As we finish this weekend, we want to look back at some of the most important Fintech highlights. Each Friday, we want you to join us for our special afternoon segment where we will be sharing a condensed version of all of the most important FinTech highlights that happened in the last 7 days to catch you up on everything important before you start your well-deserved weekend. This week, we will look at the Romanian FinTech (blockchain) unicorn startup and their future plans, the UK’s planned visa programs that aim at boosting FinTech after Brexit, the Indian Reliance starting digital payment cooperation with Google and Facebook, ClearGlass Analytics closing their funding round, Nigeria’s Vice-President issuing a statement on cryptocurrencies and going against the main security regulator, India’s government about to vote on banning cryptocurrencies, Robinhood with a record-high number of users in 2021, and more. Take a look at the FinTech highlights of this week.
Romanian Blockchain Unicorn Plans New Features For Its Money App
The digital asset market has reached the highest level so far, rising to more than $1 trillion in early 2021, due to Bitcoin’s performance and an increasing number of people seriously starting to adapt the digital assets into their businesses.
Beniamin Mincu, the founder of the Romanian blockchain unicorn Elrona, says “This transforms what once looked like a Mexican standoff, where potential investors waited on the sidelines, into an arms race,”
The blockchain technology that Elron has developed can process an incredible amount of 15 000 transactions per second. The world’s two biggest cryptocurrencies, Bitcoin and Ethereum can process 7 and 14 transactions per second respectively.
Over the years, Elron has developed both a digital wallet and a global payments app (launched on January 31st) that supports Elrond’s own crypto currency eGold (eGLD), as well as Binance and Ethereum. Having said that, Mincu announced that they are preparing to support bitcoin in two to four weeks.
Another feature that the startup wants to unleash is introducing a card in the next three to six months, allowing the cryptocurrencies into the traditional economy. Moreover, in the next six to twelve months, Mincu is planning another financing round to increase the users.
The launch of the payments app Maiar has raised Elrond’s market value to $2.37 billion and as Reuters writes, the startup is seen as an easily accessible gateway to blockchain for the general public, using nothing but a smartphone.
“Maiar is the simplest app for people to interact with blockchain technology and can pave the way to building the infrastructure for a new transparent financial system with wide bandwidth and very low latency,” Mincu said
On Wednesday, SoftBank announced that it plans to double the number of users in their PayPay QR code payment app in the next three years and wants to broaden its lead in cashless payments.
In the three years since its launch, PayPay has attracted more than 35 million of users and gradually increasing the Japanese consumers’ demand for digital payments and not traditional cash payment that was the most commonly used payment method.
“We want to double the user base during the investment phase,” Z Holdings co-CEO, Kentaro Kawabe, said.
Another news that was released was that Line Pay has a slight advantage over PayPay in the number of users, being close to 40 million but with fewer merchants and less wide use by its customers, will be merged with PayPay in 2022.
Reliance Industry Partners With Google And Facebook
The Indian conglomerate Reliance Industry has announced on Saturday that it started a cooperation with Facebook, Google, and a FinTech Infibeam in order to create a national digital payment network that will rival the system that is operated by the National Payments Council of India (NPCI).
NPCI was established in 2008 and it has some of the largest banks as it shareholders, including Citibank, HSBC, and the State Bank of India. Every day, NPCI which is a non-for-profit-organization, processes billions of dollars worth of payments through their ATM transactions, digital payments, and fund transfers.
In general, the use of digital payments in India could hit a record-high $135.2 billion by 2023.
Google and Facebook have not issued an official statement about the collaboration and Infibeam stated that they will not comment on the report, being bound by the confidentiality of process.
European Highlight: The UK To Offer Fast-Track Visas To Boost FinTech
Last Friday, the finance minister of the UK, Rishi Sunak, announced that the country will offer fast-track visa program after Brexit. The visas will be meant for jobs at high-growth companies in the financial sector and fintech startups. The decision comes after an official government report that showed issues in the financial technology sector after Brexit.
“This new fast-track scale-up stream will make it easier for fintech firms to recruit innovators and job creators, who will help them grow,” Sunak said in a statement.
Almost half of all the FinTech employees working in the United Kingdom are from abroad and as a consequence of Brexit, Britain no longer has access to the EU single market, employing skilled professionals from the EU became significantly harder and Britain’s position in the industry declined.
The new visa program is planned to start in March 2022 and Ron Kalifa, a former CEO of the FinTech Worldpay together with a number of experts has set out a strategy on how to proceed to boost the FinTech sector in the next years. Apart from the visa program, planned investment is a 1 billion pound start-up found
“It’s about underpinning financial services and our place in the world, and bringing innovation into mainstream banking,” Kalifa told Reuters.
Currently, Britain holds 10% share of the FinTech market worldwide and the revenue is estimated at 11 billion pounds.
Vice President Urges Nigeria To Regulate Cryptocurrencies
Although Nigeria is the country with the highest adoption of FinTech, the regulators are making the transition more and more complicated, continuously curbing the use of cryptocurrencies. Earlier this year, the central bank of Nigeria has prohibited dealing in and facilitating transactions in cryptocurrency by banks and other financial institutions. Banks and other lending institutions that would fail to adhere to these rules would face “severe regulatory sanctions”
On Friday, the Vice President of the country, Yemi Osinbajo, said that the central bank and securities regulator of Nigeria has to find efficient solutions to regulate cryptocurrencies but not prohibit their use. He has encouraged the regulators to create a regime that will support innovation.
The central bank of Nigeria has emphasized that according to them, using unregulated cryptocurrencies is to risky for the consumers.
“I fully appreciate the position of the central bank, the Securities and Exchange Commission and … the possible abuses of cryptocurrencies,” the Vice President Osinbajo said. “There’s a role for regulation here and it is the place of our monetary authorities and SEC to provide a robust regulatory regime that addresses these serious concerns.”
“Cryptocurrencies in the coming years will challenge traditional banking, including reserve banking, in ways that we cannot yet imagine, so we need to be prepared for that seismic shift,” he added.
FinTech Startup Robinhood With 6 Million New Users In Two Months!
Late last week, the online brokerage fintech startup Robinhood has revealed that more than 6 million users have joined the cryptocurrency services in the first two months of 2021, as we saw record-high prices from Bitcoin, Dogecoin, Ether and other cryptocurrencies.
In comparison, in 2020, Robinhood’s crypto services were used by 200 000 new customers each month. The spokeswoman representing the fintech startup declined to comment on how many customers trade cryptocurrencies through Robinhood total.
Robinhood, which plans to go public this year valued at more than $20 billion, lets their customers hold, buy, and sell cryptocurrencies. Recently, the fintech startup revealed that it plans to upgrade the cryptocurrency service with the ability to deposit and withdraw digital assets for transfers to other wallets.
In January, Robinhood angered some of its customers when it temporarily disabled a feature on its app that allowed users to instantly buy crypto securities due to volatile market conditions sparked by the GameStop trading frenzy.
Robinhood is expected to go public this year, with a value of more than $20 billion.
Fintech Highlight: Indian Central Bank Concerned About Cryptocurrencies
Last week, India’s governor Shaktikanta Das said that the Reserve Bank of India is majorly concerned about the use of cryptocurrencies and the potential threats to financial stability. Das said that he has spoken about his concerns with the government and that the RBI’s plans to launch its digital currency are still a “work in progress”
“We have major concerns from the financial stability angle,” Das said while adding that the RBI is still working on its digital currency. “It will be very difficult and not possible for me to give a date as there are several loose ends that need to be tied up and it is receiving our full attention.”
India’s government has earlier criticized cryptocurrencies and the parliament is expected to discuss potential legislation that would ban private cryptocurrencies. In 2019, a government panel has already recommended prohibiting all private cryptocurrencies. A 10 years jail term and heavy fines were among the consequences that would face anybody dealing in the cryptocurrencies.
“The premise that crypto will be a competitor to the Indian rupee and so will lead to financial instability is incorrect,” said Nischal Shetty, chief executive of the WazirX cryptocurrency exchange.“In order to ensure that there is financial stability we have the option of regulating it.”
This voice was supported by a legal partner, Rashmi Deshpande, who has represented crypto firms in the top court in India.
“We have made recommendations to the government to treat crypto as an asset class just (like) other securities … which (are) then governed by the market regulator or any other regulatory body.”
FinTech Highlight: Deutsche Bank And Mastercard Will Deepen Collaboration
On Wednesday, Deutsche Bank and Mastercard announced that they would broaden their cooperation by develop a digital payment solution for companies. The digital payment sector is blooming and the projections show an uninterrupted growth in revenues and transactions.
Thus, Deutsche Bank hopes that seriously entering this segment will provide them with the bigger piece of the pie.
“The coronavirus pandemic has triggered exponential growth in corporates’ demand for digital payment solutions,” said Ole Matthiessen, Deutsche Bank’s global head of cash management.
FinTech Startup Highlight: ClearGlass Analytics Closes A Funding Round
This week, the FinTech startup ClearGlass Analytics has closed a $3.6 million funding round for the platform they developed, aiming to create bigger transparency in the long-term savings market.
The seed round included angels from asset management and pension fund worlds, such as Ruston Smith, a pension trustee; Richard Butcher, chair of the PLSA (U.K. pension trade body); Chris Wilcox, former Global Head of JP Morgan Asset Management; and Rob O’Rahilly, Sikander Ilyas and Alex Large, also former JP Morgan employees. The VCs such
European VC Lakestar and Outward VC were also involved.
ClearGlass wants to use the funding to expand to the U.K. Defined Contribution pension market. How the company works is that it serves as a data interface between the asset managers and the clients. Pension funds can then use the platforms and have a transparent and clear overview over their investment cost, thus, getting more data than usual. Because of this, the funds are able to see the true cost of what they are paying for the management of their investments. According to ClearGlass, the startup is able to reveal costs of asset management that can be more than double than it was expected.
The startup was founded by Dr. Christopher Sier, a World Bank and FCA expert. Sier has previously developed the cost transparency standard.
“Finding your costs are so much larger is shocking, but also something to be celebrated,” Sier said. “These incremental costs were always there, they just weren’t exposed, and now you can identify those and bring about change. You can’t manage what you don’t measure.”
If you are interested in FinTech news, remember to come back next week for your next weekly dose of FinTech highlights. In the meantime, you can visit our FinTech sections and find interviews, features, reviews, and more highlights.