ESG Regulations May Bring Investing’s Green Future

ESG Regulations May Bring Investing’s Green Future

Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) investing has been gaining traction across the globe. PwC reports that ESG is “soaring”, and anticipates that ESG institutional investment will climb 84% to $33.9 trillion in 2026.

The firm states that by 2026, ESG assets under management (AUM) in the U.S. will more than double to total $10.5 trillion. In Europe, PwC expects the amount of ESG AUM will see an increase of 53% to $19.6 trillion. And in APAC, the firm estimates that ESG AUM will more than triple to $3.3 trillion.

What will help drive that change? Regulation.


Though the concept of ESG investing has been around for more than a decade, there have only recently been efforts to formalize regulation surrounding ESG disclosure, investment, and ESG practices and financial products. Europe, for instance, has come up with its European Green Deal, a set of proposals to stem climate change, support sustainable innovation, and transition Europe into a climate-neutral continent by 2050.

Europe isn’t the only region with a “green” vision. Here’s a non-exhaustive list of key measures some countries are taking:

The Australian Government plans to introduce mandatory sustainability and ESG reporting requirements for large businesses and financial institutions based in Australia. The requirements will be put in place in stages and will begin as soon as next year.

The U.K.
The U.K.’s Non-Financial Reporting Directive (NFRD) requires U.K. companies to disclose energy use, carbon footprint, and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions within their annual financial reporting. In 2021, The U.K. Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) released Greening Finance: a Roadmap to Sustainable Investing in 2021.

At the start of 2023, the European Parliament implemented The Sustainable Finance Disclosure Regulation (SFDR), policy aimed to enhance transparency in sustainable investing and ultimately prevent greenwashing. Also going live in January 2023 is The Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD), an initiative put into place by the European Parliament to broaden the Non-Financial Reporting Directive’s (NFRD) and fix weaknesses surrounding ESG regulation and reporting.

By the end of March 2023, India’s top 1,000 listed companies by market capitalization were required to begin filing a Business Responsibility and Sustainability Report (BRSR) to the Securities and Exchange Board (SEBI) of India. In addition to general disclosures, companies need to document their compliance with National Guidelines on Responsible Business Conduct (NGRBCs) and submit metrics on nine ESG factors, including ethics, sustainability, and human rights.

The U.S.
The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) published a plan to issue a set of reporting standards for ESG in March of last year. As part of the plan, the SEC would require firms to report their climate risks, risk management, ESG governance, and GHG emissions. While the ruling on these proposed mandatory climate risk disclosures is expected to occur this month, SEC Chair Gary Gensler may be considering changes to the plan before it goes into effect.

Also notable is Nasdaq’s Board Diversity Rule that requires companies listed on Nasdaq’s U.S. exchange to publicly disclose board-level diversity statistics each year. If companies fall short of expectations, they are required to explain why they do not have diverse directors.

Currently, Canadian firms are not subject to mandatory ESG reporting. However, the Canadian Securities Administrators (CSA) issued a notice last year stating plans to require large Canadian financial institutions and insurance companies to disclosed ESG efforts and climate impacts starting in 2024.

ESG fintechs

Though some fintechs do not fit the requirements of ESG reporting, many have either incorporated ESG elements into their business or structured their whole business around an ESG element. In fact, according to Crunchbase, there are 300 fintechs with an ESG focus. Check out Finovate’s ESG scholarship winners or take a look at the following notable fintechs emphasizing ESG:

  • Spiral allows banks to increase customer engagement by embedding sustainability and social impact capabilities.
  • Enfuce offers payment, open banking, and sustainability services to banks, fintechs, financial operators, and merchants.
  • Treecard is a green finance platform that allows consumers to spend, save, and invest responsibly.
  • Connect Earth connects carbon data to drive sustainable finance.
  • Single.Earth is a fintech startup tokenizing nature to make it the new gold.
  • Datia is a data platform for sustainable finance, working with forward-thinking financial institutions to automate their ESG workflows.
  • The Upright Project develops an AI-enabled quantification model to measure the net impact of companies and funds.
  • SparkChange provides specialist carbon data that empowers better ESG investment products, risk management, and financial reporting.

Photo by Artem Podrez

Can Apple Card’s New Savings Account Improve Americans’ Savings Habits?

Can Apple Card’s New Savings Account Improve Americans’ Savings Habits?

As someone who is passionate about personal finance, I was excited to see Apple Card unveil its Savings account today, especially during financial literacy month. The launch comes three-and-a-half years after Apple first debuted the Apple Card in partnership with Goldman Sachs in 2019.

Launching today, the new Savings account enables Apple Card users to set up and manage their funds from within their Apple Wallet. With the high-yield savings account, users will earn 4.15% APY with no minimum deposits and no minimum balance requirements.

The accounts build on Apple Card’s Daily Cash, the credit card’s cashback rewards feature. When a user sets up their Savings account in the Apple Wallet, the Daily Cash they earn on purchases is automatically deposited into their Savings account. In addition to saving their Daily Cash, users can deposit funds through a linked bank account or from their balance in Apple Cash.

“Savings helps our users get even more value out of their favorite Apple Card benefit — Daily Cash — while providing them with an easy way to save money every day,” said Apple VP of Apple Pay and Apple Wallet Jennifer Bailey. “Our goal is to build tools that help users lead healthier financial lives, and building Savings into Apple Card in Wallet enables them to spend, send, and save Daily Cash directly and seamlessly — all from one place.”

Apple Card’s Savings account also comes with a dashboard to enable users to track their account balance and the interest they’ve earned over time. The account, which is powered by Goldman Sachs, does not charge fees for account origination, maintenance, or withdraws.

The U.S. Federal Reserve has raised rates consistently since March 2022. Despite many incumbent banks holding the rates on their savings accounts near zero, it’s nice that a handful of fintechs are passing the positive impacts of the higher rates down to consumers.

But with the rising cost of living, many consumers may not take advantage of such high rates. Credit Karma issued the results of a survey today that details the impact of Americans’ poor savings habits and inadequate financial literacy. The survey targeted Americans’ knowledge (or lack thereof) of their own net worth, and took a look into their retirement savings. Here’s an overview of some of the survey results:

  • 51% of Americans don’t know how to calculate their net worth
  • 31% of Americans have a net worth of $0 or less
  • 21% of respondents aged 59+ report they have a net worth of $0 or less
  • 30% of Gen Z care more about celebrities’ net worth than their own 
  • 27% of respondents (including 25% of Gen X and 27% aged 59+) say they don’t have any money saved for retirement right now.
  • 67% of Americans say they don’t currently track their net worth
  • 22% of Americans believe the term “net worth” only applies to wealthy people

For me, these statistics are eye-opening, and the lack of savings are disheartening. Can fintech fix this? My guess is that, even with enticingly high rates, Americans’ poor savings habits will die hard. And the American Dream may die harder.

Photo by Mikhail Nilov

GPT-4 Has Arrived. Here Are 6 Things You Should Know about the New Iteration.

GPT-4 Has Arrived. Here Are 6 Things You Should Know about the New Iteration.

If you need a break from bank failure news, here’s something refreshing. OpenAI’s GPT-4 was released yesterday. The new model is the successor to GPT-3.5-turbo and promises to produce “safer” and “more useful” responses. But what does that mean exactly? And how do the two models compare?

We’ve broken down six things to know about GPT-4.

Processes both image and text input

GPT-4 accepts images as inputs and can analyze the contents of an image alongside text. As an example, users can upload a picture of a group of ingredients and ask the model what recipe they can make using the ingredients in the picture. Additionally, visually impaired users can screenshot a cluttered website and ask GPT-4 to decipher and summarize the text. Unlike DALL-E 2, however GPT-4 cannot generate images.

For banks and fintechs, GPT-4’s image processing could prove useful for helping customers who get stuck during the onboarding process. The bot could help decipher screenshots of the user experience and provide a walk-through for confused customers.

Less likely to respond to inappropriate requests

According to OpenAI, GPT-4 is 82% less likely than GPT-3.5 to respond to disallowed content. It is also 40% more likely to produce factual responses than GPT-3.5.

For the financial services industry, it means using GPT-4 to power a chatbot is less risky than before. The new model is less susceptible to ethical and security risks.

Handles around 25,000 words per query

OpenAI doesn’t measure its inputs and outputs in word count or character count. Rather, it measures text based on units called tokens. While the word-to-token ratio is not straightforward, OpenAI estimates that GPT-4 can handle around 25,000 words per query, compared to GPT-3.5-turbo’s capacity of 3,000 words per query.

This increase enables users to carry on extended conversations, create long form content, search text, and analyze documents. For banks and fintechs, the increased character limit could prove useful when searching and analyzing documents for underwriting purposes. It could also be used to flag compliance errors and fraud.

Performs higher on academic tests

While ChatGPT scored in the 10th percentile on the Uniform BAR Exam, GPT-4 scored in the 90th percentile. Additionally, GPT-4 did well on other standardized tests, including the LSAT, GRE, and some of the AP tests.

While this specific capability won’t come in handy for banks, it signifies something important. It highlights the AI’s ability to retain and reproduce structured knowledge.

Already in-use

While GPT-4 was just released yesterday, it is already being employed by a handful of organizations. Be My Eyes, a technology platform that helps users who are blind or have low vision, is using the new model to analyze images.

The model is also being used in the financial services sector. Stripe is currently using GPT-4 to streamline its user experience and combat fraud. And J.P. Morgan is leveraging GPT-4 to organize its knowledge base. “You essentially have the knowledge of the most knowledgeable person in Wealth Management—instantly. We believe that is a transformative capability for our company,” said Morgan Stanley Wealth Management Head of Analytics, Data & Innovation Jeff McMillan.

Still messes up

One very human-like aspect of OpenAI’s GPT-4 is that it makes mistakes. In fact, OpenAI’s technical report about GPT-4 says that the model is sometimes “confidently wrong in its predictions.”

The New York Times provides a good example of this in its recent piece, 10 Ways GPT-4 Is Impressive but Still Flawed. The article describes a user who asked GPT-4 to help him learn the basics of the Spanish language. In its response, GPT-4 offered a handful of inaccuracies, including telling the user that “gracias” was pronounced like “grassy ass.”

Photo by BoliviaInteligente on Unsplash

4 Potential Impacts the SVB Fallout May Have on Banks

4 Potential Impacts the SVB Fallout May Have on Banks

The fintech industry experienced quite a dramatic weekend of fast-breaking news regarding the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank (SVB). By now, you’ve likely heard that the Biden administration stepped in this morning to facilitate a move that will offer SVB’s 40,000 customers full access to all of their deposits.

Banks, startups, and even tangentially related businesses are breathing a collective sigh of relief this morning. However, the move does not bring the industry back to business-as-usual. Below are four potential implications of SVB’s misstep.

FDIC Deposit Insurance to Increase

Regulators are not calling today’s move a “bailout” because the funds being used to make SVB customers whole did not come from consumer taxpayer dollars. “All depositors of the institution will be made whole,” the FDIC said in a statement. “Any losses to the Deposit Insurance Fund to support uninsured depositors will be recovered by a special assessment on banks, as required by law.” This means that banks* will bear the responsibility to recoup these funds via increased FDIC insurance rates.

More (closer to) full reserve banks

We likely won’t see banks convert to full, 100% reserve banks (that is, banks that keep all customer reserves in cash). It is possible, however, that SVB’s failure may motivate banks to keep more consumer cash on-hand, operating closer to a full reserve bank than they previously were in order to mitigate risk. If this is the case, banks would have less funds to lend, making it difficult for consumers and businesses to get loans.

Increased opportunities

One of the first lessons taught in business school is that where there are challenges, there are opportunities. This is certainly the case here. HSBC picked up SVB’s U.K. unit for £1, and everyone from Elon Musk to JP Morgan and PNC are considering purchasing SVB’s U.S. arm. Additionally, businesses have cropped up marketing to former SVB clients, offering them working capital loans. Even Mr. Wonderful is in on the action.

Uncertainty reigns supreme

If you’ve read about SVB in the news today, it’s likely you also read about Signature Bank, which was shut down by New York state regulators on March 12, and Silvergate, which closed its doors on March 8. Combined, these events mark three U.S. bank failures in a single week. Though regulators have been quick to step in, the events have shaken investors and consumers alike.

*Interestingly enough, banks are indeed taxpayers– meaning that the responsibility for repayment technically does fall on taxpayers.

Photo by Tara Winstead

70 Fintechs Founded by African Americans

70 Fintechs Founded by African Americans

It’s the first day of Black History Month, and this year’s theme is Resistance. We’ll be serving up related coverage all month, and today’s piece sets the scene.

In an effort to highlight Black founders in our industry, we gathered a list of 70 fintechs with Black founders. This is far from an exhaustive list of fintechs with African American founders, but it is a good representation of diverse, relevant* companies.

Esusu Financial

Helps users build credit through renting
Founders: Abbey Wemimo, Jeph Acheampong, Robert Henning, Samir Goel


Helps reduce delinquencies and increase revenue while helping people pay off debt sooner and with fewer penalties
Founders: Diana Frappier, Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins

Juniper Square

Empowers general partners and limited partners to focus on building enduring relationships and investment opportunities
Founders: Adam Ginsburg, Alex Robinson, Yonas Fisseha


Provides a payment infrastructure for global merchants and payment service providers
Founders: Iyinoluwa Aboyeji, Olugbenga Agboola

Gig Wage

Offers a payroll company for gig workers and contractors
Founder: Craig Jamal Lewis


Enables secure and seamless data transmission using the ultrasonic data technology
Founders: Chris Ostoich, Chris Ridenour, Josh Glick, Nikki Ridenour, Rodney Williams


Offers business loans, SBA loans, and commercial real estate loans for small business owners
Founder: Everett Sands


Provides a financial advice platform that powers SmartAdvisor, a marketplace connecting consumers to financial advisors
Founders: Michael Carvin, Philip Camilleri


Provides a next-generation, education-first banking experience for families
Founder: Tanya Van Court


Offers alternative data sets for data-driven investing
Founders: Gregory Ugwi, Justin Zhen


Provides an online marketplace that connects investors and operators of real estate
Founders: Jared Kushner, Joshua Kushner, Ryan Williams


Allows users to invest in private equity, venture capital, and hedge funds with no minimum. 
Founder: Dakotah Rice


Transforms your debit card into a credit card
Founders: Carl-Alain Memnon, Christian-Robert Joseph, Patrick De Suza


Provides personalized investment management services that lets companies embed investment accounts into their services.
Founder: David Dindi


Offers a social investing platform where you can talk about investments with friends and make trades on the market.
Founders: Darian Bhathena, Jack Phifer, Michael Liu, Roger Cawdette


An all-in-one platform that offers financial tools to help creators grow their business
Founders: Arabian Prince, Chris Mendez, Chris Schwartz, James Jones Jr.


Provides income-constrained individuals with wealth-building cash advances
Founders: Mitchell Jones, Sheridan Clayborne


Helps accountants and finance professionals eliminate lease accounting errors through its CPA-approved lease accounting software
Founder: George Azih


Offers a payment acceptance tool called TAP AND PAY
Founders: Alpesh Patel, Benjamin Aubin Jr., Terell Canton

Agent IQ

Provides a personal, digital customer engagement platform for community banks and credit unions.
Founders: Craig Davis, Slaven Bilac


Develops a personal financial platform that improves the financial behaviors of underbanked communities
Founder: Wole Coaxum


Provides a SaaS-enabled market network and workflow management platform for accounting services
Founders: Anees Pretorius, Cono Onorato


Provides a modern financial operating system for construction, maintenance, and repair contractors
Founders: Jose Pons Vega, Wil Eyi

Material Impact Fund

Builds deep tech companies powered by material science
Founders: Adam Sharkawy, Carmichael Roberts

SoLo Funds

Provides a community finance platform where members request and fund emergency needs
Founders: Jarrel Carter, Rodney Williams, Taylor Bruno, Travis Holoway


Modernizes central banks for financial inclusion and resilience
Founder: Carmelle Cadet


Offers a lending platform that provides short-term financing to qualified TV and Film productions
Founders: Janelle Alexander, Jon Gosier, Josh Harris, Mickey Vetter

Sika Health

Provides payment solutions for the healthcare sector
Founder: Ami Kumordzie


Offers an AI Financial Planner for underserved Americans
Founders: Gray Hoffman, Guy Assad, Sebastian Wigstrom


Helps Africans get credit, invest, get health insurance, and make payments
Founders: Akin Jones, Wale Akanbi


Helps essential professionals buy homes and build financial security near the communities they serve
Founded: Alex Lofton, Jesse Vaughan, Jonathan Asmis


Helps homeowners rebuild faster after natural disasters by paying general contractors up front
Founder: Demetrius Gray

Now Account Network

Provides a B2B payment system designed to help small businesses to manage their payment transactions
Founders: Lara Hodgson, Stacey Abrams


Offers delivery workers digital banking tools and tools to improve their efficiency
Founders: Hantz Févry, Pierre Frederic Mombeleur, Semih Korkmaz


Provides a peer-to-peer lending platform that facilitates loans between family, friends, and loved ones
Founders: Anna Matilde Tanga, Brian Bristol


Offers a relationship-based lending application that simplifies and automates loans between friends, family, and trusted relationships.
Founders: Dennis Cail, Michael Seay


Helps consumers achieve their financial goals by combining financial education and automation
Founders: Christian Zimmerman, Nate Washington


Provides a digital banking and networking platform designed by and for Black small business owners
Founder: Kelly Ifill


Provides embedded trade solutions for Africa
Founders: Felix Orwa, Meka Este-McDonald, Scott Yacko

Chipper Cash

Offers mobile, cross-border money transfer services
Founders: Ham Serunjogi, Maijid Moujaled


Provides a rewards and loyalty infrastructure for banks and businesses in Africa
Founders: Harshal Gandole, Madonna Ononobi, Simeon Ononobi, Suraj Supekar


Offers a digital payment platform for the logistics industry
Founders: Akmann Van-Mary, Ryan Droege, Spencer Barkoff


Offers small-dollar credit lines built on bank and alternative data
Founders: Andy Burke, Kevin Bass, Max Klein


Democratizes access to tax records for business services companies
Founder: Matthew Parker

Home Lending Pal

Offers an Automated Mortgage Advisor that simulates buying a home with multiple lenders to determine mortgage approval odds and affordability impact based on lifestyle
Founders: Bryan Young, Steven Better, Tim Roberson


Provides an operating system for active investment management, powering investment products, and experiences for retail investors
Founders: Clayton Gardner, Joe Percoco, Max Bernardy


Offers an offline distribution network for market research and financial services
Founders: Damilola Ayorinde, Oluwatomi Ayorinde


Provides intelligent financial modeling tools leveraging transaction-level data
Founder: Fady Hawatmeh


Offers an online bank for small businesses with built-in accounting software 
Founders: Frantz Romain, Vin Montes


Provides an investing platform that allows users to build risk-managed investment portfolios aligned with their interests
Founder: Michael Haddix Jr.


Creates products that deliver a collaborative cash experience for group transactions
Founders: Boateng Opoku-Yeboah, Landon Vago-Hughes, Tunde Alao


Offers a global split payment platform built for co-creators on any project, anywhere
Founders: Adam Clabaugh, Mangesh Bhamkar, Marcus Cobb, Rachel Knepp

Ovamba Solutions

Help SMEs in Africa and other emerging markets grow by providing them with short term capital
Founders: Marvin R. R. Cole, Viola Llewellyn


Enables lenders to open more accounts by showing users the actions necessary to meet eligibility for their financial goals
Founders: Abb Kapoor, David Potter

Greenwood Bank

Offers  a digital banking platform for Black and Latinx people and business owners
Founders: Andrew Young, Michael Render, Ryan Glover


Offers modern technologies and solutions through digital banking and faster payments
Founders: Eli Polanco, Philippe Legault


Provides an AI-powered 401K alternative stock investing platform helping everyday investors retire early
Founders: Ben Malena, Johnathon Albercrombie, Lakeisha Turner, Ronnie Green

Business Score

Connects online businesses with funding options
Founder: Rich Serunjogi

My Home Pathway

Develops new pathways to help traditionally risk-challenged U.S. consumers purchase their dream home
Founder: Castleigh Johnson

The Wealth Factory

Offers financial literacy education games, curriculum, and fintech products
Founders: Angel Rich, Courtney Keen, Harjeet Singh


 Offers a lending platform that provides up to $250k to revenue-generating women-led businesses
Founders: Roshawnna Novellus, Tiara Zolnierz


Partners with mortgage lenders to offer a seamless digital homebuying experience for their clients
Founders: Frederick Townes, Marcos Carvalho, Mauro Repacci


Provides a financial wellness platform that helps people to live happier lives while helping businesses increase profits
Founder: Dani Pascarella


Offers a cross-border health marketplace for global migrants 
Founder: Samuel Baddoo


Creates a smart wallet that uses for payment processors and financial institutions
Founder: Hanoi Morillo


Helps reduce household student debt in the U.S.
Founder: David Adefeso


Helps users build credit with everyday payments and subscriptions
Founders: Ayush Jain, Michael Broughton


Gives users up to 15% cashback on their everyday shopping and provides banking services
Founders: Daricus Releford, Phani Mullapudi, Sheetal Ravi


Helps people take control of their financial future
Founders: Deji Jimoh, Trilliam Jeong

*We determined relevancy using CB Insights’ CB Rank.

Photo by RODNAE Productions

20 Years of Fintech: How Far We’ve Come Since 2003

20 Years of Fintech: How Far We’ve Come Since 2003

It can be difficult to pin down a birth year for fintech, but no matter how you look at it, our industry has come a long way. I was recently reminiscing and found a post published in 2003 by Finovate Founder Jim Bruene titled, The 10 Most Significant Innovations & Developments of 2003. These developments, Bruene said, “provide the best glimpse at the future of online financial services delivery.”

2003 was officially 20 years ago, which makes it a perfect benchmark. I’ve taken a look at the 10 developments and innovations that Bruene deemed “most significant” in 2003, and outlined some of fintech’s most recent updates and persistent struggles.

Phishing undermines trust (for now)

One of the original enemies to widespread adoption of online banking was phishing. In the last two weeks of December of 2003, one (now-defunct) organization had recorded 60 unique phishing attacks, sending an estimated 60 million fraudulent messages.

Those numbers don’t look so bad compared to today’s figures. The Anti-Phishing Working Group (APWG) recorded more than 14,000 phishing attacks per day in the third quarter of 2022, marking the worst quarter for phishing the organization has ever observed. However, while phishing persists, it hasn’t deterred the majority of users from adopting digital banking.

Banks move to boost security perceptions

In this section, Bruene referenced an increase in keylogging incidents, along with one bank’s efforts to circumvent keylogging attacks by adding a keypad on the screen to allow users to click the buttons to enter their PIN instead of typing on their keyboard. The bank also implemented a secondary password requirement.

While these workarounds likely mitigated some of the fraud, they simultaneously introduced more friction for end users. Today, many firms have implemented biometrics to eliminate keylogging. However, while biometrics may have gotten rid of keylogging attacks, the authentication method has not put an end to fraud.

Citibank launches interbank transfers (A2A)

Citibank added online interbank transfers in the fall of 2003, making it the first major U.S. bank to offer such a service. At the time, Citi tapped CashEdge (acquired by Fiserv in 2011 for $465 million) to power the transfers.

Today, of course, the industry doesn’t consider account-to-account transfers an innovation. Rather, the service is now considered table stakes for all banking service providers. What has changed are the rails. A handful of banks have started piloting using the blockchain to transfer funds, especially in the case of cross-border payments.

Press turns positive toward online banking and other online financial activities

Twenty years ago, the dot-com crash was still fresh in the minds of both investors and everyday consumers. According to Bruene, 2003 was a turning point as consumers began to embrace the conveniences and efficiencies of online banking.

Today, while we’re not recovering from a dot-com crash, we are still reeling from the FTX scandal that took place late last year. It is estimated that around $1 billion to $2 billion in consumer funds were lost after the digital crypto exchange failed. And while the event will not result in negative press about fintech in general, it has already soured the press and industry analysts on crypto.

Bank of America hits seven million users

As you may imagine, adoption of Bank of America’s digital banking looked vastly different in 2003. “Bank of America had as many online banking customers as all U.S. banks combined had five years ago (at year-end 1998),” said Bruene. “The bank’s 7 million active users account for 43% of its checking account base, and 22% of all households. Year-over-year growth was an impressive 50%, with 2.3 million new active users.”

Today, Bank of America serves 67 million retail and small business clients. Of those, 55 million use Bank of America’s digital banking services. In July of last year, those customers logged into their Bank of America accounts one billion times– a record number for the bank.

The decline of paper statements begins

While 2003 may have marked a decline in paper statements, it didn’t mark the beginning of the end. According to a 2017 Javelin Strategy & Research report, only 61% of checking account customers have committed to paperless statements. In the report, Javelin suggests that much of this is unintentional. “Consumers now reflexively reach for their smartphones in all aspects of their lives and banking is not an exception,” said Mark Schwanhausser, Director, Digital Banking at Javelin Strategy & Research. “The intent is not to take statements away from customers; it is to provide an alternative that convinces them that paper statements are as unnecessary and obsolete as a checkbook register.”

Banks redesign websites for Yahoo-like clarity

Of the ten developments on this list, this one is my favorite, and not only because of the use of Yahoo! as an example. Optimizing online user interfaces is a science, and by 2003, developers didn’t know as much as they do today about creating user-friendly services.

Today, the shining examples in tech have shifted from Yahoo! to the likes of Uber, Stripe, and Airbnb. And by now, most large firms’ digital experiences exhibit “Yahoo-like” clarity. Still, there will always be room for improving the user experience, especially as consumers become aware of new enabling technologies like open finance.

Real-time credit for remote deposits

In this section, Bruene applauded two FIs for offering consumers instant credit for mailed remote deposits. It baffles me to think about mailing in a paper check to deposit it. However, in a pre-smartphone era such as 2003, there weren’t many other options that didn’t require additional hardware or infrastructure.

Today, while consumers can deposit most checks via smartphone, the deposits still generally take two-to-three days to post in consumer accounts. As a bonus, most firms have discovered a way to turn remote deposits into a revenue generating opportunity by charging consumers for instant deposits into their accounts.

Identity Theft 911 provides a credible source to fight ID theft

Identity Theft 911 has a storied history. The company rebranded to CyberScout in 2017, was acquired by Sontiq in 2021, which was bought by TransUnion in late 2021. Regardless of the multiple transitions, all companies shared a similar mission. Today, TransUnion helps consumers build and grow their credit scores, offers credit alerts, fraud alerts, credit monitoring, and more.

What’s different about this industry today, however, is the number of competitors in the space. Many organizations offer free credit monitoring. Other, paid services offer monitoring and reporting from all three bureaus, identity theft insurance, and more.

Photo by Leeloo Thefirst

What These 10 Holiday Movies Teach Us about Fintech

What These 10 Holiday Movies Teach Us about Fintech

If you plan on binge watching holiday movies in the next few weeks (or if you have been since October), here’s something to think about. Did you know that many of these films come with lessons for the fintech industry?

Here are some films you may want to watch over your winter break, along with some of the wisdom they hold.

Home Alone (1990)

In this movie, Kevin McCallister finds himself left at home without any adults to help him carry out daily tasks and defend himself against burglars. In the same way, many customers are conducting their banking activities from home on their own devices. The only tools they have to successfully conduct banking activities are a strong password and your bank’s user-friendly design.

Lesson: Don’t make your customers feel at home alone. Provide them with tools they need to successfully conduct everyday banking tasks from your app.

It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)

After George Bailey contemplates suicide during a time of financial instability, his guardian angel comes to show him all the ways in which he has made a difference in the lives of others. In the end, he begs his angel to give him his life back. After he does, his community rallies around him to help him regain financial stability. The current economy is impacting firms across banking and fintech differently. Every organization has a storm to weather.

Lesson: Pay attention to what’s truly important in life and maintain a focus on community, especially in the midst of economic turmoil.

Family Stone (2005)

When a woman from the big city, Meredith, accompanies Everett, her boyfriend, to his childhood home for Christmas, they both discover that they aren’t right for one another. As the story progresses, it becomes apparent that Everett and Meredith’s sister Julie are falling for each other. Keep your bank or fintech partners in mind while watching this one.

Lesson: Finding the right bank or fintech partners can be a struggle. However, it is worth conducting proper due diligence to find the right partner before committing.

The Santa Clause (1994)

Toy salesman Scott Calvin is unexpectedly forced to become Santa Clause after the original Santa Clause falls off his roof. After spending much of the movie in denial and resisting his new role as Saint Nick, Scott Calvin ultimately accepts his new role, and everyone is better off because of it. Has your organization ever had to make a similarly drastic pivot?

Lesson: When the needs of the customer evolve, so should your business. Being able to pivot to meet customer expectation not only benefits end users, it will also be good for your bottom line.

Die Hard (1988)

When New York City Policeman John McClane visits his ex-wife at a holiday party on Christmas Eve, terrorists attempt to take over the building and John realizes that he is the only one who can save everyone. Whether you can see the fraudsters or not, everyone deals with them on a daily basis.

Lesson: You are responsible for creating the first line of defense between your customers and cybercriminals.

Jingle All the Way (1996)

In this holiday movie, Howard Langston tries to impress his son by giving him the season’s hottest toy, the Turbo-Man, for Christmas. The toy is almost sold out, however, and Howard goes to great lengths to compete with another father to get the toy. Ultimately– and only after proving himself a hero– Howard gets the Turbo-Man toy to give to his son in time for Christmas. While the customer acquisition race isn’t as competitive as a war over the Turbo-Man toy, it may seem like a battle at times.

Lesson: There will always be competition between and among banks and fintechs. And just like Howard’s fight for Turbo-Man, fighting to gain customers takes sacrifices and ultimately may require your organization to prove itself a hero to the customer before winning them over.

How the Grinch Stole Christmas (1966)

The Grinch, who hates Christmas, tries to take the joy away from the townspeople of Whoville by stealing their presents and other Christmas paraphernalia. Even after he does so, however, he hears the townsfolk joyfully celebrating Christmas, despite the lack of presents, food, and decorations. In the end, the Grinch realizes that Christmas is more than presents, tinsel, and bows. Just as the Grinch discovered there is more to Christmas than the money-making aspects of it, perhaps we can all look beyond our bottom lines this season to discover how we can better serve our target market.

Lesson: Perhaps there is more to fintech than just pandering to populations that seem the most profitable. Look for ways to benefit to others, even if they may be a net-zero opportunity.

Any Hallmark Christmas special

Many Hallmark holiday movies seem to share a similar premise. A big-city girl inherits a vineyard or a bed and breakfast in a small town. During her visit to the country, she meets a charming man and falls in love with both him and the small town lifestyle. You don’t have to watch a Hallmark movie to realize that expanding your horizons can be beneficial.

Lesson: It may profitable to serve the underserved populations found in rural locations. They could have more in common with your existing target audience than you think.

National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989)

Clark Griswold tries to create the perfect Christmas for his family, but when the Christmas bonus he expected for the year fails to come through, Clark’s cousin Eddie takes the issue up with Clark’s boss. Though Clark ends up receiving his bonus after all, the movie serves as a reminder not to financially overcommit before funds are guaranteed.

Lesson: Even when times are good, don’t count on extra cash to get your company through. Watch your burn rate.

Frozen (2013)

The main characters, sisters Anna and Elsa, illustrate the ups and downs of the crypto market. After Elsa freezes the town, the damage seems permanent, and residents wonder if they will have to live in wintertime conditions forever. At the end of the film, Elsa figures out how to control her magic and returns the town to its regular climate.

Lesson: Crypto will one day exit the crypto winter and will once again level out. The key to achieving this stasis may be the arrival of regulation in the cryptocurrency space, which is already be on its way. Today, U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren unveiled a bill to enforce against crypto money laundering.

I Was Wrong: 2023 Fintech Predictions Edition

I Was Wrong: 2023 Fintech Predictions Edition

What does it take to be a fintech analyst? You have to be willing to get things wrong on occasion. Along with that, you need to be able to admit when you’re wrong. This becomes most apparent every December, when it comes time to share predictions on what the fintech industry can expect in the coming year.

Many of my predictions for 2023, which you can find published in this month’s eMagazine, were shaped from looking back at the trends I predicted for the latter half of 2022. Here’s a look at some of those trends, along with an assessment of how I did and a prediction for how the trend will fare in 2023.

Prediction #1: Beginning the era of “neo super apps”

How I did:
Wrong. With every other fintech company claiming to be a super app these days, this prediction is slightly subjective. In my opinion, however, we haven’t entered an era of neo-super apps.

What to expect:
A year ago, I would have identified the first potential U.S. super app as PayPal. However, Walmart has been making strides in this area and is getting ready to compete in the fintech arena. As a bottomline, we are still a ways out from super apps taking over fintech.

Prediction #2: Accelerating M&A activity

How I did:
Somewhat correct. In comparing M&A activity to pre-pandemic 2019 levels, M&A activity has indeed increased. Though year-end data for 2022 hasn’t been published yet, according to FT Partners’ Q3 2022 Fintech Insights Report, there have been 998 deals so far in 2022. While this represents a slight increase over the 986 M&A deals conducted in 2019, it is a large slide from the 1,486 deals closed last year.

What to expect:
The recent economic decline is causing companies to watch their pockets closely and mitigate risk where they can. Many large fintechs have already made major layoffs in order to maintain their bottomline or reduce their burn rate. These factors will contribute to both lower deal numbers and deal volume in 2023.

Prediction #3: Dwindling conversation around digital transformation

How I did:
Correct. While the need for digital transformation across verticals has not subsided, the continuous pulse of conversation around digital transformation has eased up.

What to expect:
This does not mean that digital transformation is over. In fact, many of the conversations we can expect to have in 2023– such as embedded finance, banking-as-a-service, and personalization– are built on the foundation of digital transformation.

Prediction #4: More discussion around Central Bank Digital Currencies (CBDCs)

How I did:
Correct. In the U.S., the Federal Reserve has not taken much action toward creating a CBDC other than issuing a discussion paper on the topic. However, there has been a flurry of activity around CBDCs across the globe. In December of 2021, nine countries had launched a CBDC, while today, 11 have launched their own CBDC. Similarly, CBDC development has increased. In December of 2021, 14 companies had a CBDC in development, while today there are 26 countries with a CBDC in development.

What to expect:
In the U.S. the discussion around CBDCs will progress, especially now that the FTX scandal has brought to light the need for more governmental intervention and oversight.

Prediction #5: BNPL takes a backseat

How I did:
Wrong. Though there have been many publications warning consumers about the dangers of misusing BNPL tools, we are still seeing a regular pulse of new BNPL launches throughout the industry. And while the CFPB published a study on the growth of BNPL and its impact on consumers, the organization has not implemented any formal regulation restricting BNPL players’ movements in the market.

What to expect:
I’m refreshing this prediction for 2023. Consumers have over-leveraged themselves when it comes to BNPL, and it is not only starting to catch up with them, but it is also catching up with the BNPL companies themselves. According to the CFPB’s study, “Lenders’ profit margins are shrinking: Margins in 2021 were 1.01% of the total amount of loan originated, down from 1.27% in 2020.”

Additionally, though the CFPB has been vague on the timing, there is looming regulation facing BNPL tools. “Buy Now, Pay Later is a rapidly growing type of loan that serves as a close substitute for credit cards,” said CFPB Director Rohit Chopra. “We will be working to ensure that borrowers have similar protections, regardless of whether they use a credit card or a Buy Now, Pay Later loan.”

Subsiding talent acquisition

How I did:
Correct. Though companies will always face difficulties trying to secure quality employees, we are no longer seeing the tech talent war that we experienced in 2021. In fact, in the latter half of 2022, we saw the opposite. A handful of fintech companies, including Plaid, Autobooks, MX, Klarna, Brex, Stripe, Chime, and more, have laid off sizable portions of their staff.

What to expect:
The painful reality is that the layoffs will likely continue into 2023 as the economy continues to contract.

Photo by Brett Jordan

Enhance Your Fintech App for the Gig Economy 

Enhance Your Fintech App for the Gig Economy 

This is a sponsored post by Accusoft.

Faster, flexible and easy. It would be surprising if those words weren’t the top cited needs for your customers on what they expect when using your fintech app. If you can provide these obvious, yet sometimes elusive characteristics in your next release, you’ve hit the jackpot or, at the very least, met expectations!

Speaking of customer expectations, faster, flexible, and easy ARE the expectations. Any usability friction can at best annoy. At worst, it can cause you to lose customers, particularly when competition is fierce, and especially after the past few years with the rise of the “gig economy.”

What is the Gig Economy?

The gig economy is based on flexible, temporary, or freelance jobs, often involving connecting clients and customers through an online platform. But not only that, the gig economy also connects and attracts those customers who expect speed, flexibility, and ease of use. 

Starting in 2020, the gig economy grew substantially as jobs were eliminated, and previous full-time workers turned to part-time and contract work for income. Many workers took delivery service jobs bringing necessities to home-bound consumers.

Thriving within the gig economy is a big opportunity for fintechs. The gig economy spans generations – from those in their first job who have added a side hustle, to those working multiple temp or freelance positions, to those in retirement who want to earn some extra income. What they all have in common is the need for services that are fast, flexible, and easy to use. They don’t have the time or patience to deal with clunky, slow services that don’t deliver to their expectations.

A recent GWI report on U.S. fintech trends shows that the widespread usage of digital financial tools offers brands a huge upside for fintech applications, particularly with the “gig economy.” 30% of Americans participate as workers in the gig economy in some way, and digital financial tools are by far the most preferred way to manage their multiple streams of income.

If You Integrate (Fast, Flexible, and Easy to Use Document Processing), the “Gig” Will Come

Fintech companies may be on the cutting edge of software innovation, but even their most sophisticated applications need the ability to accommodate a variety of document-heavy processes used in the financial services industry. That’s why 94 percent of them leverage some form of digital document management solution.

Developing or enhancing a fintech app for the gig economy is tricky, as they expect more of their software applications than ever before (faster, more flexible, easier). Piecemeal solutions that offer only a few features are being overtaken by more comprehensive platforms that deliver a fuller end-to-end experience. Developers are adjusting by making essential technology upgrades to their tech stack, incorporating more capabilities, while also building innovative features that set their solutions apart from the competition. Thanks to third-party software integrations, they’re able to do it all.

Third-party software integrations allow developers to build more cohesive software solutions that provide all the essential features a customer may require. Instead of pushing them into a separate application to interact with their documents, provide a signature, or fill out a digital form, they deliver an unbroken experience that’s easier to navigate and manage from start to finish.  

Upgrading Your Fintech Application’s Potential

By turning to a partner with the right software integrations, fintechs can quickly implement powerful features while keeping their own development efforts focused on designing best-in-class capabilities and bringing them to market quickly.

With more than 30 years of experience helping fintechs enhance their integrations, Accusoft’s collection of SDK and API solutions provides a broad range of document and image processing solutions that can help improve efficiency, reduce errors, and deliver a better overall user experience. Whether you need the viewing, editing, and document processing features of PrizmDoc, or the image clean-up, conversion, and OCR capabilities of ImageGear, our family of software integrations can make it easy for fintechs to incorporate the functionality they need without having to rethink their tech stack. And most importantly, fintechs will be well prepared to meet and sustain the growing expectations of the gig economy for speed, flexibility, and ease of use while using their digital finance tools. 

To learn more about how Accusoft integrations can help your fintech app stay relevant in the gig economy, talk to one of our solutions experts today.

Binance, FTX, and Crypto’s Enron Moment: What This Means for Fintech

Binance, FTX, and Crypto’s Enron Moment: What This Means for Fintech

Update: Binance has called off the agreement to buy FTX.

If you’ve spent any time reading fintech news in the last 24 hours, you know that Binance has agreed to buy the non-U.S. unit of FTX. For those in the crypto world, this is a big deal. Why? It’s a riches-to-rags story– almost like crypto’s moment of an Enron-like collapse.

The downfall of FTX is part of a long story, which multiple outlets have already covered in great detail. Here are the highlights. FTX is considering a sale because it is reportedly facing liquidity problems. The crypto exchange’s cash flow issue is the result of the devaluation of its digital currency, FTT. The coin is currently trading at just under $3.50.

What happened?

Why has the value of FTT been destroyed? FTX minted FTT to lend to Alameda Research, a quantitative cryptocurrency trading platform founded by FTX owner Sam Bankman-Fried. Alameda Research borrowed stablecoins against FTT, and sent the stablecoins to FTX. This cycle made it appear that FTT was valuable even though it was essentially nothing more than printed money. Alameda Research has reached insolvency and FTX is now worth nearly nothing, despite the fact that investors valued FTX at $32 billion earlier this year.

FTX rival Binance stepped in earlier this week announcing a non-binding agreement to purchase the non-U.S. unit of FTX. If the deal goes through, Binance will be the largest player in the crypto space. “This elevates Zhao as the most powerful player in crypto,” Ilan Solot, co-head of digital assets at Marex Solutions told the Financial Times. “Zhao’s view of the world will matter a lot more, in terms of how he wants to interact with regulators and policymakers . . . the weight of his views will be much more powerful.”

What this means for fintech

  • Crypto is down all around
    Cryptocurrencies were having a tough year already. Many outlets were referring to this year as a “crypto winter,” a time during which cryptocurrency values have been depressed when compared to prior periods. This scandal only intensifies this. According to Forbes, “the total market capitalization for crypto has slid to $860 billion in the last 24 hours.”
  • Expect more regulatory scrutiny
    Cayman Islands-based Binance and Bahamas-based FTX may be beyond any meaningful regulatory scrutiny. However, this event has caught the eyes of regulators across the globe. Yesterday, in fact, Republican member of the U.S. House Financial Services Committee Patrick McHenry issued a statement imploring Congress to take action. “For years, I have advocated for Congress to develop a clear regulatory framework for the digital asset ecosystem, including trading platforms,” said McHenry. “The recent events show the necessity of Congressional action. It’s imperative that Congress establish a framework that ensures Americans have adequate protections while also allowing innovation to thrive here in the U.S. I look forward to learning more from FTX and Binance in the coming days about these events and the steps they will take to protect customers during the transition.”
  • Consolidated industry
    Experts have suggested that crypto wallets will eventually be whittled down to a handful of meaningful players, just as Apple and Android serve as the two main operating systems. If Binance’s acquisition of FTX goes through, the two players will be Binance for non-U.S. wallets and Coinbase for U.S. wallets.

Overall, there are lots of lessons to be learned from this, and more will come as the story develops. Perhaps the top takeaways are the simplest ones. Be ethical. Be honest. Be humble.

Photo by Miguel Á. Padriñán

4 Spooky Stats on the State of Venture Funding

4 Spooky Stats on the State of Venture Funding

For many in the fintech industry, there are few things as scary as the economy right now. High inflation, lowered investor and consumer confidence, and political tensions are all contributing to an uncertain future.

One of the largest impacts of this pullback in the fintech industry is seen in the drop in venture capital funding, the lifeblood of privately held companies. The lack of funding is giving startups of all sizes a shorter cash runway, which is leading to employee downsizing and increased exit activity.

We turned to CB Insights, which recently dropped its Q3 2022 State of Venture report, for some statistics that help tell the story of today’s funding environment in fintech and beyond. Here are some of the high-level takeaways:

71% drop in new unicorns in the third quarter of this year

Across the globe, there were only 25 newly minted unicorns in the third quarter of 2022. This is the lowest count since the first quarter of 2020, when the pandemic first began. It is worth noting that 14 of the 25 new unicorns are U.S. based. The total number of unicorns across the globe is now 1,192.

38% drop in fintech funding QoQ

Looking at the fintech sector specifically, fintech funding across the globe dropped to $12.9 billion. This dip– a 38% drop– marks the lowest quarterly funding amount in nine quarters. The last time fintech funding was this low was in the second quarter of 2020, when fintech funding totaled $12.2 billion.

42% drop in median deal size for late-stage rounds this year

So far in 2022, the median size of late-stage deals has totaled $29 million. This represents a 42% drop from last year’s total of $50 million. This year’s median late-stage deal size is similar to the median size of mid-stage deals, which totals $30 million. Interestingly, this median mid-stage deal size is on-par with the median mid-stage deal size of 2021, which also totaled $30 million.

56% fewer investments from top 3 investors

According to CB Insights, last quarter’s top three investors are quieter this quarter. Tiger Global Management, Gaingels, and SOSV made 109 investments this quarter. This figure is 56% lower than the number the investors made in the second quarter of this year. Notably, Tiger Global Management, which has been the number one investor in the past three quarters, did not even rank among the top 10 investors this quarter.

A bright light

Things are not all gloom and doom this Halloween. Looking at the bright side, while fintech funding is dropping, it is still above pre-pandemic levels.

As an example, in the first quarter of 2020, before the pandemic truly exploded, quarterly fintech funding totaled $11.3 billion. That’s $1 billion lower than today’s level. Going back even further, in the first quarter of 2018, quarterly fintech funding totaled $9.6 billion.

So perhaps it’s best to look at these drops as a market reset, instead of as the fintech world coming to an end.

Photo by Karolina Grabowska

Three Elements of the CFPB’s Financial Data Rights Rulemaking

Three Elements of the CFPB’s Financial Data Rights Rulemaking

The U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), which is tasked to protect consumers from unfair, deceptive, or abusive practices, has had a busy month. The bureau is in the headlines once again this week, this time with an update on the organization’s stance on regulating open banking and open finance.

In an address to the audience at Money20/20, CFPB Director Rohit Chopra laid out the CFPB’s proposal of requirements to protect consumers’ financial data rights. In his keynote, Chopra detailed three aspects of the CFPB’s plan, as well as the organization’s process and timeline to get there.

Requiring financial institutions to set up secure data sharing methods

Chopra said the bureau plans to require financial institutions that offer deposit accounts, credit cards, digital wallets, prepaid cards, and other transaction accounts to set up API-based data sharing. For now, it looks as if this will be limited to organizations that offer the aforementioned financial products, but Chopra made it clear that the CFPB will add the requirement in the future to those offering products not on the list, such as investing and lending.

The purpose of the rule will be to facilitate new approaches to underwriting, payment services, personal financial management, income verification, account switching, and comparison shopping. The requirement will also serve as a “jumping-off point” for a standardized approach to infrastructure allowing consumer-permissioned data sharing.

Screen-scraping is still a common practice in the U.S. and doesn’t offer customers input into which organizations use their data and how they use it. An API-first approach, like the one Chopra is suggesting, would put an end to screen scraping in financial services.

Stopping institutions from improperly restricting consumers’ access to control over their own data

The CFPB said it is looking at “a number of ways” to stop large traditional financial institutions from restricting consumers’ access to their own data. The group wants to ensure that when consumers opt to share their data, it is only used for the purpose the consumer intends.

This rule intends to target not only financial institutions themselves, which may use consumer data for marketing purposes, but also seeks to target those who use consumer data for nefarious purposes.

“While Americans are becoming numb to routine data breaches, including massive ones like the Equifax failure, we know that more needs to be done to stop this underworld from intercepting even more highly sensitive personal data,” said Chopra.

Chopra did not list specifics on how he planned to give consumers meaningful control while limiting bad actors, but he said that when a consumer gives organizations consent to use their data, the firm should not be able to exploit that data for other purposes.

Preventing excessive control or monopolization of the market

The new set of requirements will seek to limit monopolies and oligopolies present in credit reporting, card networks, core processors, and others by creating a decentralized, open system. “It’s critical that no one ‘owns’ critical infrastructure,” Chopra said.

Chopra cited Big Tech firms and incumbents as those who may set standards to rig the system in their own favor, jeopardizing an open ecosystem.

Next steps

Before these rules come into effect, the CFPB must gather a group of small firms representative of the market to provide input on our proposals. The CFPB is moving fast on this and plans to release a discussion guide for small organizations to make their voices heard this week.

After the CFPB culls input from this group, the organization will solicit input from what it is calling “fourth parties,” or intermediaries that facilitate data transfers.

Once this process is complete, the CFPB will publish a report on the input, which it will use to guide in the process of crafting a rule. The CFPB plans to publish its findings in a report in the first quarter of 2023, will issue the rule in late 2023, and will finalize the rule in 2024. The timing of the implementation relies on feedback from the small firms and intermediaries.

In other news

The news comes at an interesting time for the CFPB. The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled last week that the organization’s funding structure is unconstitutional. A panel of judges determined that the way the bureau is funded, “violates the Constitution’s structural separation of powers.”

“This isn’t an esoteric point of theory; it means the CFPB cannot do anything unless and until Congress appropriates funding for it,” said Former Deputy Assistant Attorney General James Burnham. “That’s a big deal.”

The CFPB is expected to appeal to the Fifth Circuit and then to the Supreme Court. In the meantime, however, the CFPB’s power in the Fifth Circuit region, which includes Texas, Louisiana, and Mississippi, is limited.

Photo by Polina Kovaleva