Daily News Digest Featured News

Friday October 20 2017, Daily News Digest

Chinese IPOs
Source: Financial Times

News Comments

United States

United Kingdom

China

European Union

Australia/New Zealand

India

Asia

MENA

Canada

News Summary

United States

Betterment is now valued at $ 1 billion in private market trading (Business Insider), Rated: AAA

Betterment, a roboadviser with $11 billion under management, is considered a unicorn in the private markets.

Preferred shares of Betterment are being offered at a price of $11 on EquityZen, an online marketsite for shares of private companies, according to a list of investment opportunities seen by Business Insider. That gives Betterment an implied valuation of over $1 billion.

EquityZen, a four-year-old New York-based company, provides a platform on which private company investors can sell their shares to accredited investors. It serves 20,000 investors and has secured $6.5 million in funding.

Venmo users can now pay at over 2 million retailers (Business Insider), Rated: AAA

PayPal is giving over 2 million retailers in the US the ability to accept Venmo payments, marking the firm’s most aggressive move yet to monetize the peer-to-peer (P2P) payment app.

The national rollout of this feature, which is set to begin this week, will allow users to leverage their Venmo accounts at millions of retailers, including Foot Locker and Forever 21, when making purchases in-app or on the mobile web.

This move will help PayPal on a number of fronts.

  • The added use case will likely increase interest in PayPal’s financial products beyond Venmo.
  • PayPal now has an avenue to monetize Venmo’s offerings. – PayPal noted that 75% of the minor drop it saw in take rate in Q2 was a direct result of rising P2P usage. However, with this new commerce feature, PayPal is going to charge merchants a fee for processing Venmo payments, opening up a massive revenue source. Hypothetically, if retail sales equaled half of the P2P payment volume in Q2, and PayPal charged its normal 2.9% transaction fee, the company would’ve seen $116 million in Venmo transaction fees.

PayPal tops profit estimates, lifts target on mobile payments growth (Reuters), Rated: AAA

Sharp growth in mobile payments led PayPal Holdings Inc (PYPL.O) to report a better-than-expected third-quarter profit on Thursday and lift its guidance for earnings through the rest of the year.

The San Jose, California-based payments company has been working hard in recent years to expand its reach to new customers through partnerships and acquisitions, particularly in mobile payments. Those deals are clearly starting to bear fruit, analysts said.

PayPal shares were up 3.9 percent at $69.89 in after-hours trading following the results.

The company’s adjusted profit rose 32 percent during the third quarter to $560 million, or 46 cents per share, beating the average analyst estimate of 43 cents, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Revenue rose 21.4 percent to $3.24 billion.

Its mobile payments volume jumped 54 percent during the third quarter compared with the year-ago period, to about $40 billion. Total payments volume rose 31 percent to $114 billion.

Florida Fintech Finova Financial Secures $ 102.5 Million In Equity & Credit Facility Funding (Crowfund Insider), Rated: AAA

Florida fintech firm Finova Financial announced on Tuesday it has secured $102.5 million in equity and credit facility funding. The financing was led by CoVenture with participation from existing investors.

Finova’s current digital products include its Car Equity Line of Credit (CLOC) and Automobile-Secured Prepaid Card. Its services are available in Florida, California, Tennessee, New Mexico, South Carolina, Oregon and Arizona.

Fundrise Growth eREIT Files to Raise $ 45.7 Million (Crowdfund Insider), Rated: A

The Fundrise Equity REIT, or Growth eREIT, has filed with the SEC to raise up to $45,730,440 under Reg A+.  The amount includes $11.8 million from a previous offering circular.

The Growth eREIT most recently paid an 8% dividend.

The first Growth eREIT sold out at the maximum amount under Reg A+ of $50 million.

Investors may purchase shares in the eREIT with at a minimum $1000. Under Reg A+, both accredited and non-accredited investors may participate.

LILY Partners with Affirm to Offer Drone Buyers Pay Over Time Options  (PR Newswire), Rated: A

Mota Group’s LILY® division today announced a new flexible time-payment option, partnering with Affirm to offer shoppers in the United States the flexibility of buying now and making simple monthly payments for their purchases.

This new option is in addition to LILY’s existing payment methods of credit and debit cards, Bitcoin, and PayPal, making LILY the only consumer drone company to offer all five methods of payment.

LILY customers may select Affirm at checkout and view their monthly payments up front before making their purchase. More information and purchasing options are available at www.lily.camera/affirm.

Clearbanc, Michele Romanow work with Facebook for easy small business financing (Financial Post), Rated: A

“The number one thing that prevents entrepreneurs from growing big businesses is access to capital,” says tech entrepreneur and CBC Dragon Michele Romanow. She’s looking to change that for e-commerce businesses.

Today, Romanow’s Clearbanc, which provides revenue-based financing to online businesses, announced a new program with Facebook that will give the social media giant’s five million online merchants across Canada and the U.S. access to up to $500,000 in financing without having to give up any equity or fill out any paperwork or even undergo a credit check.

Facebook advertisers that have been operating for more than six months and are looking for money to grow, and have positive economics on ad spends — meaning when they buy an ad they are making a positive margin on selling that product — can apply online through Clearbanc’s Chrged program, which provides tools to help businesses scale, and connecting their Facebook Ad Account and payment processor.

Perspectives from Around the Industry on CFPB’s Small Dollar Rule (Lend Academy), Rated: A

Sasha Orloff, CEO and Co-Founder of LendUp:

As a socially-responsible lender on a mission to improve credit access for underserved consumers, LendUp shares the CFPB’s goal of reforming the troubled payday lending market. Since our founding, we’ve been a strong advocate for eliminating the predatory practices that have defined the short-term lending market and are pleased that many of these reforms are included in the rule.

At a time when more than half of Americans are unable to access traditional banking products, it is critical that we offer consumers as many safe credit options as possible.

Ken Rees, CEO of Elevate Credit:

We believe the CFPB got it exactly right with the rule.

The rule will dramatically change the landscape of non-bank, non-prime lending in this country. In addition to reducing the number of payday lenders and title lenders, the requirements for advanced underwriting and reporting will push most of the mom-and-pop, primarily brick-and-mortar lenders out of existence.  We believe that the growing need for non-prime consumer credit will be filled by more sophisticated technology-enabled online lenders.

Lisa McGreevy, President & CEO, Online Lenders Alliance (full response here):

The biggest problem with the rule is the very prescriptive nature for a product that is $500 or less. There is no room for any new products or innovation in this space.

APR is an irrelevant measure for very short term loans like this. The CFPB quotes that more than 80% of these loans are rolled over for another loan within the month. That is unacceptable.

CFPB Consumer Advisory Board to meet Nov. 2 (National Law Review), Rated: B

The CFPB has published a notice in the Federal Register announcing that a meeting of its Consumer Advisory Board will be held in Tampa, Florida on November 2, 2017.

Presumably, the loan discussion will focus on the CFPB’s final payday loan rule.

Climb Credit Enters Into $ 130 Million Loan Purchase Agreements (PR Newswire), Rated: A

Climb Credit, a student lending company that expands access to quality education for the new economy, today announced that it has entered into agreements with investors to purchase $130 million of student loans originated by Climb Credit.

The transaction will enable Climb Credit to continue expanding its student loan programs beyond its current network of software development, UI/UX design, robotics, welding, nursing, and other skills-based programs in additional high-earning fields. Climb Credit’s focus is to transform the higher education paradigm by providing better access and affordable funding to students to attend schools that consistently demonstrate a strong return on investment (ROI) for their students.

Roostify Unveils New Decision Builder to Improve Pre-Application Consumer Experience and Drive Leads (PR Newswire), Rated: A

Roostify, a provider of automated mortgage transaction technology, today announced the upcoming release of Decision Builder, a new tool that will enable lenders to easily provide their prospective applicants with a clear, easily-digestible view of their loan options, based on the lender’s actual product and pricing system. The company will be offering live demonstrations of Decision Builder for the first time at the upcoming MBA Annual Convention.

The Decision Builder tool can be placed on a lender’s existing website, and features a handful of dropdown questions, such as the desired loan amount, the expected down payment, and the ZIP code of the house to be purchased. With that information, Decision Builder will generate a series of loan options based on the lender’s product and pricing system, showing the consumer what products and rates they would qualify for. Each option is presented in a visual, easy-to-understand interface with clear explanation of the benefit of the loan product – for example, a lower monthly payment or low total interest. From there, the consumer can more easily evaluate which loan product is right for them.

With accurate, realistic loan information from the lender’s website, the consumer can carefully consider their options on their own time, without the pressure of having to decide within the limited window of an appointment with a loan officer. When they’ve made a decision, the interface includes a convenient option to move forward on their chosen loan with the click of a button.

How consumer banking leaders are embracing AI (American Banker), Rated: A

Artificial intelligence is becoming a competitive advantage that will force institutions to incorporate it, according to participants at the BankAI conference this week.

“People will have to adopt artificial intelligence,” said Brian Pearce, senior vice president of artificial intelligence at Wells Fargo. “It will have to become part of everyone’s set of tools.”

What banks are doing

Wells Fargo is piloting several chatbot technologies, though it has yet to suggest a launch date for any of them.

The bank has a team dedicated to bereavement — they take these phone calls and help executors manage the estates of the newly deceased.

Bank of America

Michelle Moore, head of digital banking at Bank of America, shared an update on the virtual assistant it announced a year ago, erica. It’s now in use by 300 employees. Sixty percent of the time, employees choose to interact with erica by voice, though they could also use chat, Moore said.

Ally Bank

Ally Bank was one of the first to launch an AI-based virtual assistant two years ago: Ally Assist, which is based on technology from Personetics.

Most people who commonly interact with Ally Assist are heavier transaction customers, Morais said.

The bank is also using AI in the back office. For instance, the bank used robotic process automation to streamline an exception process that had required back-office staff to navigate multiple screens and type hundreds of keystrokes. It now takes three clicks.

BBVA

Robert Sears, executive vice president and global head of product for new digital businesses at BBVA, said the bank is applying AI in credit decisions and focusing on explainability.

The Top 10 Most Affordable MBA Programs In The United States (BusinessBecause), Rated: A

For those studying abroad, organizations like Prodigy Finance—a borderless, peer-to-peer lending platform—provide international, post-graduate loans.

Student Loan Hero looked at 116 of the top American business schools to identify which programs are most financially affordable, taking into account the average debt of graduates, average starting salaries, and annual tuition fees.

Rank Business School Average Indebtedness Percentage of graduates with debt Annual tuition and fees Average starting compensation
1 Lehigh University $0 0 $19,350 $86,667
2 Oklahoma City University $11,331 9 $16,230 $101,090
3 University of Texas —​ Dallas $7,132 25 $19,048 $83,000
4 Missouri University of Science and Technology $11,386 19 $15,402 $66,667
5 Oklahoma State University (Spears) $18,728 22 $12,121 $70,700
6 University of Missouri (Trulaske) $20,495 20 $14,599 $64,252
7 Florida State University $14,379 31 $18,693 $67,308
8 West Virginia University $18,608 33 $9,450 $58,488
9 Louisiana State University—​Baton Rouge (Ourso) $17,900 27 $17,800 $62,429
10 West Texas A&M $18,500 54 $9,600 $93,625

Jay DesMarteau, head of commercial bank specialty segments at TD Bank, said early-stage businesses will often use their funds for operational necessities such as buying inventory and building products.

Isaac Rodriguez, CEO of Provident Loan Society, notes that as a not-for-profit collateral lender, most of his organization’s loans are made for short-term expenses such as meeting payroll.

David Reiling, CEO of Minnesota-based Sunrise Banks, confirmed this trend, noting that many of the bank’s small business customers now use their borrowed capital for technology purchases.

For example, according to a recent survey from TD Bank, 69 percent of small business owners either believe they do not have a business credit score or believe that business credit scores do not exist.

Of course, an alternative lender may be a better option if you want an even smaller loan or if you don’t qualify for a traditional bank loan.

Has Dating Become a Financial Audition? (24/7 Wall St.), Rated: A

Student loan marketplace and refinancing website LendEDU polled 1,000 Americans to discover their personal finance preferences when it comes to dating.

The big question, though, was this one: “Would you consider [annual income, student loan debt, or credit card debt] to be a critical factor when deciding to date someone?”

Just over 30% of respondents said that credit card debt was a critical factor in deciding whom to date, compared with just less than 19% who saw annual income as a critical factor and 12% who saw student loan debt as critical.

OCC’s Noreika: National Bank Charters Should Be an Option for Fintech Firms (ABA Banking Journal), Rated: B

Acting Comptroller of the Currency Keith Noreika today reiterated his view that companies providing financial products and services should be subject to the same regulations and examinations as traditional banks, while emphasizing that a path should exist for these companies to apply for a national bank charter.

Zoinks! 6 Ways Home Buyers Scare Off Sellers (Realtor.com), Rated: B

So, in case you want to make sure you aren’t doing anything that might send up red flags, here are some things buyers do that scare off sellers.

For instance, a new, fly-by-night online lender might give some sellers the heebie-jeebies. So make sure to ask your agent (and also the seller’s agent) whether there’s a certain lender they trust.

Online Lender OppLoans Appoints Data Everywhere Founder Andy Pruitt as New CTO (Crowdfund Insider), Rated: B

Online lender OppLoans announced on Thursday it has appointed Andy Pruitt to the role of CTO. Pruitt is a hands-on technologist who has helped start and grow three Chicago-area software companies. He isfounder of Data Anywhere, a data management company.

State rolls out refund program, checks on the way (KFOR), Rated: B

CashCall refunds are still on the way.

By the time Wanda took action she had already paid online lender, CashCall, $1800 dollars on an $800 dollar loan and she didn’t even get her loan through CashCall.

The agreement gives the state one million dollars to distribute to customers.

United Kingdom

Lendy has repaid £100m to investors this year (P2P Finance News), Rated: AAA

LENDY has announced that it has returned £100m to investors over the last year alone, as it celebrates its fifth birthday this week.

The peer-to-peer property platform said on Thursday that this was a 120 per cent year-on-year increase and that it has now repaid £183m to investors since launch.

Lendy recently announced the repayment of a £7.92m loan, one of the largest seen in the UK’s P2P sector to date. The facility had been repaid ahead of schedule and delivered annual returns of 12 per cent to investors.

First Associates Receives FCA Authorization to Service Loans in the United Kingdom (First Associates), Rated: A

First Associates Loan Servicing announced that they have received Financial Conduct Authority authorization to undertake debt administration and debt collection in the United Kingdom.

In addition to having a stellar reputation for their loan servicing support and being the only loan servicer in their class to earn Morningstar Credit Ratings’ highest operational assessment ranking1, First Associates also offers lending support solutions to their roster of industry-lending clients including:

  • Capital Markets Support
  • Pre-Funding Support
  • Post-Funding Support

IFISA investments ‘to take off’ in 2018 (P2P Finance News), Rated: A

2018 MAY be the year in which the Innovative Finance ISA (IFISA) finally takes off, an industry expert has suggested.

Neil Faulkner, chief executive and founder of peer-to-peer analysis firm 4th Way, noted that the small platforms that have already launched IFISAs have seen massive boosts to their lending volumes, and suggested that the amount of money in IFISAs “will go up many-fold” when the major platforms have their own accounts on offer.

Take-up of IFISAs has been relatively slow so far, with HMRC figures suggesting that just £17m was invested across 2,000 accounts in the 2016-17 tax year, though these have been queried by P2P firms.

Othera ​announces ​new ​contract ​with ​U.K.’s ​Lendhaus (LendIt), Rated: A

Announced ​at ​Lendit ​in ​London, ​Othera, ​a ​blockchain ​software ​provider ​for ​the ​financial ​services industry ​has ​just ​signed ​to ​their ​proprietary ​blockchain ​platform, ​Lendhaus, ​a ​London- ​based ​loan originator ​providing ​syndicated ​lending ​for ​the ​commercial ​real ​estate ​sector.

HSBC launches integrated financial offering through Bud and first direct (IBS Intelligence), Rated: A

HSBC UK has announced a partnership with Bud through first direct to offer an integrated offering  of financial services products and tools across the market.

This first direct trial kicks off in December and it includes proprietary algorithms – Market+ – to suggest the most suitable financial and non-financial products and services based on individual needs.

Britain’s fintech BOOMS: Record levels of global investment ploughed into sector (Express), Rated: A

More than £825million has been pumped into the UK fintech since January – double the amount raised in the same period in 2016 – proving the vote to leave the European Union (EU) has not turned investors off Britain.

In fact, since the EU referendum vote, UK fintech companies have raised more than £1billion, according to research by London & Partners.

The capital has been the major winner from investment, receiving around 90 per cent of all venture capital investment.

London-based firms Funding Circle, Revolut and Receipt Bank each raised tens of millions of pounds of investment this year.

3 Ways You Can Use Social Media to Get a Business Loan (NetNewsLedger), Rated: B

There are several online lenders available to offer you loans; they use your social media data to take a decision. Kabbage is the most popular loan landers working online. Kabbage offers the loan to the small businesses and keeps the cash flow in the different businesses. Before giving you the loan, they will ask you to get the access to your social media accounts.

Mark Arnold – a branding expert advises the credit unions and banks check a business credibility and see how effectively they are grabbing the market through social media. These businesses primarily look at different business especially at LinkedIn pages to determine the loan eligibility.

Use some crowdfunding websites to raise money for your business-like GoFundMe, Kickstarter, and Indiegogo.Share links to your crowdfunding webpages on your social networks on Twitter and Facebook and motivate people to share on their social networks.

China

Qudian’s New York IPO underlines appetite for China’s fintech (Financial Times), Rated: AAA

Qudian, one of China’s largest online lenders, had a debut to remember on the New York Stock Exchange this week. Its shares closed up 22 per cent, making a multi-millionaire of founder and chief executive Min Luo.

The company, which raised $900m in the share sale, is the latest to underline investors’ appetite for the collision of lending and technology that has given rise to the Chinese fintech sector. Two days before Qudian’s debut on Wednesday, Chinese peer-to-peer lender Ppdai announced plans to raise $350m in New York, and at least a dozen similar issuers are preparing flotations.

About 40 per cent of consumers in China make payments online, and 14 per cent have gone on the web to borrow money, according to DBS.

Qudian’s IPO — the fourth-biggest in the US this year — comes on the heels of Chinese online insurer ZhongAn’s hotly received $1.5bn IPO last month in Hong Kong. ZhongAn’s stock is up 34 per cent from its debut.

Chinese IPOs
Source: Financial Times

Wary of online lending, regulators have strictly limited online financial products such as high interest “payday loans” and microloans by capping interest rates at 36 per cent. Last May, new restrictions wiped out scores of P2P lending networks in China, after worries that it was fuelling real estate speculation and subprime lending.

Average Chinese IPO
Source: Financial Times

A rash of bankruptcies hits Chinese lenders backed by state firms (The Economist), Rated: AAA

In the past two months at least seven online lenders backed by SOEs have collapsed. It was a business none should have been in, far removed from the industries they were supposed to focus on. The money potentially lost is trivial—roughly 1bn yuan ($150m), compared with government assets worth more than 100trn yuan. Still, these cases highlight how hard it is for the party to stamp its authority on the vast state sector.

The troubled SOEs include distant subsidiaries of the national nuclear company, an aviation company and a big energy company in Shanxi, a northern province. They had acquired stakes, from as little as 20% up to 100%, in online peer-to-peer (P2P) lending platforms.

They were “marriages of convenience”, says Joe Zhang, chairman of China Smartpay, a financial-services company.

China p2p
Source: The Economist

Supply chain finance tipped to become US$ 2.27tn market for Chinese internet firms by 2020 (SCMP), Rated: A

China’s supply chain finance sector is now being tipped to be worth a whopping 15 trillion yuan (US$2.27 trillion) by 2020, and the mainland’s booming internet-based businesses are lining up to grab their own share of it.

And despite the reverberations from the recent peer-to-peer (P2P) lending crisis, a marriage between information technology and financial services is continuing to play a vital role in transforming Chinese business.

That 15 trillion yuan figure was calculated by Forward Business, a Shenzhen-based consultancy focusing on studies of IT and other emerging industries, which also suggests mainland banks granted a combined 12.65 trillion yuan in new loans to the budding sector.

But the grim reality remains, that the larger commercial lenders remain belligerently reluctant to grant small loans to businesses and individuals, who present anything like a risk.

Established in 2013, Tiandihui is an online platform where cargo and trucks are matched.

It s network stretches across 50 mainland cities and it handled some 64 billion yuan worth of transactions last year. The company, which charges fees for its matchmaking, has yet to break even.

European Union

Israeli fintech startup PayKey raises $ 10 million to expand in Asia (Tech.eu), Rated: AAA

Israeli fintech startup PayKey has raised $10 million in its Series B round led by MizMaa with participation from SBI Group, Digital Ventures, SixThirty, Fintech71, and The FinLab.

The new funds will be invested in global expansion, namely in the Asian market. Several of the investors in this round are Asian based while the startup graduated from the Singaporean FinLab accelerator.

Mind the GAP in the Lending GAP (AltFi), Rated: AAA

The Lending Gap has been one of the most quoted negative consequences of the financial crisis. Many political efforts have been conducted to stimulate the economy. New business models (e.g., private debt, direct lending, alternative finance, peer to peer) were born with the explicit aim and mission to “fill the gap”.

Where are we today, 10 years after the crisis?  Are borrowers still suffering? What investment opportunities are out there, if any?

  • FACT #1. The lending gap has been reduced, and the drivers have changed.
  • FACT #2. New alternative lending opportunities have opened up.
  • FACT #3. Banks are in better shape today, but exposed to the digital revolution and various structural challenges.
ECB balance sheet
Source: AltFi
  • FACT #4. Credit expansion has resumed since YE 2014.

P2P auto-lending is risking investor ethics and returns (P2P Finance News), Rated: A

THE MOVE towards auto-lending among some peer-to-peer platforms may limit interest rates and be a stumbling block for investors worried about the type of businesses they lend to, a European automated P2P firm has said.

Despite being automated itself, Latvia-based Robo.cash has claimed lenders may be missing out on higher interest rates with a passive investment strategy.

As an example, Funding Circle recently moved from manual to auto-lending,now offering a conservation option at 4.8 per cent or a balanced approach at 7.5 per cent.

Australia/New Zealand

Australian marketplace MyDeal.com.au launches fintech loan offering for retailers (Australian Anthill), Rated: AAA

Online retail marketplace MyDeal.com.au has launched business loan offering MyDeal Marketplace Loans to accelerate the growth of their listed retailers.

Retailers who list their products through the MyDeal Marketplace can now apply for a business loan of up to $250,000 directly through their supplier management system and in many cases receive the funding in under 24 hours.

This offering is in partnership with fintech business Prospa, Australia’s leading online lender for small business.

Robo-Advice Decision Will Improve Kiwis’ Financial Fortunes (Scoop), Rated: A

“We’ve long seen the potential for technology to deliver better personalised financial advice to Kiwis,” said Ramesh Naran, Senior Manager, Digital and Innovation at Kiwi Wealth. “With this decision by the FMA, we can go through the application process and turn Future You into the powerful, personalised tool we’ve always wanted it to be. It’s already on its way to becoming the platform that’ll set the industry standard.”

Mr Naran said the FMA’s approach recognises the ability of technology to improve financial understanding and outcomes for New Zealanders.

India

What do RBI regulations mean for peer-to-peer industry (Financial Express), Rated: A

In a much-awaited move, RBI issued guidelines to govern peer-to-peer lending or P2P. This is a landmark decision that will go the distance in achieving the objective of financial inclusion.

For the time being, RBI has advised NBFC P2Ps not to offer or arrange any credit enhancement or credit guarantee. Against this backdrop, the principal protection fund, which has been an exclusive offering of i2iFunding so far, may need some tweaking. At present, we are neither guaranteeing any compensation from the third-party nor are we making a claim of apportioning our capital for the purpose. Therefore, we will approach the regulator to get more clarity on this and would do our best in the interest of members of the platform. Existing investors need not hit the panic button.

Why State Bank of India is afraid of small but nimble fintech companies (ET Markets), Rated: B

More than 24,000 branches and 42 crore customers make the State Bank of IndiaBSE 0.00 % the goliath of all banks by sheer size and physical presence but its new chairman Rajnish Kumar is worried about the competition from nimble fintech companies.

“Today, the risk is the disruption that is caused by the technology ,“ Rajnish Kumar, chairman, State Bank of India told ET in an interview. “We have to be very alert to this challenge. Protecting the turf and meeting the challenges from all the new fintech companies is the priority .“

Wallets and other payment mechanisms have become the preferred mode of payments as people walking into branches have dwindled.

Asia

Kazakhstan’s Lendex.io plans ICO in early 2018 (Blockchain News), Rated: AAA

Founded and developed in Kazakhstan, the biggest economy of Central Asia, FinTech startup Lendex has announced plans for ICO crowdsale to finance the launch of a cross-border P2P (peer-to-peer) lending platform for underbanked consumers in Central and South East Asia.

MENA

Transitioning to a digital future in the Middle East (TXF News), Rated: AAA

Global fintech investment has risen phenomenally in recent years – from $3 billion in 2013 to $24.7 billion in 2016.

Although less than 0.1% of fintech investment originates in the Middle East, growing influence from a soaring millennial population, and increasing expectations for digital solutions, are giving rise to a burgeoning number of fintech initiatives throughout the region. In fact, the number of fintech companies in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region is expected to surge – from 105 at the start of 2016 to 250 by 2020. And fintech investment is predicted to grow by 270% in the Middle East this year, indicating the huge potential for digital change –and a strengthening drive to deliver it.

Payments

The majority of fintech innovation so far has been in the payments sector. Although fintech has already made a mark in the retail payments space – with new companies such as the UAE’s Beehive, an online marketplace for peer to peer lending, and Telr, an online payment gateway for emerging markets – effecting change in the corporate sector is more challenging. This is primarily due to the often more complex, cross-border nature of corporate payments and the accompanying regulations and security requirements.

SWIFT gpi already has the backing of over 110 banks across the globe – including BNY Mellon – which represents over 75% of SWIFT’s global payments traffic. The UAE’s Mashreq Bank was the first Middle Eastern bank to join SWIFT gpi earlier this year.

Trade finance and fintech development

AI, for instance, offers solutions to improve documentation flow and cut the need for time consuming processes. Two types of AI that could benefit trade finance are optimal character recognition (OCR) and intelligent character recognition (ICR). OCR converts images of paper documents into machine-encoded text, enabling documents used in trade transactions to be verified automatically; while ICR is able to learn and identify patterns of behaviour embedded in trade documentation. These capabilities would both help to improve efficiency and reduce costs in the supply chain.

Canada

They launched their Toronto-based venture, MagneTree Books, in the spring of 2015 with the help of a Kickstarter campaign for presales of their inaugural book.

Neither Josie, who was at the end of a maternity leave, nor Ronny, who worked for a humanitarian aid organization, had much savings to fund their startup or the first run of books, which together rang in at more than $65,000. A bank loan wasn’t an option; neither entrepreneur was in a position to cover the debt if something went awry.

Online sales have been slow – just 15 per cent of their books are sold on the web. But corporate gifting and wholesaling has proven fertile. Still, the company has yet to break even. Profit on a run of books rings up at about $7,000.

But they have a big problem: no cash to fund the second book’s production and marketing. Neither sibling is able to personally lend the company money, and they have begun crowdfunding once more.

Expert advice

Mr. Zakharia notes that the amount of money the siblings need to fund their second book is relatively small at between $7,000 and $10,000. Still, their inability to make a personal loan or secure a bank loan will make them unattractive to traditional lenders. “Banks are going to be very conservative,” Mr. Zakharia said.

One option the pair might consider is Lending Loop, a peer-to-peer lending marketplace that might be their fastest route to raising cash. “Because it’s such a small amount, I think it would be pretty easy to raise,” he said.

Authors:

George Popescu
George Popescu
Allen Taylor
Allen Taylor

About the author

Allen Taylor

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