought, adverse weather patterns, hotter climates, and wildfires with more regularity, raising the profile of the climate crisis. Efforts were renewed at COP26 in Glasgow last November to help address the challenge, with the signing of the Glasgow Climate Pact and agreement of the Paris Rulebook. As a result, we are now seeing record net new inflows into ESG investing and impact.

 

Evaluating ESG criteria

Long gone are the days when ESG issues were at the periphery of a company’s operations. In just a few short years, ESG criteria have become a key metric for investors to evaluate businesses they are considering investing in.

Investor money has poured into funds that consider environmental, social and governance issues. Data from the US SIF Forum for Sustainable and Responsible Investment shows that ESG funds under management have now reached more than $16.6 trillion. It’s not just institutional investors who are embracing ESG, with Bloomberg Intelligence predicting that savers across the world will amass £30.2 trillion in ESG funds by the end of the year.

Due to the multitude of divergent factors that contribute to a company’s success on ESG, it can be tricky to pin down exactly what criteria to measure. Depending on the industry a company operates within, environmental criteria could include everything from energy usage, the disposal of waste and even the treatment of animals.

Social criteria are primarily related to how a company conducts itself in business relationships and with stakeholders. For example, does it treat suppliers fairly? Is the local community considered when the business makes decisions that would impact them? Do they have a statement and policy around modern slavery?

While governance criteria have traditionally been an afterthought, this may be changing. Everything from executive pay to shareholder rights and internal controls are relevant to investors within these criteria.

 

Tracking ESG for competitive advantage

Many experts within the financial services industry point to the power of ESG as a major competitive advantage, if used correctly. It has been noted that increasingly corporations, from big Fortune 500 companies down to small scale-ups, will communicate on their sustainability metrics to grow their business and to attract talent. However, it’s no longer enough to just pay lip service to ESG issues, with abstract commitments increasingly being seen as insufficient. Companies must now quickly progress to concrete objectives that can be measured and tracked.

A wide range of data providers now offer detailed information and tools that can measure ESG performance and effectiveness. Yet major challenges remain around bringing together what is often extremely fragmented data and transforming it into actionable insights.

 

Focus areas for 2022

The ESG criteria that investors measure is by no means stagnant. Complex societal challenges regularly emerge that require the attention of companies. Contributors recognize several topics that demand a sophisticated approach, including the COVID pandemic, diversity challenges and powerful social movements.

Companies operating within the financial services sector face several specific challenges related to ESG, with contributors believing that fintech will also continue to play a central role in finding answers to them.
For example, industry experts expect customers to be more demanding of firms in SME lending when it comes to understanding exactly what impact they are having on the climate. For many financial services firms, 2022 will be the year that they will try to reduce the time it takes to bring ESG products and services to market, such as green loans and mortgages, as well as checking accounts with sustainability and carbon tracking capabilities.

When selecting a service provider, customers are increasingly interested in the ESG credentials of their bank or financial institution. Research from PwC finds that 80% of consumers are more likely to buy from a company that stands up for environmental and governance issues. Consumers are one of the main drivers of ESG and many are putting their money where their mouth is. It’s a trend that’s not going away; financial institutions need to start implementing their strategy for ESG now.

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