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Trust and Security Challenges Remain Despite Rising Blockchain Adoption




Blockchain continues to mature this year as corporates move away from experiments towards the development of robust enterprise ready solutions.

While 2019 revealed that blockchain is real and can serve as a pragmatic solution to business problems, 2020 saw leaders no longer considering the technology merely groundbreaking and promising, but rather perceiving it as integral to organizational innovation.

Deloitte, which conducted a survey of 1,400+ senior executives and practitioners between February and March 2020, found that blockchain remains one of the top five strategic priorities in 2020.

This year, the number of respondents who strongly or somewhat see blockchain as broadly scalable ticked up to 88%, compared to 84% last year. Those who said their company will lose competitive advantage if they don’t adopt blockchain also improved to 83%, up from 77% in 2019.

2020’s survey also shows a substantial jump in blockchain adoption, with 39% of global respondents saying they have already incorporated blockchain into production, compared to 23% in 2019.

To what extend have organization brought blockchain into production compared to last year? Sources: Deloitte’s Global Blockchain Survey, 2019 and 2020

While financial services have historically been the most active sector in exploring and deploying blockchain, new industries are now increasingly considering adopting the technology. The Deloitte study notes particular interest coming from the life science and healthcare sector, as well as farming and supply chain.

Trust and security challenges remain

Though blockchain adoption continues to rise, many enterprises are implementing the technology without truly understanding its purpose, and as much as 90% of enterprise blockchain projects launched in 2020 are expected to meet a premature end within 18 to 24 months, according to Thales.

Though blockchain holds many potentials including disintermediation, improved security and immutability, the technology also presents a number of risks, which, if not appropriately addressed, could be greatly detrimental to businesses.

In particular, the fact that whoever holds a cryptocurrency’s encryption key actually owns the currency, means that these keys must be protected and held securely so that hackers and fraudsters can’t put their hands on them.

In addition to cryptocurrencies, smart contracts too have their own set of challenges. A smart contract is a computer program that describes an agreement with the ability to self-execute and enforce the terms of a contract. If a blockchain is breached, a smart contract can be altered, breaking the trust of the blockchain and removing the ability for two parties to conduct business without the need for a middleman.

To ensure that a blockchain platform is secure, trustworthy, and protected against cyberattacks, security must be built into the blockchain platform from the start, and should include elements such as strong authentication and cryptography key vaulting, Thales says.

To address these issues, the firms has been providing enterprises with solutions and hardware devices designed to help businesses secure their blockchain infrastructure.

These solutions include the Luna Network Hardware Security Modules (HSMs), as well as the ProtectServer HSMs, which are physical computing devices designed to protect cryptographic keys against compromise while providing encryption, signing, and authentication services.

Thales also provides identities and authentication services such as SafeNet Trusted Access (STA). STA is a fully automated, cloud-based authentication-as-a-service with flexible token options.

Japanese company FreeBit has been amongst Thales’ customers, using Luna Network HSM for the management of private keys on The Log, an off-chain log storage platform that leverages blockchain to counter tampering risk.

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Payment Service Provider PingPong Payments Secures E-Money License in Luxembourg




PingPong Payments, a payment service provider for e-commerce sellers, announced on Wednesday it has received its authorization as an Electronic Money Institution (EMI) by the Commission de Surveillance du Secteur Financier (CSSF) in Luxembourg. Founded in 2015, PingPong stated that its mission of helping global e-commerce sellers keep more profits, by beating the rates traditional banks offer.

“Today, the company serves more than 600,000 online sellers worldwide, has processed more than $10 billion in cross-border payments for e-commerce merchants to-date, and transfers more than $100 million per day for international e-commerce sellers. Global merchants around the world trust PingPong Payments to help them save on cross-border payments, VAT & supplier payments, and more.”

PingPong reported that the license enables it to offer a more flexible array of services and increase the scope of customers in the future. Speaking about the license, Ning Wang, Co-Founder and Chief Business Officer at PingPong, stated:

“We are extremely proud to announce obtaining an EMI license in Luxembourg, a world-renowned fintech hub and pioneer within the EU market. This will strengthen our existing services which can support customers on different market places such as Amazon, eBay and Walmart and grant us the flexibility to broaden our business model to beyond e-commerce platforms.

Pierre Gramegna, Minister of Finance, Luxembourg added:

“Today, Luxembourg is one of the leading payment and e-money hubs in the EU and I’m happy to see that it continues to grow. In this sense, I welcome that PingPong has just upgraded its Luxembourg presence with a new e-money license that will help it better serve its European customers.”


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Big Data

Do China tech giants pose a risk for European banks?




China’s Ant group may have been dealt a setback with the shelving of its IPO but European banks remain wary that Chinese tech giants may soon be their main competitors.

The European finance sector has in recent years seen the emergence of a large number of startups—called fintech—which have sought to disrupt brick and mortar banks by offering digital services.

While they have yet to really threaten established banks, the fintechs have forced them to dust off their operations and invest massively into providing similar digital services.

“The real competitor of tomorrow will likely be the GAFAM or the Ants of the world which have the capacity to invest considerable sums,” the head of France’s Societe Generale bank, Frederic Oudea said recently, using a French acronym for Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon, and Microsoft.

US tech giants have been making more beachheads in financial services an area where their Chinese rivals are already well advanced.

From chat to super app

Ant Group, which was hoping to raise a record $34 billion with its IPO before the Chinese government pulled the rug out from under the operation, is the owner of Alipay, a payment platform which is now an unavoidable element of daily life in China.

Its prinicipal rival in China is WeChat Pay, owned by Internet giant Tencent.

“The companies which originally developed chat software have a strong interest in enhancing these activities as they enable them to cover an even broader range of people’s day-to-day activities,” said Christopher Schmitz, an expert on fintech at Ernst & Young.

“Gradually, an ever larger-growing share of people’s spending goes to these companies,” he added.

The Chinese have widely adopted paying by flashing QR codes of vendors on their smartphones using Alipay or WeChat Pay due to its convenience.

Alipay alone has 731 million monthly users.

In just a few years these two platforms have transformed China from a country where cash was king to a society where smartphones are the payment medium of choice.

These companies are not content with just offering payments. They offer more financial services, including the ability to obtain a loan with just several clicks.

“Alipay generates more revenue from the financial services that it offers, such as investment schemes and loans, than the payments themselves, which is really just the tip of the iceberg of what has become a super app,” said Adrien Boue, a consultant on the electronic commerce market.

He said “the goal is that users stay in the app as long as possible. From morning to night, there is always a functionality there: speaking with friends, ordering a taxi, ordering food and even working on collaborative projects.”

Cultural barriers

“The most advanced model in the financial sector—it’s China,” said Oudea.

The question is just how much of this model can be reproduced in Europe, especially after Ant Group’s IPO setback, which some observers see as a move by the Chinese authorities to bring an overly ambitious firm to heel.

“Our banks are still a bit protected,” said Julien Maldonato, a financial services expert at the Deloitte France consultancy. “There are still cultural barriers, but these won’t protect us forever.”

One of those cultural barriers are QR codes.

“In Europe, payments based on QR codes are noy very popular,” said Ernst & Young’s Schmitz.

The fragmented nature of Europe with its different languages and cultures also makes it difficult for an outsider.

But Maldonato noted that American tech companies are already very much present in the daily lives of Europeans, and China’s TikTok has attracted young users who are “the banking clients of tomorrow”.

It is the capacity of the Chinese companies to plough money into developing new technologies and acquiring customers—they each plan to invest some $70 billion over the next five years—that could really change the game.

“That worries the Americans who will accelerate” their investments as well, said Maldonato, while European companies will have trouble coming up with even a few billion.


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Big Data

Nordigen launches first-ever free open banking platform to challenge Tink and Plaid




Nordigen launches first-ever free open banking platform to challenge Tink and Plaid

Latvian fintech Nordigen today launches the first-ever free open banking API platform. This will enable developers in companies of all sizes to access PSD2 open banking data from major banks from across Europe via a single API. In addition to offering free open banking connectivity, Nordigen will continue to provide premium data analytics and insights services, which it currently offers to more than 50 global fintechs, banks and lenders operating across 19 countries. Nordigen’s new platform provides connectivity to 29 countries in the European Economic Area, including the UK.

For the majority of fintechs, accessing open banking data is prohibitively expensive. Incumbent open banking companies require payment for every single connected end user, meaning the cost of access rapidly rises for fintechs as they scale. Moreover, the market is difficult to navigate – there are more than 380 AISPs in Europe, many of which offer connectivity as a service. Each of them has a different pricing model and API documentation. This makes accessing open banking data both expensive and technically challenging, while the limited geographical coverage of most existing providers forces clients to resort to a patchwork of different solutions. Usage of PSD2 is not yet mainstream beyond the UK. Nordigen’s new freemium, pan-European model removes the financial barrier while simultaneously simplifying the process of choosing and integrating to an open banking platform.

Rolands Mesters, CEO and co-founder, Nordigen, said: “In Europe, the business model of charging for open banking data, as Tink and Plaid do, will soon be history. Nordigen is the first to launch a free open banking data service, but we certainly won’t be the last. We believe the future of open banking is in the freemium model and that the rest of the industry will soon follow.”

Unlike competitors, who require heavy technology stacks using custom bank integrations built before the age of open APIs, Nordigen is able to offer a freemium service thanks to a lightweight technology stack that relies exclusively on PSD2 bank connections. Nordigen built its platform with pure open APIs in mind right from the start, focusing on providing the raw banking data that most developers are looking for. This is done in a steady, robust way and without the need for screen-scraping or reverse engineering.

Rolands Mesters, CEO and co-founder, Nordigen, continued: “By removing the barriers to accessing financial data, we’re aiming to enable more companies to translate their ideas into reality and drive the innovation and competition open banking regulation was originally meant to foster. It’s ironic that companies wanting to make finance more inclusive and fairer should find open banking data, of all things, out of reach for financial reasons.”

“Our new freemium model is there to help more fintechs solve real-world problems, and there has never been a more crucial time for this. The Covid pandemic is accelerating uptake and showing us a glimpse of the transformational potential open banking has to offer, but we need something more to help companies turn their bold visions into reality. Free access to open banking is that, ” he added.

Nordigen’s new data connectivity platform complements its expertise in data analytics. Since 2016, the company has helped clients across the globe extract more value from data to make better decisions, especially when it comes to assessing the creditworthiness of loan applicants. Nordigen is planning to raise a Series A in 2021.


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London-based fintech startup Ziglu successfully raises €6.6 million on Seedrs to grow its personal money app




Ziglu, the personal money app, has successfully closed its crowdfunding campaign, having raised over €6.6 million from over 1250 investors. 

Ziglu aimed to raise around €1.1 million but hit this target within 3 hours of the campaign opening, and with this very high investor demand Ziglu went on to raise 500% more than their initial target. The campaign, the largest Seedrs equity raise of 2020, was more than five times oversubscribed.

The investment will go to fund the technology and product development teams, international expansion and meet the growing demand for Ziglu’s personal money app.

Ziglu’s Chief Growth Officer, Yang Li, added: “We wanted to give our customers the opportunity to be a true part of Ziglu through ownership. We have been overwhelmed by support for the crowdfunding round, resulting in Ziglu becoming the largest equity campaign on Seedrs this year. Our vision for financial inclusion and community support translates through all our initiatives whether it’s crowdfunding, charitable giving or personal finance – providing fair and equal access to everyone – the same approach we take to crypto.”

As an innovator in the fintech space, Ziglu has been classified as a Knowledge Intensive Company (KIC) by HMRC, enabling KIC investors to claim tax relief on investments up to the value of around 2.2 million. This means that the research and development Ziglu is completing as a result of the funding will be the key driver of growth and income for years to come.

John Lake, Chief Commercial Officer at Seedrs, said “Ziglu is an exciting fintech platform that is changing the way we handle digital and traditional currency – something we’ve not really seen before. The passion, ambition and legacy of Mark and the Ziglu team is fuelling the company’s growth as a global challenger in the fintech space. We are thrilled to see how engaged Seedrs investors have been with Ziglu’s campaign.”

The firm recently celebrated the launch of its limited edition power pink Mastercard debit card by enabling Ziglu customers to support their community through FareShare, the UK’s largest charity fighting hunger, with a donation every time they use their card at a supermarket. 

Ziglu offers an account for the digital age, with traditional and digital currencies managed seamlessly in one app. The cryptocurrency platform gives everyone easy access to digital currencies including Bitcoin, Bitcoin Cash, Ether, Litecoin and XRP. Increasing financial inclusion by providing greater accessibility and control across all currencies with instant and secure digital money management.


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