TrueLayer raises $70M for its open banking platform

TrueLayer, the London startup that offers a developer-friendly platform for companies, including other fintechs, to utilise open banking, is disclosing $70 million in new funding.

The Series D round is led by new investor Addition. Existing investors, including Anthemis Group, Connect Ventures, Mouro Capital, Northzone and Temasek, also participated. New investors include Visionaries Club, Zack Kanter (CEO Stedi), Daniel Graf (ex-Uber, Google, Twitter) and David Avgi (ex-CEO SafeCharge, CEO UniPaaS).

TrueLayer says the Series D brings the total investment to date to $142 million. The injection of capital will be used to continue scaling its open banking network, which brings together payments, financial data and identity to enable companies to build new products that improve “how we spend, save, and transact online”.

This will include further development of premium open banking-based services that go beyond simply accessing open banking APIs and will enable more innovation across financial services, including embedded finance and payments more generally.

To do this, and to support what it says is growing demand, TrueLayer is expanding its engineering, product and commercial teams. In the past 12 months, the fintech has expanded its services across 12 European markets.

Over the years, TrueLayer CEO and co-founder Francesco Simoneschi and I have often pontificated on what open banking’s killer use case or use cases may turn out to be. We may finally have our answer: payments.

That’s because one aspect of open banking is payment initiation, which lets an authorised third party initiate the transfer of money out of your bank account on your behalf as an alternative to card payments, which were never built with online payments in mind.

“We believe open banking payments will become the default way to pay online, replacing other payment methods in the next five years,” says Simoneschi. “Open banking is digitally native and mobile-first, moving money at a fraction of the cost, securely and conveniently, while also delivering a vastly better consumer experience”.

The past year has also exposed some of the problems with existing payments methods, as people have turned to digital channels to manage every aspect of their lives. “The problem is cards,” says the TrueLayer CEO, “which weren’t designed for online and have been retrofitted into current online payment flows. Newer digital approaches such as Google Pay or Apple Pay paper over those cracks but don’t change the fundamentals”.

Simoneschi says the company has seen the use of its payments API grow rapidly as more consumers embrace instant bank payments. Volumes grew by 600x over the last year, driven by more and more companies adopting open banking payments, including the likes of Revolut, Trading 212, Freetrade and Nutmeg.

“We typically see that 1 in 3 customers choose the open banking payment option after trying it once,” he notes, revealing that for some clients, closer to 70% of their customers are using open banking as the primary payment method.

“There are a number of reasons why it makes sense for customers. For one, they don’t need to remember card details. Instead, they authenticate with their face or fingerprint on their mobile device, instantly and securely. Plus, they’ll never need to update stored details if their card is lost, stolen or expires”.

Open banking payments as a checkout option benefits merchants too, argues Simoneschi. “These payments typically convert 20% better than cards (and up to 40% with our flows) and have success rates higher than 95%, equating to millions or hundreds of millions in recovered revenue at the end of the year,” adds the TrueLayer co-founder.

#addition, #europe, #fundings-exits, #open-banking, #recent-funding, #startups, #tc, #truelayer

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Financial API provider Brick is building the infrastructure for open banking in Southeast Asia

The adoption of financial apps is surging in Southeast Asian markets like Indonesia, the region’s most populous country. Founded by fintech veterans last year, Brick develops APIs that make it easier for tech companies to add identity verification and access financial data from their users. It is currently partnered with Indonesia’s seven largest banks, covering more than 90% of the country’s bank accounts, and plans to expand into all Southeast Asia countries.

More than three-fourths of Southeast Asia’s population is unbanked or underbanked, meaning that don’t have a bank account or access to traditional lending services. Brick will serve them as well, with products like mobile wallet and telcos APIs that are currently in beta and slated for launch next quarter.

The startup, which is now used by 250 developers and 35 tech companies, announced today it has raised new seed round. The amount of funding was undisclosed. Investors include investment firms Better Tomorrow Ventures, PT Prasetia Dwidharma, 1982 Ventures, Antler and Rally Cap Ventures, and angel backers like TrueLayer chief operating officer Shefali Roy, Cred chief executive officer Kunal Shah, Modalku CEO Reynold Wijaya, Carousell CEO Quek Siu Rui, and the founders of Nium, Xfers, Aspire, BukuWarung, ZenRooms and CareemPay.

Brick was founded in 2020 by chief executive officer Gavin Tan, an early employee at Aspire, a neobank for small- to mid-sized businesses, and chief technology Deepak Malhotra, previously co-founder of Indian neobank Slice and a former PayPal engineer.

Brick’s APIs have been deployed by personal financial management, cloud accounting, lending, wealth management and neobank apps, and Tan told TechCrunch it also sees use cases in verticals like savings, stock trading and financial planning.

Tan said he began thinking of launching Brick while working at high-growth fintech startups in Southeast Asia, including Aspire, and encountering a lack of infrastructure that slowed product development.

“Without unified APIs like those provided by Brick, fintech developers have to spend months figuring out commercials, navigating differing tech standards and navigating differing data standards, before they are able to launch their app,” Tan said.

A diagram showing Brick's financial API offerings

A diagram showing Brick’s financial API offerings

 

Brick and other fintechs have benefited from strong support from Indonesian regulators. For example, Bank Indonesia published open banking API standards in 2020.

Tan said the standards “represents concrete government recognition of open banking principles, including consumer ownership of data and the necessity of their consent to transfer and use that data (which Tan describes as “a core principle that all our products adhere to”) and establishing a common language for banks and fintechs that enables the adoption of embedded finance. It also laid out implementation timelines for open APIs, beginning with payment initiation APIs in 2021, which Brick will launch later this year.

Brick works closely with Bank Indonesia and Indonesia’s Financial Services Authority and is participating in Bank Rakyat Indonesia’s Sembrani Wira accelerator program.

The most obvious comparison for Brick is to Plaid, the financial API provider that helped enable the adoption of open banking and open finance in the United States, Canada and European countries. A key difference, however, is that Plaid serves markets where the majority of people have a bank account.

On the other hand, “in Southeast Asia, only 25% of adults regularly use a bank account,” Tan said. “For the 75% unbanked and underbanked adults, their data resides in alternative financial data sources.” To tap into that market, Brick is building APIs for alternative financial data sources, like mobile wallets, telcos, utility providers, e-commerce platforms, social security and tax offices.

The company is currently focused on product launches in Indonesia, and plans to start expanding into other high-growth fintech markets, including Singapore, the Philippines and Vietnam, later this year.

#asia, #brick, #financial-api, #fintech, #fundings-exits, #indonesia, #open-banking, #open-finance, #southeast-asia, #startups, #tc

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Mono, a startup that wants to build Plaid for Africa, gets backing from Y Combinator

Prakhar Singh and ex-Paystack employee Abdul Hassan have known each other for seven years, building different tech products individually and collectively along the way.

Before joining Paystack in 2018, Hassan co-founded OyaPay, a payments startup the year before. After leaving the Stripe-owned company in 2019, he launched a data startup called Voyance where Singh, who had already exited one of his products — Transferpay.ng, an offline payments startup — was a software engineer.

Last June, the duo started working on Mono, a project that would allow companies to access their customers’ financial accounts in Nigeria.

By streamlining various data in a single API, companies and third-party developers can retrieve vital information like account statements, real-time balance, historical transactions, income, expense and account owner identification. Of course, this isn’t without users’ consent as they are required to login with their internet or mobile login credentials before any transaction takes place.

Following a series of tests and iterations, Mono launched its beta version in August, with Hassan as CEO and Singh as CTO. A month later, the startup closed a $500,000 pre-seed investment from early-stage investors like Lateral Capital, Ventures Platform, Golden Palm Investments and Rally Cap. It was one of the notable pre-seed rounds on the continent because of the length of time it took from launch to funding, a trait other API fintech startups in the region share, albeit with significantly longer timelines.  

In a region where more than half of the population is either unbanked or underbanked, these open finance players are trying to improve financial inclusion on the continent. Open finance thrives on the notion that with access to a financial ecosystem via open APIs and new routes to move money, access financial information and make borrowing decisions, the barriers and costs of entry for the unbanked and underbanked might come down. 

However, for Hassan, Mono’s play overlaps open finance and open banking. Although the two terminologies portray what these African startups want to accomplish, the CEO believes that they are subject to regulation from the government and apex financial institutions. Mono is a data company playing in the fintech space, he says.

Prakhar Singh (CTO) and Abdul Hassan (CEO)

He likened Mono to how Google was in its early days when it started with a simple mission to organize the world’s information and make it accessible. Decades later with enormous data, Google has metamorphosed into an internet giant playing in a plethora of sectors.

“If you ask me, I’ll say we don’t see ourselves entirely in open banking or finance,” he told TechCrunch. “Today, we’re concerned about how we can get data from different sources and aggregate into a database where businesses can get access to them with our users’ consent. Down the line, we can use this data for different use cases and solve various problems.”

Mono has already secured partnerships with more than 16 financial institutions in Nigeria and has a little over a hundred businesses like Carbon, Renmoney, Flutterwave and Indicina using its platform. They process about 5 million datasets per hour, the CEO claims.

These clients are mainly lending companies with a few others in proptech and health tech, which allow users to pay for their services in installments. But there are plans to diversify this clientele. One such way will be to improve onboarding processes on applications through its one-click signup feature.

From a user’s perspective, here’s how it works when considering two savings applications: Users submit their KYC to the first savings app. But for one reason or the other, maybe due to a better interest rate, some users switch to a second savings app.

However, there’s a little hassle in that a second KYC is needed for this process. What Mono has done with the one-click signup feature is to let users transfer their data from the first app to the second without repeating the process. And to that end, Mono has partnered with two of Nigeria’s leading savings and investment platforms to roll out the service. 

“First, we’ve enabled companies with a new infrastructure that allows them to get access to customers’ financial accounts and understand their history before giving them loans or any financial service. Now, we think with the new generation of companies coming up in Africa, Mono will be the one to power their onboarding processes,” Hassan remarks on the platform’s offerings.

Image Credits: Mono

For any investor, Mono’s sticky features, coupled with explosive growth, looks too good of an opportunity to pass on. Today, the six-month-old startup announced that it has been accepted into Y Combinator’s Winter 2021 batch. It will receive $125,000 in seed funding with an opportunity to receive follow-up investment after graduating in March. The startup also joins 39 other African startups per YC data which have passed through the accelerator since 2009.

Getting into the accelerator helps Mono with one of its biggest challenges. According to Hassan, Mono has come across users who are still skeptical to input their internet banking details on the platform due to personal experiences with online fraud in the country.

“To date, we’ve been focusing on building, and I think we’ve gotten to a stage where we’re seeing some people not wanting to use their internet banking on Mono.” But with YC’s backing and a conscious offline marketing plan afterwards, the founder thinks Mono’s credibility can get a lift.

At Paystack, where Hassan was a product manager, he was privileged to experience firsthand the company’s innovation and growth before it was acquired by Stripe last year. He says he learned the ropes of product development and management, and hiring — lessons that have stuck with him to Mono, a company now with 13 staff across Nigeria and India.

The plan for Mono is to be a global company and getting into YC provides the perfect opportunity to do so. The company is also planning an imminent pan-African expansion to Ghana and Kenya, and from all indication, Mono might execute one if not the two before the end of Q1. Setting the company up for expansion and the hiring spree that comes with it will require capital, so a seed round is in the works to facilitate the whole process.

 

#africa, #finance, #financial-inclusion, #fintech, #mono, #open-banking, #open-finance, #startups, #y-combinator

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Minna Technologies, a subscription management tool for banking customers, raises $18.8M

With the proliferation of subscription services, combined with our lives becoming almost 100% digital, there’s a rising need to be able to manage these services. But most banks don’t have much of an answer. Step in Minna Technologies, which sells in its subscription management services into banking apps.

It’s now raised $18.8 million (€15.5m / £14m) in Series B fundraising from Element Ventures, MiddleGame Ventures, Nineyards Equity and Visa, to expand its open banking technology to banks globally.

Founded in Gothenburg, Sweden in 2016, Minna enables customers to manage subscription services via their existing bank’s app. Using Minna, customers can terminate subscriptions just from their banking app, automatically, cutting the data and financial ties between the merchant and customer. The platform can also notify customers when a free trial is about to end and facilitates utilities switching allowing them to find better deals. So far, Minna has partnerships with Lloyds Banking Group, Swedbank and ING.

Minna’s technology reduces the burden on a bank’s call centers, plus banks can also benefit financially from Minna’s role in facilitating utility switching, raising the prospect of banks becoming marketplaces.

The appearance of Minna suggests that the first wave of neo-banks is about to be accompanied by a second wave of overlayed services such as this. The average European is spending £301 (€333) a month on 11 subscriptions, which is predicted to increase to £459 (€508) a month on 17 subscriptions by 2025. IDC predicts that by 2050, 50% of the world’s largest enterprises will focus the majority of their businesses on digitally enhanced products, services, and experiences. Subscriptions are even coming from car makers such as Volvo.

Joakim Sjöblom, CEO and co-founder of Minna Technologies, said: “Over the past four years the subscription economy has exploded from Spotify and Netflix to even iPhones and cars. It’s becoming increasingly difficult for consumers to keep track of the payments and harder for banks to handle inquiries to shut them down. Minna’s tech improves the procedure for banks by simplifying the process, as well as providing an in-demand digital product that consumers are starting to expect from their financial institutions.”

Sjöblom told me that by largely working with incumbent banks, Minna is providing them with a way to fight back against challenger banks.

Pascal Bouvier, Managing Partner, MiddleGame Ventures said: “We strongly believe in a vision where banks develop their checking account offerings into “connected and intelligent” platforms and where retail clients are able to interact in many more ways than in the recent past.”

#bank, #banking, #economy, #europe, #finance, #ing, #managing-partner, #middlegame-ventures, #netflix, #open-banking, #spotify, #subscription-services, #sweden, #tc, #up, #visa, #volvo

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Singapore-based open finance startup Finantier gets backing from Y Combinator

Being “underbanked” doesn’t mean that someone lacks access to financial services. Instead, it often means they don’t have traditional bank accounts or credit cards. But in markets like Indonesia, many still use digital wallets or e-commerce platforms, creating alternative sources of user data that can help them secure working capital and other financial tools. Finantier, a Singapore-based open finance startup, wants to streamline that data with a single API that gives financial services access to user data, with their consent. It also includes machine learning-based analytics to enable credit scoring and KYC verifications.

Currently in beta mode with more than 20 clients, Finantier is busy getting ready to officially launch. It announced today that it has been accepted into Y Combinator’s Winter 2021 startup batch. The startup also also recently raised an undisclosed amount of pre-seed funding led by East Ventures, with participation from AC Ventures, Genesia Ventures, Two Culture Capital and other investors.

Finantier was founded earlier this year by Diego Rojas, Keng Low and Edwin Kusuma, all of whom have experience building products for fintech companies, with the mission of enabling open finance in emerging markets.

Open finance grew out of open banking, the same framework that Plaid and Tink are built on. Meant to give people more control over their financial data instead of keeping it siloed within banks and other institutions, users can decide to grant apps or websites secure access to information from their online accounts, including bank accounts, credit cards and digital wallets. Open banking refers mainly to payment accounts, while open finance, Finantier’s specialty, covers a larger gamut of services, including business lending, mortgages and insurance underwriting.

While Finantier is focusing first on Singapore and Indonesia, it plans to expand into other countries and become a global fintech company like Plaid. It’s already eyeing Vietnam and the Philippines and has established partnerships in Brussels.

Before launching Finantier, Rojas worked on products for peer-to-peer lending platforms Lending Club and Dianrong, and served as chief technology officer for several fintech startups in Southeast Asia. He realized that many companies struggled to integrate with other platforms and fetch data from banks, or purchase data from different providers.

“People are discussing open banking, embedded finance and so on,” Rojas, Finantier’s chief executive officer, told TechCrunch. “But those are the building blocks of something bigger, which is open finance. Particularly in a region like Southeast Asia, where about 60% to 70% of adults are unbanked or underbanked, we believe in helping consumers and businesses leverage the data that they have in multiple platforms. It definitely doesn’t need to be a bank account, it could be in a digital wallet, e-commerce platform or other service providers.”

What this means for consumers is that even if someone doesn’t have a credit card, they can still establish creditworthiness: for example, by sharing data from completed transactions on e-commerce platforms. Gig economy workers can access more financial services and deals by giving data about their daily rides or other types of work they do through different apps.

Building Southeast Asia’s financial infrastructure

Other open banking startups focused on Southeast Asia include Brankas and Brick. Rojas said Finantier differentiates by specializing on open finance, and creating infrastructure for financial institutions to build more services for end users.

The benefit of open finance for financial institutions is that they can create products for more consumers and find more opportunities for revenue sharing models. In Southeast Asia, this also means reaching more people who are underbanked, or otherwise lack access to financial services.

While taking part in Y Combinator’s accelerator program, Finantier will also be participating in the Indonesia Financial Service Authority’s regulatory sandbox. Once it completes the program, it will be able to partner with more fintech companies in Indonesia, including bigger institutions.

There are 139 million adults in Indonesia who are underbanked or unbanked, said East Ventures co-founder and managing partner Wilson Cuaca.

The investment firm, which focuses on Indonesia, conducts an annual survey called the East Ventures Digital Competitiveness Index, and found that financial exclusion was where one of the largest divides existed. There significant gaps in between the number of financial services available in heavily-populated islands like Java, where Jakarta is located, and other islands in the archipelago.

To promote financial inclusion and alleviate the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the government has set a goal for 10 million micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) to go digital by the end of the year. There are currently about 8 Indonesian million MSMEs that sell online, representing just 13% of MSMEs in the country.

“Providing equal access to financial services will create multiplier effects to the Indonesian economy,” Cuaca told TechCrunch about East Ventures’ decision to back Finantier. “Currently, hundreds of companies work with their own unique solutions to bring financial services to more people. We believe Finantier will help them offer more products and services to this underserved section of the population.”

 

#asia, #finantier, #fintech, #fundings-exits, #indonesia, #open-banking, #open-finance, #singapore, #southeast-asia, #startups, #tc

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Nordigen introduces free European open banking API

Latvian fintech startup Nordigen is switching to a freemium model thanks to a free open banking API. Open banking was supposed to democratize access to banking information, but the company believes banking aggregation APIs from Tink or Plaid are too expensive. Instead, Nordigen thinks it can provide a free API to access account information and paid services for analytics and insights services.

Open banking is a broad term and means different things, from account aggregation to verifying account ownership and payment initiation. The most basic layer of open banking is the ability to view data from third-party financial institutions. For instance, some banks let you connect to other bank accounts so that you can view all your bank accounts from a single interface.

There are two ways to connect to a bank. Some banks provide an application programming interface (API), which means that you can send requests to the bank’s servers and receive data in return.

While all financial institutions should have an open API due to the European PSD2 directive, many banks are still dragging their feet. That’s why open banking API companies usually rely on screen scraping. They mimic web browser interactions, which means that it’s slow, it requires a ton of server resources and it can break.

“If you’re wondering how we’d be able to afford it, our free banking data API was designed purely with PSD2 in mind, meaning it’s lightweight in strong contrast to that of incumbents. So it wouldn’t significantly increase our costs to scale free users,” Nordigen co-founder and CEO Rolands Mesters told me.

So you don’t get total coverage with Nordigen’s API. The startup currently supports 300 European banks, which covers 60 to 90% of the population in each country. But it’s hard to complain when it’s a free product anyway.

Some Nordigen customers will probably want more information. Nordigen provides financial data analytics. It can be particularly useful if you’re a lending company trying to calculate a credit score, if you’re a financial company with minimum income requirements and more.

For those additional services, you’ll have to pay. Nordigen currently has 50 clients and expects to attract more customers with its new freemium strategy.

#europe, #finance, #fintech, #open-banking, #psd2, #startups

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Brazil’s banks try to outflank challengers by investing in a $15 million round for Quanto

Trying to outflank competition from neo banks and other potential challengers, two of Brazil’s largest financial services institutions, Bradesco and Itaú Unibanco, have invested in Quanto, a company developing technology to let retailers and other businesses access financial information and services.

Joining Brazil’s two largest banks are Kaszek Ventures, one of Latin America’s largest venture capital firms, and Coatue, the multi-billion dollar hedge fund. 

Bradesco joined the round through its InovaBra Ventures investment fund while Itaú invested directly and had its participation approved by Brazil’s Central Bank, according to a statement.

“Open banking changes the way we understand and consume financial services, but it’s quite exciting to see the Brazilian market embracing this new moment in such a positive way,” said Richard Taveira, Quanto’s chief executive, in a statement. “Brazil has the potential to lead the use of open banking worldwide, and this round is a testament to that.”

Brazil’s Central Bank is deeply invested in the prospect of opening up banking regulation to allow information and data sharing between payment processors and technology providers, retailers, and other service providers in the financial services value chain.

Quanto, which provides standardized bank data application programming interfaces that allow institutions to slash the time it takes to ccess bank account data.

“Open banking is an important evolution in the financial services market and we believe that Quanto can contribute in an impactful way in creating a more competitive market, focused on the customer experience,” said Rafael Padilha, Director at Bradesco Private Equity and Inovabra Ventures, in a statement.

The Quanto technology could enable financial product distribution through the same API platform as business to business services, the company said. Quanto claims that its services will make it easier for customers to access low-interest credit lines with a single sign-on model and to receive competitive interest rates by sharing banking data with multiple lenders in a single flow.

“Quanto provides the rail for banks and fintechs to compete, and consumers are the ones who win”, said Taveira.

#api, #bank, #banking, #brazil, #coatue, #companies, #director, #financial-services, #itau, #kaszek-ventures, #latin-america, #open-banking, #tc, #venture-capital-firms

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Revolut expands bank account aggregation to Ireland

Fintech startup Revolut has expanded its open banking feature to Ireland. The feature first launched in the U.K. back in February. Once again, the startup is partnering with TrueLayer to let you add third-party bank accounts to your Revolut account.

The feature launch also marks the launch of TrueLayer in Ireland. For now, Revolut users can only link their Revolut account with AIB, Permanent TSB, Ulster Bank and Bank of Ireland. Revolut and TrueLayer will add support to other banks in the future. Revolut currently has 1 million customers in the Republic of Ireland.

The idea behind open banking is quite simple. Many online services rely on application programming interfaces (APIs) to talk to each other. You can connect with your Facebook account on many online services, you can interact with other services from Slack, etc.

Financial institutions have been lagging behind on this front but it is changing thanks to new regulation and technical updates. With open banking, your bank account should work more like a traditional internet service.

When you connect your bank account with Revolut, you can view your balance and past transactions from a separate tab that lists all your linked accounts. Users can also take advantage of Revolut’s budgeting features with their bank accounts.

As TechCrunch’s Steve O’Hear noted when he first covered Revolut’s open banking feature, Revolut was originally authorized for Account Information Services (AIS) by the U.K. regulator, the Financial Conduct Authority. It lets you access and display information from other financial institutions.

But the startup now has permission to carry out Payment Initiation Services (PIS). It means that you’ll soon be able to initiate transfers from your bank account directly from Revolut. It should make it much easier to top up your Revolut balance for instance.

While this feature might seem anecdotical, Revolut wants to build a comprehensive financial hub for all your financial needs — a sort of super app for everything related to money. With open banking, you theoretically no longer have to open your traditional banking app.

#apps, #challenger-bank, #europe, #finance, #fintech, #mobile, #neobank, #open-banking, #revolut, #startups, #truelayer

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Fintech regulations in Latin America could fuel growth or freeze out startups

It may have entered the game later than other leading regions such as Europe and North America, but Latin America’s fintech industry is dynamic and growing fast. The sector was recently given a valuation of more than $150 billion and continues to expand year-on-year.

And while the longer-term impact of COVID-19 on the sector is yet to be determined, there’s no doubt that the demand for certain fintech solutions is on the rise. As smaller financial institutions across the region are under pressure to digitize, many are calling on fintechs to help them along this journey. In addition, a number of SMEs are seeking out digital loan services to help them get through the crisis.

The sector’s speedy expansion has meant that regulators in LatAm are under increasing pressure to enact legislation that addresses the murky waters of fintech activity, providing confidence to consumers and investors alike. However, regulation across the region must be careful to not quash innovation, while startups must figure out how to be agile in an environment which is becoming increasingly regulated. Let’s take a closer look at what impact regulation has had so far in LatAm, and what needs to happen to strike a balance between sector growth and public trust.

The development of fintech regulation across LatAm

Mexico is currently leading the way when it comes to fintech regulation in LatAm, thanks to its comprehensive 2018 fintech Law. The law covers most fintech activities, including crowdfunding, virtual wallet, transactions carried out with cryptocurrencies and open banking. In addition, Mexico has certain financial laws that regulate financial entities in their execution of transactions using fintech. The law also provides a regulatory sandbox for both licensed and non-licensed companies.

Brazil is the furthest ahead after Mexico, as it individually legislates crowdfunding and peer-to-peer lending, while a special congressional commission is working on a broader legislative strategy. Brazil’s Central Bank also endeavors to make open banking legislation effective by the third quarter of 2020, which will pave the way for a thriving open banking ecosystem.

#banking, #column, #coronavirus, #covid-19, #extra-crunch, #finance, #financial-technology, #fintech, #government, #latin-america, #market-analysis, #mexico, #open-banking, #peer-to-peer, #peer-to-peer-lending, #policy, #startups, #venture-capital

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Could lessons from the challenger bank revolution kick-start innovation on the climate crisis?

Now that the world is swimming in data we may be able to address the climate and environmental risks to the planet. But while there is plenty of capital to invest in things like ClimateTech, a lot of the data that’s needed to tackle this big issue is badly applied, leading to a big misallocation of resources. So to deal with the climate we have to get the data right. A big part of the solution is open standards and interoperability.

The story of how the Open Banking Standard developed might show a way forward. Its development out of the UK led to regulated sector-wide interoperability (covering a broad range of areas including IP, legal, liability and licensing, and technology to enable data sharing). It’s meant over 300 fintech companies now use the Standard, which has helped to catalyze similar initiatives.

Open Banking has lead to the explosion in tech startups that we see today. Revolut, Monzo, Starling bank—none of them would have existed without Open Banking.

What if someone created something like the Open Banking Standard, but this time to stimulate climate-friendly innovation around financial products. After all, it’s more likely we’ll save the planet if we incentivize firms with financial models to make it work.

Well, it just so happens that one of the key players that developed the Open Banking Standard plans to do the same for data about the climate to allow the insurance industry to engage in the solutions to the climate crisis.

Gavin Starks co-chaired the development of the Open Banking Standard, laying the foundations for regulation and catalyzing international innovation.

But Starks has form in this arena. Prior to co-creating Open Banking, he was the Open Data Institute’s founding CEO, working with Sir Tim Berners-Lee. The ODI may not be well known in Silicon Valley, but it’s launched franchises across 20 countries and trained 10,000 people.

Starks’ previous venture was a pioneer in the climate space: AMEE (Avoidance of Mass Extinctions Engine) organized the world’s environmental data and standards into an open web-service, raising $10M and selling in 2015 PredictX.

Starks also chaired the development of the first Gold Standard Carbon Offset.

But what Starks has set himself is a task different to Open Banking.

His new project is Icebreaker One, a new non-profit which last month raised £1m+ investment, largely funded by the UK’s government-backed body UK Research and Innovation. It’s also supported by a consortium of financial and regulatory institutions.

So what’s the big idea this time?

The idea is to develop an open standard for data sharing that will stimulate climate-friendly financial product innovation and deliver new products.

Just like the Open Banking Standard, Icebreaker One will steer the development of the SERI standard. This is the Standard for Environment, Risk and Insurance (SERI) which has been created to design, test and develop financial products with Icebreaker One members ahead of the COP26 conference in Glasgow later this year.

SERI could provide a framework for an addressable, open marketplace, built around the needs of both the market and the new reality of climate change. If it works, this would enable insurers to share data robustly, legally and securely, driving the use and adoption of artificial intelligence tools within the insurance sector.

It would mean insurers being able to invest in demonstrably low-carbon financial products and services, based on real, hard data.

The current SERI launch partners are Aon, Arup, Agvesto, Bird & Bird, Brit Insurance, Dais LLP, Lloyd’s Register Group and the University of Cambridge.

The thinking behind the initiative is that as large catastrophic climate events occur with higher frequency, the UK’s insurance market is under pressure to evolve.

By creating the data platform, insurers can invest in low-carbon financial products, rather than ignore them because they can’t be priced right.

Starks says: “The time for theory is over—we need rapid and meaningful action. The threat of climate change to the global economy is tangible, and the increase in catastrophic climate events is capable of bankrupting markets and even nation-states. We are already witnessing insurance in some areas becoming untenable – which is a genuine threat to communities and wider society.”

He adds: “We are working with some of the most influential organizations in the world to plan policies and regulation to protect citizens, our environment and our economy; to unlock the power of unused and underutilized data to enable governments and business to respond effectively, responsibly and sustainably to the threats posed by the climate emergency.”

Arup, the multinational professional services firm best known for large engineering projects, is one of those in the SERI consortium.

Volker Buscher, Chief Data Officer at Arup, says: “Responding to climate change and futureproofing the market is vital – and working with Gavin and senior industry figures is a big opportunity to make real-world data work harder, to evolve investment strategies, shine a light on inefficiencies and better understand risk. It’s of benefit to everyone that we create the working blueprint for the freer sharing and licensing of data-at-scale that can be a shot in the arm to climate-affected financial products and services.”

Icebreaker One plans to overcome the locked, legacy culture of the insurance industry.

The task ahead is a big one. Currently, the valuable data needed to unlock this potential is in lately closed-off “data lakes”. The goal is to influence $3.6 trillion of investment.

If the insurance industry can innovate around climate change and the new kinds of risk it creates, then the financial world industry can create the kind of boom Open Banking did.

And that would mean not just brand new insurance products but also new startups in what’s been described as “InsureTech”.

But the greater prize, is of course the planet itself.

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