The Sky’s the Limit – Fintech, Flying Taxis and Googling
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 that are shaping fintech is brought to you by Jess Mager, Product & Growth Manager at VC Innovations.
Nationwide is (not) on Crypto’s Side
Nationwide, the world’s largest building society, has joined other financial institutions in a crackdown on cryptocurrencies. The building society announced it will be reviewing its policies to safeguard against fraud. This follows a trend of commercial banks such as Barclays, Lloyds and, last week, Santander, who have blocked transactions for certain cryptocurrencies.
In the new year, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) announced that crypto firms would be required to submit annual financial crime reports to the FCA and in March, it released a list of over 100 unregistered crypto firms who they deemed a risk and “ill-suited” for retail customers.
The UK’s distrust in cryptocurrencies is further highlighted this week by the country’s Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), which has identified unregulated crypto platforms and warned against misleading cryptocurrency advertisements.
Currently, Nationwide is only reviewing transactions for Binance, a crypto firm that appeared on the FCA’s list of unregistered firms. As a building society, Nationwide is different to the banks because it is owned by its customers and incentivised to create policies in their interests.
About 2.3 million (4%) adults in the UK hold cryptocurrencies and the number is growing rapidly. It is unlikely that Nationwide will take any drastic measures, unless the FCA puts pressure on them to do so. If banks and building societies start to really crackdown, it could push crypto fans closer to the neobanks, many of which allow transactions and exchanges to take place.
Google Enters Fintech Market
According to the financial newspaper, Nikkei Asia, Google is set to acquire all shares in Pring, a cashless payment company in Japan that is currently owned by Mizuho bank and other investors.
The move follows a trend of big tech companies migrating into more sectors through acquiring fintechs, allowing them to become a ‘one-stop-shop’ for their huge database of customers.
Nikkei Asia reports that Japanese consumers have been relatively slow to embrace cashless payments, with cashless payment in retail transactions under 30% in 2020, compared with 70-90% in South Korea and China.
Google must see this as a potential area for rapid expansion and the move will certainly intensify competition. They are reported to be paying between $180 – $270 million for all the company’s shares.
The acquisition will enable Google to offer financial services of its own rather than relying on partner banks and credit companies. They will also challenge PayPay and other cashless payment companies. This move could imply that long-term, big tech companies are planning to become a competitor of financial institutions, rather than a vendor.
Credit Unions Embracing Digital
VyStar Credit Union has chosen Nymbus as its digital banking partner. The Florida-based credit union has invested $20 million in the SaaS (software-as-a-service) banking technology provider to support with “sustained and meaningful member growth”.
Vystar is the thirteenth largest credit union in the US. One of the key challenges for credit unions and building societies in the transformation to digital are outdated legacy systems. In recent years, credit unions have been exploring new ways of leveraging technology, which allows them to achieve more with less.
With the development of customer expectations throughout the pandemic, credit unions and building societies will need to work together with fintechs to enhance financial services for their members. Although there will be some challenges, the outcome will certainly prove rewarding for credit unions and their customers.
We will continue to explore driving digital in building societies and credit unions at FTT Building Societies on 6th October 2021.
Wise Debuts on the London Stock Exchange
Wise, formerly known as Transferwise and founded in 2011, is a cross-border payments system that moved £54bn across borders last year.
The Shoreditch-based fintech chose London for a direct listing, meaning the company begins trading publicly, but does not issue new equity. It valued at £8.75bn in its stock market debut on Wednesday 7th July.
This is the largest listing of a UK tech company on the London Stock Exchange ever and it comes as a relief after Deliveroo’s float failure in March. It shows that there is still plenty of enthusiasm for tech companies in the UK, although perhaps a loss in appetite for food delivery apps.
Search for Lost Bitcoins Continues
James Howells, a 35-year-old IT engineer from Newport, is the man who threw away the hard drive of an old computer containing 7,500 bitcoins back in 2013. Now he has developed a new plan of action, equipped with x-ray scanning devices and specialist AI technology, and backed by a rich hedge fund to cover the costs of his search.
Based on aerial photographs of the site, Howells believes his hard drive is in a 200-meter squared area and could be 15 meters deep, somewhere within 300,000 – 400,000 tonnes of waste.
I’d love to see whether James’s plan works, however the Newport City Council, at present, is not allowing for the operation to go ahead, due to the costs of treating the waste and the potential environment impact it could have on the surrounding area. I’m not sure you can justify the environmental harm this will do, even for £275 million, which is what the bitcoins are currently worth. As the worth of cryptocurrencies continues to rise, this is certainly a lesson which highlights the importance of recording digital assets.
The Sky’s the Limit – Flying Taxis in 2025
Japan Airlines (JAL) plans to launch a flying car business by 2025. The “car” is a two-seat, unmanned aerial vehicle, and will perform an eVTOL (electric vertical take-off and landing) service. The ‘VoloCity’ can fly at speeds of up to 110km / h and the flight range is 35km.
JAL invested in the aircraft of the German company, Volocopter, in 2020. It plans to offer sky-high services for transporting passengers between airports and tourist destinations, as well as commutes across the region of Mie Prefecture. JAL also hopes to provide operational training and related services to other companies in the future, highlighting their belief that eVTOL will really take off in the coming decades.
With regulations set to be released in 2025, perhaps we will be commuting via flying taxis sooner than we thought!