FintechBot Roundup Week 27 – 2013

I am conscious that the first couple of these roundups were heavily dominated by Bitcoin news. I am keen that it is not always the case but there are many exciting things happening in the cryptocurrency world and they seem a bit more interesting than boring old banking. First up this week from the libertarians lira was news that the Winklevoss Twins, they of the Facebook everlasting court case fame, were going to start some sort of Bitcoin based ETF. It baffled and amused in equal measure with the techbubbleosphere going into overdrive. I liked these comments from both sides in the LA Times.

It was a more positive news week for Bitcoin after its recent hammerings. Mt. Gox began cash withdrawals in US dollars again. The Bitcoin Foundation responded to California’s cease and desist, basically saying they are not money transmitters and even if they were thy don’t have any business operations in California, so there. The man who tried to extort $1 million from Mitt Romney has been caught and charged.


In privacy news there was a happy announcement from serial leakers and Ecuadorian squatters, Wikileaks. They claimed Mastercard have broken ranks and started allowing donations to flow again to the Assange clan. In slightly darker news for privacy it seems Visa and Mastercard have blocked payments to anonymising VPN providers in Sweden. Opening the door for more usage of Bitcoins I suspect.


There were a couple of interesting fintech conferences in London last week. On Monday there was the quite expensive Wired Money, which had a pretty good line up of fintech speakers. There is a highlight reel here and links to news from the conference here. Videos should be released over the coming weeks. On Tuesday it was Bitcoin London, which attracted Bitcoin evangelists and entrepreneurs from all over the globe. It also caught the eye of our national broadcaster…momentum. A couple of weeks ago I attended the Anthemis Innovation Playground and the keynote videos are now online. All worth a watch. Deanna Oppenheimer, JP Rangaswami and Carlota Perez.


Unbanked news. Not a fan of the term unbanked I would prefer something like ‘opting out of the old way’ or ‘Too poor for most banks to care’ although both are not as snappy. Anyway, a couple of stories from The States on Pre Paid cards which are fast becoming the replacement for current account for a growing market segment. Mango Financial in Texas are an interesting example of these new financial providers. Not all good news though in the Pre Paid market as there is a backlash against large companies paying people using these cards as there are often hidden fees therefore making the poor even poorer. There must be a better way. Yet another niche for Bitcoin to have a play with?


Spanish communications giant Telefónica announced a couple of interesting payments related news this week. First they announced a partnership with Sony to allow their customers to purchase content and charge it to their mobile bill. They have also joined up with mobile banking specialists Monitise to ‘become the preferred Mobile Money technology partner for Telefónica Digital to develop and manage new and existing mobile payment and commerce services for its customers’


Banknote news. There is a campaign to get Ada Lovelace featured on the new £5 note in the UK. It was recently announced that Winston Churchill would replace the only women featured on an English banknote, Elizabeth Fry, in 2015. Not everyone is happy about that decision.  There is a bit of background to the Ada Lovelace campaign here. There petition to  sign here. Also, why not have a look at a picture of some ladies holding up bank notes featuring ladies.


Banks teaming up news.  I love it when banks get together to try and do something to the benefit of the industry. It does not happen often enough in my short sighted and massively biased opinion. The 22 members of The Clearing House (TCH) in the United States are ‘developing a pilot programme to test an open standard system that improves security for mobile transactions.‘ I wonder how open that standard really will be? Members of TCH only? Either way an interesting move.

In Poland, six of their top banks have ‘have teamed up to create a payment system using mobile phones which they believe could grow to rival credit cards and serve as a model for the rest of Europe.‘ Hey Visa and Mastercard, screw you (imagine that in Polish).


Some quickies….

UK P2P lender Zopa has announced that they are to start providing P2P business loans, starting with Sole Traders. They neglect to mention exactly when though.

What to make and your own trading algorithms and test them against a load of open data in the cloud before setting them free? Well, you can.

Web payments darling, Braintree, announced it is now doing around $10 Billion annually in payments. Their recent tie up with Minecraft developer Mojang probably helped. Good to see new kids in the payments world doing well.

The Argentinian Psuedo Currency, Cedin, looks like it is being used for bad things. Who would have thought building a currency based on hidden and undeclared US dollars would have side effects?


Social Media has the opportunity to humanise large organisations. actually talking to people in the spaces they like to converse in should be brilliant. For Banks it has been a tough space to do well. An industry that has spent a lot of time on money on reducing human interaction to its bare minimum has struggled with this reversal a little. This recent example from Bank of America shows what happens when your dehumanised process for trying to do social at scale goes awry in public.


And the most entertaining and only ever so slightly related to banking story I saw last week was this one about a smart man in New York who realised the new bike scheme sponsored by Citi bank has a useful flaw. When the bikes are parked the front wheel still spins, so he started a spinning class for the homeless. Brilliant.


That’s it for another week. If you want this news and more first, then follow my little FintechBot on Twitter.

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