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Grab Secures $300 Million Investment; A Look at Fintech in Latin America

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One of the greatest “How It Started” vs “How It Going” stories in international fintech these days continues to be the rise of Grab Financial, the spin-off from ride-hailing and food delivery company Grab. The Singapore-based company announced this week that it has secured more than $300 million in a round led by Hanwha Asset Management of South Korea. The investment, which also featured participation from K3 Ventures, GGV Capital, Arbor Ventures, and Flourish Ventures, gives the company an estimated valuation of $3 billion.

“We are at an inflection point in Southeast Asia,” Grab Financial Group senior managing director Reuben Lai said, “as the pandemic has accelerated the need for digital financial services that help us grow and protect our incomes.” The company reported that the new capital will help support the hiring of additional talent, as well as fuel expansion and the introduction of new products.

Among the recent accomplishments of Grab’s fintech division are a 40% gain in 2020 revenues, a 4x increase in users of its insurance distribution offering, and the launch of its first wealth management solution. Grab – as part of its consortium with Singtel – was also among the fortunate few to earn approval from the Monetary Authority of Singapore to launch a digital bank.


This week’s Finovate Global Reports features a fresh look at fintech in Latin America courtesy of EBANX annual Beyond Borders 2020/2021 study. The report looks at the impact of COVID-19 on cross-border e-commerce and payments trends in Latin America.

Among the key insights include the centrality of mobile in driving digital consumption of services as 4G becomes more widespread throughout the region. The report also suggests that Latin America has the potential to rival southeast Asia in terms of the growth of its e-commerce sector.


For our international Finovate Global Alumni Profile this week, here’s a look at ModularBank, a digital banking solution provider based in Estonia that raised €4 million in new funding this week. The company, which demoed its technology at FinovateEurope 2019 in London, offers a modern, API-based, banking-as-a-service solution to help businesses leverage new business models and gain competitive advantage.

“Increasingly, people are demanding more flexible and convenient services that fit around the way they work and live and in response, there is a wave of digitalization and embedded finance on the horizon, beginning to build,” explained Modularbank CEO Vilve Vene upon announcement of the company’s recent funding.

“To harness this momentum there is a real need for lean, yet sophisticated core banking technology … Modularbank was set up to enable banks and other customer-facing businesses to devise and roll out personalized banking services quickly and easily.”


Here is our look at fintech around the world.

Middle East and Northern Africa

Central and Southern Asia

Latin America and the Caribbean

Asia-Pacific

Sub-Saharan Africa

Central and Eastern Europe


Photo by Artem Beliaikin from Pexels

Source: https://finovate.com/grab-secures-300-million-investment-a-look-at-fintech-in-latin-america/

AI

Enterprises customize Clinc’s conversational AI to connect with their customers

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Conversational AI platform company Clinc has experienced significant product pivots since it was founded by a group of University of Michigan computer scientists in 2015. It has also undergone leadership changes and investigations into its former CEO’s alleged pattern of sexual harassment. Now the company is carving out a niche within the financial services market, where its customizable conversational AI platform streamlines customer queries and collects related data for enterprises.

Clinc used to work across multiple verticals, with early clients including Wendy’s, Chick-fil-A, Stryker, and Ford. Last year, the company made a more deliberate pivot toward the financial services market with its virtual voice assistant, Finie, and concurrent developer platform. Its personalized conversational AI uses one model for multiple channels, helping enterprises like banks answer customer questions and understand customer data in less time.

In an interview with VentureBeat, Clinc product lead Matthew Taylor said the startup had limited bandwidth and decided to focus on fintech following early success with the industry. According to Taylor, the pandemic also accelerated Clinc’s development. “COVID really increased the urgency of being able to allow people to get answers to the retail banking questions without having to visit the branch,” he said.

He said Clinc allowed people to more easily cancel credit cards or go through their spending histories without in-person contact. And Clinc’s enterprise clients, like the Bank of America and U.S. Bank, were able to drive more revenue by decreasing call volume to human agents, providing agents with the AI-collected data for background, and using the mobile app marketplace to upsell and cross-sell different financial products based on this personalized data.

Clinc’s out-of-the-box financial assistant Finie — short for “Financial Genie” — answers customer questions like, “Can you cancel my Chase Sapphire card?” or “How much have I spent at restaurants in the past six months?” For the former request, Finie would hit the bank’s API to lock the card and then send the user a response in a payload to confirm the change.

Queries are coded and addressed according to an enterprise’s particular business logic. For example, a customer’s voice-suggested address change might present in lowercase unless an enterprise adds intent to capitalize it. Enterprises also custom-define limits, like caps for the amount of funds a user can withdraw at once.

Taylor claims Clinc differentiates itself by training its models on semantic structures of data. “The way we built our tech is not to look for keywords or to look at the grammar or syntax,” he said. “We have an integration into our crowdsourcing platform that allows us to collect a lot of data very quickly that can give this AI model the ways people would talk in everyday life.” The platform maps slots based on semantics by embedding space for open-ended slots.

For example, Taylor said users can ask “How much dough do I have” instead of “What’s my balance?” Clinc could then use NLU to process the colloquial language as it would a more formal version based on a user’s sentence structure. But it’s uncertain whether context clues could capture phrases with more significant deviations from dictionary-defined words.

Finie is low-code, and Clinc’s corresponding SaaS platform, architected with AWS, customizes its responses. Enterprise IT teams either prototype the AI solution themselves or ask Clinc to do so based on their specifications.

The Clinc platform starts with a state graph that operates like the AI model’s “brain.” The graph branches out into purple lines detailing the model’s particular competencies, intents, and parameters for transactional data. Developers might add loops for context retention between the nodes here, like a transition connecting different questions about spending so that variables can carry from one conversation to another.

According to Taylor, the platform’s SVP, or entity extraction, enables better decision trees with crowdsourced data from end-user interactions and Amazon Mechanical Turk. Its analytics suite checks the number of queries per user per day and the competency breakdown for out-of-scope responses and latency with RESTful APIs. Clinc also collects detailed information on users, tracking queries to their individual IDs.

Next, Clinc is looking to expand its scale of deployment with companies such as Pfizer, which owns over a thousand financial institutions and has introduced Finie’s prebuilt capabilities into its mobile applications. Clinc also launched Finie with U.S. Bank last July and is looking to grow with non-U.S. banks in Turkey and Singapore. “The financial services industry has been known for adopting new technology the quickest amongst most other industries,” Taylor said.

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Source: https://venturebeat.com/2021/02/23/enterprises-customize-clincs-conversational-ai-to-connect-with-their-customers/

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FundGuard raises $12 million to help manage assets with AI

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FundGuard, an AI-powered software-as-a-service investment management platform, today announced that it closed a $12 million funding round. The investment will spur product development to support existing partnerships, FundGuard says, in addition to helping to meet demand from alternative funds and insurers.

AI is increasingly being used to manage assets toward the goal of maximizing returns on investments. For example, trading algorithms leverage AI to devise novel signals and execute trades with lower overall transaction costs. AI can also bolster risk modeling and forecasting by generating insights from previously untapped data sources.

For its part, FundGuard offers a cloud-based investment funds solution powered by AI. It’s designed to help asset and fund managers administer investments across mutual funds, ETFs, hedge funds, insurance, and pensions with utilities that execute reconciliation, exception management, and reporting.

FundGuard can apply AI to automatically identify and resolve data mismatches and breaks for things like positions, general ledger, and trades. At a more basic level, the platform’s algorithms can perform portfolio validation checks and benchmarking as well as investment news research, anomaly detection, and exceptions resolution.

Using FundGuard, managers can add layers of oversight for more detailed reviews of cash, corporate actions, and holdings movements, with day-to-day change summaries. They also get access to sets of predefined controls and customizable thresholds for rules-based trading.

There’s growing interest from the private sector in such technology. A report the Bank of England published in October 2019 found that two-thirds of financial services in the U.K. use AI and that many expect to more than double the number of business areas to which they apply AI within the next three years. Be that as it may, skepticism abounds — Canada-based Horizons vowed to revamp its AI-powered exchange-traded fund after a year in which it “significantly underperformed.”

But FundGuard cofounder and CEO Lior Yogev is quick to beat back skepticism. “We are seeing growing demand for our innovative cloud-native and API-first platform from banks and asset managers globally,” he said in a press release. “Our team is excited to be able to accelerate our mission to drive efficiencies through AI, enhance investor transparency and digital engagement, and provide a single source of truth for funds.”

New York- and Tel Aviv-based FundGuard’s series A financing announced today was led by Team8, Blumberg Capital, LionBird Ventures, and JPMorgan operating committee members Heidi Miller and Jay Mandelbaum. It brings the company’s total raised to date to over $16 million.

VentureBeat

VentureBeat’s mission is to be a digital town square for technical decision-makers to gain knowledge about transformative technology and transact. Our site delivers essential information on data technologies and strategies to guide you as you lead your organizations. We invite you to become a member of our community, to access:

  • up-to-date information on the subjects of interest to you
  • our newsletters
  • gated thought-leader content and discounted access to our prized events, such as Transform
  • networking features, and more

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Source: https://venturebeat.com/2021/02/23/fundguard-raises-12-million-to-help-manage-assets-with-ai/

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Fintech

Attensi creates world´s first ‘underwriter simulator’ to help tackle skills gap in insurance sector

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Attensi creates world´s first ‘underwriter simulator’ to help tackle skills gap in insurance sector

GAMIFIED simulation training provider Attensi has created the world’s first ‘underwriter simulator’ for specialist global insurer, Hiscox to help tackle a skills gap in risk management and insurance.

The new custom-built 3D simulation offers a risk-free way of helping underwriters to learn the key demands of the job by challenging them to compete in a number of realistic, gamified scenarios.

Des Bishop, Group Head of People Development at Hiscox, claims the simulation has proved to be a game-changer for Hiscox. His team can now train and mentor junior underwriters on best practice, bridge any existing skills gaps, and provide support for complex tasks, such as assessing risk.

He says one of the project’s biggest successes has been the way the simulation taps into players’ natural competitiveness – underwriters have carried on taking part long after their mandated completion to top the internal score leaderboards.

He said: “We know younger generations love competition, in fact millennials are often referred to as the ‘trophy generation’. We also know repetition makes good learning stick, and with the Attensi training, our underwriters can replay as much as they need to achieve their potential and compete with their peers. We see our people playing and repeating the simulation up to 30 times to ensure they get the highest scores and top the leaderboard.”

He added that one of the insurance sector’s challenges is a shortage of high-quality technical underwriters.

Des said: “Underwriting drives profit, so when it comes to skillsets, our business needs an exceptionally talented team of technical underwriters. This means that when a broker or a customer meets with an underwriter, not only can they talk to them about the product, but they can service that product to that broker or client. Underwriting is more complex than ever, and tomorrow’s underwriters need to be able to adapt to many challenges.

“Gamified simulations put an individual in very believable situations. Instead of just watching someone complete an analysis of how to deal with a certain situation, our simulation allows our team members to experience the results of their actions in a safe environment. It provides insights, and lessons that face-to-face and e-learning exercises can’t match. We can now provide ongoing learning with performance support and feedback as needed.”

The simulation was created with input from senior underwriters who discussed their real-world experiences with Attensi and shared what had helped them learn their trade.

Huw Newton-Hill, Attensi’s Strategy & Business Development Director, said: “It’s not every day that a senior underwriter gets involved in developing a game or simulation, but to be a success, any simulation training needs to resonate with its audience. In our case, that required diving deep into the key success factors and typical mistakes of a Hiscox underwriter.

“Our users need to be able to see themselves facing a particular challenge in their day-to-day role and so we had to understand the nuances of what makes an excellent discussion. How to frame conversations and interactions correctly was key to creating a super realistic simulation that would resonate with Hiscox staff.

“For us, it is always important to challenge people so they can build and expand on their technical skills. If the training scenarios were going through the motions, we would have quickly lost engagement. So, getting to that level of difficulty resulted in tangible learning, which we observed through how the team engaged with the simulation and the positive feedback we received.”

Following a survey of people at Hiscox, 85% of participants agreed the training had helped them understand how to undertake reviews and analysis to identify areas of improvement for account and portfolio analysis. And 85% agreed the training had helped them understand how to apply technical concepts across the underwriting cycle.

By the end of 2021, more than 90% of junior underwriters within the firm globally will have taken the training.

Source: https://www.fintechnews.org/attensi-creates-worlds-first-underwriter-simulator-to-help-tackle-skills-gap-in-insurance-sector/

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Fintech

LexisNexis and Accuity Inks Deal for a Merger

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Accuity and LexisNexis Risk Solutions have announced that they will be merging operations where the former will be a part of the LexisNexis Risk Solutions Group which operates in more than 100 countries.

Both businesses are a part of RELX, a global provider of information-based analytics and decision tools, and their respective focus areas are in the global financial crime compliance sector with complementary solutions.

LexisNexis Risk Solutions and Accuity will conduct business as usual in the short term while integration progresses.

Both entities said in a statement that their combined solutions will further leverage and extend high-value data and analytic capabilities from both companies to provide comprehensive risk management and payments solutions.

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This will allow for future integrated offerings to better address critical customer needs across Know Your Customer, anti-money laundering and payments by providing more comprehensive global solutions to address the sophisticated and evolving methods criminals use to commit financial crimes.

Additionally, combining two differentiated and distinct data sets will enrich a joint product suite to drive greater customer value by enabling more actionable decisions through effective customer portfolio monitoring.

Aite Group senior analyst Colin Whitmore

Colin Whitmore

Aite Group senior analyst Colin Whitmore, stated,

“In today’s evolving world of financial crime and risk, there is a growing industry-wide requirement for compliance, risk and payments solutions that seamlessly use and integrate with comprehensive, trusted and in-depth data sets.

The combined offerings of Accuity and LexisNexis Risk Solutions financial crime compliance and risk offerings promise to meet this growing need.”

Rick Trainor, CEO of LexisNexis Risk Solutions, Business Services

Rick Trainor

Rick Trainor, CEO of LexisNexis Risk Solutions, Business Services, said,

“Accuity is an excellent strategic fit for Business Services. Both companies share a common vision – enabling financial transparency and inclusion around the world using innovative technology and comprehensive data to help our customers control risk, enhance and empower compliance and optimise business processes.

The Accuity suites for payments and compliance professionals will complement our existing global solutions, including Financial Crime Compliance and Fraud and Identity Management.”

Featured image credit: Edited from Freepik

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Source: https://fintechnews.sg/48876/fintech/lexisnexis-and-accuity-inks-deal-for-a-merger/

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