Your weekly resource for noteworthy news, fascinating features, and FinTech titbits that caught our eye. Whether you live by your Twitter lists, save your Google Alerts or simply scroll through LinkedIn for insights and commentary – there is a wealth of content that weaves a global story around FinTech.
Our job at FinTech Talents is to work within that global story – finding the news items, conventional wisdoms and hard data that aids us in bringing the industry the best content, community and experiences in the business.
This week’s FTT Bookmark of timely resources and real time conversations is brought to you by VC Innovation’s Product and Content Manager, Laura Camplisson.
Revolut waves goodbye to canada
This week brought the news that UK FinTech Revolut will be leaving Canada, just 16 months after launching its beta product there, in November 2019. Customers will see a phased ending to operations, with the final closure of accounts on 15th May.
Hello! We very much appreciate the loyalty of our customers but with great regret we are closing our Canadian operations for the time being. We hope in the future we’ll be able to return to Canada – offering the full suite of Revolut services.
— Revolut (@RevolutApp) March 15, 2021
While Revolut have not disclosed the exact reasons for their departure, many FinTech commentators suspect regulatory barriers might be responsible.
Canada is a notoriously difficult market for new players to enter into. Provincial policy variations make for a tough landscape to navigate, and banking licenses are by no means easy to obtain. The dominant Big Five banks hold the majority of banking loyalty, from a customer base who are known to be wary of Fintechs.
Without a banking license Revolut’s Canadian offering was limited, compared to its recent launch as a fully-fledged bank in ten more European countries, with a Lithuanian licence.
It seems likely to me that Revolut is turning its focus to the stronger revenue stream of banking services and moving away from purely payments-based products. Only time will tell whether this strategy will allow for a return to Canada in the future.
UK waves goodbye (for good) to Gov.uk Verify
This week’s second goodbye came as less of a shock. Cabinet Office parliamentary secretary Julia Lopez, confirmed the UK government is officially abandoning its digital identity programme Gov.uk Verify for good.
In a speech given to TISA, Lopez said, “Our overall goal for digital identity is to develop a successor both to Verify and, in time, other digital identity systems that are currently used across government. Good progress on our pilot is expected in coming months.”
This is the final confirmation of what most in the identity sector already knew, that Verify’s expectations were over-ambitious and its costs unsustainable. The goal of enrolling 25 million users by 2020, with every government department using the system, has far from been achieved.
I have to say, after a frustrating couple of hours receiving a ‘We could not confirm your identity’ error message on my own Verify account recently, this is no great surprise!
Hopefully, with Verify officially behind us, the UK’s Digital Identity Trust Framework launched in February 2021 by the DCMS, can mark a new beginning. If the UK can take on lessons learned as we move forward, I feel cautiously optimistic we will see progress on citizen digital ID in the coming years.
Cryptocurrency could be just a tweet away
I can never fully get to grips with the ever-changing world of cryptocurrency, but one story did catch my eye this week. Bottlepay, a UK digital payments app, has gone live with a service allowing users to send and receive bitcoin instantly via Twitter.
Bottlepay plans to extend the service to other social media sites in the coming months, including Reddit, Discord and Twitch.
True story. And here’s how:@bottlepay send [amount] sats to [@ recipient]
More info here – https://t.co/ige9V47COp
⚡️😎🚀#bitcoin #socialmedia #payments https://t.co/iyFBbZq16N
— Bottlepay (@bottlepay) March 18, 2021
A few days after the Bottlepay launch, came the news that Twitter founder Jack Dorsey’s first ever tweet has been sold for the equivalent of $2.1 million, purchased in the cryptocurrency Ethereum. Buyer Sina Estavi, compared the tweet’s worth to that of the Mona Lisa.
To me, these unrelated stories both demonstrate the completely evolving meaning of value in a digital world, as well as a deepening of the relationship between social media and financial technologies.
On another note, if you’re looking to offload any Bitcoin, you can find us at @FintechTalents. (Just kidding. But do follow us and join the FTT Twitter community).
A regional first for face verification
Another story to grab my attention, was the news that OCBC will be the first Southeast Asian bank to introduce face verification for ATM transactions. The rollout will use Singapore’s National Digital Identity system SingPass, matching users against a database of 4 million identities, with liveness detection for increased security.
Sunny Quek, OCBC Bank’s Head of Consumer Financial Services Singapore, stated that “Cash is still a key mode of payment in Singapore, but the digital overlay to get cash is welcomed by consumers.”
When reading this story, what struck me most was the realization that I cannot remember the last time I used an ATM! Given the circumstances of COVID-19 I have been almost entirely reliant on digital payments methods in the last year.
I imagine this is the same for many of us. I also imagine, that when returning to the so called ‘new-normal’, customer expectations for seamless, digital solutions will likely extend even to physical aspects of financial life.
So I wonder how long before the convenience of face biometrics at ATMs is a common occurrence? A digital overlay, as Sunny Quek puts it, on the return to use of cash.
And finally this week’s wildcard story… When taxi’s fly!
German start-up Volocopter picked up $241 million funding this week. Volocopter has been building and testing ‘Electric Vertical Take-Off and Landing Aircraft’ or in other words, flying taxis.
This sounded to me like a development a long way off from becoming reality. So I was surprised to read that Volocopter CEO Florian Reuter expects that live services are now only two years out!
If safety and regulatory barriers can be overcome, Volocopter could provide a bypass to urban street congestion and an environmentally friendly alternative to traditional modes of transport.
Last year you would have definitely struggled to get me to go anywhere in an autonomous flying vehicle. But now, if it will get me to the pub post-lockdown, then you can probably count me in!