A few weeks away from the office also meant a few weeks away from the blog. Back into it into now though so let’s have a little round up of news from the world of Fintech last week.
Inevitable Bitcoin News.
Bitcoin back at the top of the news this week. Recently the German finance minister stated that Bitcoin was legal tender;
The German Ministry of Finance has issued an official statement recognizing Bitcoin as “Rechnungseinheiten,” a legal designation that translates to “units of account”. This type of money is also referred to as “artificial currency” or “side payments.”
Interesting to see how this affects the attitudes of other countries in the EU and the wider world. Regulation however is still doing its best to keep BitCoin exchanges and banks in line. The latest to feel it wrath are the exchange Tradehill, which announced it was pausing trading;
We have recently made the decision to temporarily suspend trading on the Tradehill platform, due to banking and regulatory issues. This decision has not been made lightly and we regret having to take such action. However, we embrace the silver lining of our situation and plan to take this opportunity to upgrade, improve, and polish our trading platform.
The Internet Archive Federal Credit Union (yes it is a real thing) pulled the plug on its BitCoin friendly accounts (I assume they have archived them). They opened the accounts with a cry of “These are not drug dealers, money launderers, or whatever. These are average folks,” they closed the accounts with the slightly less chipper “Until we have further clarity, we are unable to service some of our corporate members.”
The regulators and the BitCoin foundation met behind closed doors (surely most meetings are behind closed doors so as not to disturb others) in the US. Thankfully the Washington Post managed to tease out some details from the meeting;
“You could tell the folks there were certainly concerned about the potential use of Bitcoin for illicit purposes,” said Jerry Brito, a senior research fellow at George Mason University’s Mercatus Center, who attended the meeting. “What the Bitcoin Foundation tried to stress is that Bitcoin is less useful for those purposes than other centralized virtual currencies. I think that got through, but the feeling from regulators wasn’t, ‘Oh boy, all of our concerns have been laid to rest now, and thank you for coming.’”
In less serious/regulatory news. RoboCoin, a sort of BitCoin ATM that allows you to exchange it into others currencies has gone on pre order for just just 20,000 dollars.
Coinchat is an Internet Chatroom (remember those) where you smart talking could earn you cash. Effectively paying people to use the site they have got around 8,000 users. The money comes from the sites advertising and is paid in mBTC (micro Bitcoin fragments). This slicing and dicing of Bitcoin into miniscule fragments really is paving the way for true micropayments on the web.
and finally for the BitCoin news it seems that the word BitCoin is now in the Oxford Online Dictionary. It was added along with other world-changing terms such as twerk, derp and srlsly? Make of this what you will.
Yorkshire News (a section I wish featured more often in these posts)
Cardlytics announced its first UK bank partnership, Halifax. The service plugs customer transaction data into the Cardlytics platoform and allows ‘targeted and relevant’ offers to be placed into the online banking experience. It will be interesting to see how this is received in the wilds of West Yorkshire (and the rest of the UK). It is a new revenue stream that lots of banks want to try but getting traction is difficult. US bank Ally recently announced it was closing its card related offers scheme.
The Yorkshire Bank (a bank which should be the greatest bank in the world but probably isn’t) announced a ‘cloud based shared service alliance‘ with HP. This is an interesting move which sees the Yorkshire Bank move into the bank as a platform territory. They already provide services for some smaller building societies will this new platform draw in a new breed of banking company?
FNB in Africa have launched a cash free cash machine. This seems to go against everything the ATM is there to provide but you can get the next best thing to cash, a little piece of paper that you can take to approved retailers and they give you cash in return. The ATMs are cashless for safety reasons and they also provide access to online services.
As new services atart appearing in the ATM channel, specifically those involving mobiles and the withdrawal of cash then the hackers and scammers are not far behind. Banks are starting to see an increase in SIM swap fraud. Cloning a persons SIM to receive their incoming text messages i.e. one time passwords for emergency cash withdrawal from ATMs.
It seems that the new mobile card reader is the new mobile POS. Every man and his dog in the US seems to be launching one of these offerings and the latest to try is Shopify. They have announced they will be offering a full POS service. The full package they are offering includes an iPad and mobile card readers as well. Selling payments and POS in one tightly integrated bundle (the payments processing is providing by Stripe I believe). Looks like a nice package. Interested to see if these kind of offers make it to the UK.
Other non traditional finance companies that are also getting into this space include Telefonica. They are trialling an Mobile POS solution in the Czech Republic.
A big old bundle of links that I cannot be bothered to categorise
A big reorg happening at Visa in the mobile wallet / innovation areas. Some eagle-eyed but fact light reporters suggested that Bill Gadja, Global head of mobile for Visa, had been ousted. Visa were quick to clarify the situation, in a blog post, saying he now had a broader role along with news of other changes in the organisation. One of the changes is the recruitment of Sam Shrauger, ex Yahoo! and Paypal, as the new global head of digital for developed markets.
Transport For London have issued a consultation for going cashless on buses. Technology FTW at first glance but then what do you do about those millions of pesky tourists and visitors each year? Share your thoughts
Another day and another case of PayPal freezing the funds of a legitimate cause / project. This time it was IndieGogo funded project GlassUp which aims to build a competitor to Google’s Glass. They raised over 100,000 dollars but then PayPal froze the funds (since unfrozen). There have been lots of cases of this kind of behaviour but maybe this will be the last. PayPal announced that they were looking to put customers first.
“We’re tweaking our risk models to catch more sharks and less dolphins,” PayPal’s senior director of global initiatives Anuj Nayar
PayPal president David Marcus posted details of his company’s new approach. Will Customer First The PayPal Way smooth out these frequent issues and can they get back customers they have lost? Time, tell etc.
Talking of crowdfunding (tenuous link at best). IBM have been talking up their attempts to run internal crowdfunding experiments. They give 500 employees one hundred dollars each to invest in ideas and projects of their choosing. An interesting experiment which I would love to run inside the organisation I work for.
One of Square’s co-founders Jim McKelvey is starting a fintech accelerator called SixThirty. With his learnings from Square and his new found contacts in the financial industry he aims to help new companies avoid some of the hassles Square have faced.
“We could have saved 18 months if we had access to SixThirty when we were launching Square,” McKelvey says.
Their seems to be new fintech accelerators popping up all over the place and I am hearing rumours about a large player in the space looking to set one up in London soon. Very interesting to see what impact this focus on fintech Sillicon Valley has at the moment. Can they get through the armour of the traditional financial institutions and start to truly change banking?
Geolocation social network / pivot to offers and stuff thing, Foursquare is seemingly the object of both Microsoft’s and Amex’s attentions. The pair are reportedly at war over the company founded by Dennis Crowley. Interesting to see how the network fits into either company’s business models, MS could plug it into Bing for better search / advertising / offers, for Amex it would all be about the offers as seen in their tie up FoursqaureAmex
How about a bespoke magazine rack based on a graph of data from the Italian financial crisis in 2011?
And finally here is a story about payments via hugs and touch from back in May that I must have missed due to the arrival of my second son. Thankfully the very smart Dan Williams posted a link to it last week so I got chance to see it. It is work which Dan’s Pervasive Media studio was involved in producing and looked at payments and how they could become embedded in objects and how that could affect our relationship with payments. The strive for all digital everywhere is clearly eroded human interactions especially around touch. This work by Heidi Hinder looks to change all that. Brilliant stuff. Read the research report and watch the video below.
And that is that. Sorry for being away so long (as if anyone cares). Here is a link to a list of most of the links used above. Follow FintechBot on Twitter for all the latest fintech news from it’s very simple algorithms and it’s even simpler owner.