This is Spartak! Muscovite club ends 16 year title drought

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Spartak Moscow 2017 Champions

Russian Premier League side Spartak Moscow were crowned champions on the 7th May beating Siberian side Tom Tomsk 1-0 in front of 42,000 spectators at the Otkritie Arena.

They won the league with three games left to go, after beating Tom Tomsk, Spartak travelled to Perm to face Amkar. The Muscovite side were once again victorious and travelled back to the Russian capital with a 1-0 win over the Krasno-chernye (The Red and Blacks).

Their last home game of the season was against Chechen side Terek Grozny and comfortably beat Rashid Rakhimov’s side 3-0.

Denis Glushakov put the home side in the lead in the fifteenth minute and slotted a low shot passed Terek keeper Evgeniy Gorodov.

Four minutes later Spartak doubled their lead, Zé Luís sent a short pass to Glushakov, both who were inside the Terek box, the former Lokomotiv player cooly chipped the ball over Gorodov, scoring his eighth goal of the season for The Red-Whites.

The Moscow side could have made it 4-0 just before half time with chances coming from Quincy Promes and Glushakov respectively.

In the seventy-third minute Spartak made it 3-0, Dutch International Quincy Promes went on a darting run into the Terek box, skimmed past the Chechen side’s defence and fired a low shot into the keeper’s left handside of the goal.

Despite losing their final game of the 3-0 in Tula against Arsenal, Spartak won the league with sixty nine points, city rivals CSKA came second with sixty two points, and Zenit finished third with sixty one Points.

Back in the 2000/2001 season, the Moscow side finished the season in first place with sixty points under Oleg Romantsev and beat city rivals Lokomotiv by four points to clench the domestic title.

Foreign Influence at Spartak

Quincy Promes Spartak Moscow

Image source: Soccer Sweep

It’s fair to say Spartak’s foreign influence has definitely contributed to winning the Russian Premier League title.

Dutch talisman Quincy Promes has scored twelve goals in twenty six appearances for the Moscow side, Zé Luís has also played a key part, scoring five goals from twenty one appearances.

A lot of credit goes to tactician Massimo Carrera for getting his team to play as formidable unit, something previous foreign managers at Spartak have failed to achieve.

Carrera’s caretaker manager position at Juventus definitely helped shape his management skills, during his ten games in charge of the Bianconeri, he won seven games and drew three, in addition, adding the Italian Super Cup to his CV.

The former Juve and Napoli player brought the Italian game with him to Moscow, Spartak this season have focused on improving their defence which has drastically improved since last year. In the 2015/2016 season, The Red Whites kept eleven clean sheets in thirty games, in contract, this season, Spartak kept fourteen clean sheets after twenty eight games.

Not only have they been defensively robust, they have had the attacking arsenal with the likes of Quincy Promes’ dangerous runs and causing havoc in the opposition’s half and also providing essential assists to his team mates.

Not only has the Italian created an all strength team, he has more importantly created a different style of thinking at the Otkritie Arena. This season we’ve seen a resilient and tenacious Spartak team, something former foreign and domestic managers have failed to achieve. Beating the likes of rival sides such as CSKA and Zenit clearly showed just how much they have improved under Massimo Carrera’s leadership.

Sustaining Spartak’s Winning Elements

Massimo Carrera Tifo

Image source: Ultras Tifo

Spartak next season have Champions League football to look forward to, any team that travels to Moscow will not expect a walk in the park, it will be interesting how they get on and definitely fancy them to surprise many teams.

It will also be interesting to see if Quincy Promes will stay or leave the Moscow club, either way, it’s a win-win situation. If he stays, he will provide vital assists and goals, on the other hand if he goes to a bigger club, Spartak will definitely receive a decent amount for the twenty five year old Dutchman.

It’s fair to say that it’s exciting times at the Otkritie Arena, not only have the regained the Russian title, they’ve adopted a philosophy that now works to their advantage. With Carrera at the helm, we’ll definitely be expecting him to conjure up some more winning elements into the Spartak side.

*Top image taken from Ultras Tifo

Never Mind The Bollocks: My First Season as an Orient Fan

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From E20 to E10

It’s fair to say football hasn’t been kind to me of late, at the start of the 2016/2017 season I experienced my first game in West Ham’s new stadium which was a bizarre experience and equally the result was just as bad as the Hammers got thumped 3 nil against Southampton.

I’ve followed West Ham since I was 7 years old, my Grandad originated from East London and also followed the club so it made sense that I would be a Hammers fan.

I started going to games when I was 14 and experienced many ups and down at the club.

I always said if I didn’t like the Stratford move I would watch lower league football, as I’ve got older I’ve become more against modern football and the glitz and glamour of the Premier League.

I started to take an interest in Orient in October last year, I read an article online about how badly the club had been managed by their owner Francesco Becchetti.

After reading other articles and starting to follow the club on Twitter I got even more engrossed with the club’s performances, even the 6-0 FA Cup thrashing against Sheffield United didn’t put me off!

However, one of the earliest league matches that I followed was a lot better, the O’s travelled up the A12 to play Colchester United (which was back in early November if my memory serves me correctly). On the day Jay Simpson (now at MLS side Philadelphia Union) scored twice and former Bolton Wanderers player Nicky Hunt beat U’s keeper Sam Walker with a low shot.

The club were currently managed by Italian manager Alberto Cavasin who had previously managed a handful of Italian sides, most notably Fiorentina and Sampdoria respectively.

Cavasin’s biggest flaw was that he didn’t speak a word of English and after ten games (eight defeats and two wins) he left E10.

On the 19th of November at home to Blackpool, both sets of supporters joined forces and protested about their incompetent owners.

The protest was organised by LOFT (Leyton Orient Fans’ Trust) and BST (Blackpool Supporters’ Trust) and marched around Leyton voicing their concerns with banners saying “We want out club back!” In the 18th minute of the game (Orient founded in 1881 and The Tangerines 1887) the fans sang in unison about their clubs.

I kept on following news at the E10 club and started to listen to the Orient Outlook Podcast which is hosted by Steve Nussbaum and Paul Levy. Both give a great insight into the latest goings on at Orient which spurred my interest in the East London club even more. By December I visited Brisbane Road for the first time and saw the O’s take on Lancashire side Accrington Stanley (“who are they?”).

At the time Orient were 21st in League 2, Accrington sat below in 22nd and both were on 21 points respectively. The O’s hadn’t won a game at home since late August and this was Andy Edward’s second game in charge.

I don’t remember a lot about the game (my memory isn’t the best at times!) but remember that Gavin Massey made a few decent chances and Jay Simpson’s goal in the second half which he slotted home from a few yards out.

However, one thing everyone will remember is not what happened on the pitch but what happened in the East Stand.

The 100 or so Stanley faithful who made the long trip down to E10 started to have a fight (see below).

Above: Away Days vlogger Ellis Platten realises he should have sat with Orient fans!

Besides watching a scrappy game, my first experience at Brisbane Road was a positive one, I loved the atmosphere of the South Stand and clearly saw this was a small club with a big heart. I also liked the fact I had been to a proper football ground in East London and not at some stadium that was designed to host the Olympic Games with poor atmosphere and was an expensive day out.

As I walked out of Brisbane Road with Status Quo’s “Rockin’ All Over the World” in the background (a song that has become a rarity to hear these days at the ground after a home win). I decided I would be back to cheer on the O’s, even though the under the Becchetti regime things weren’t looking good, the club needed all the support they could get, inside, I really felt like I was becoming an Orient fan.

An Orient  Christmas

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Christmas Day I received an Orient shirt and tickets for the Barnet game, family and friends could clearly see my interest in the O’s was something I felt passionate about as I had pretty much shunned going to the London Stadium and had lost interest in the Premier League.

On the 7th of January I went to my second Orient game, I was once again in the South Stand (which has become my favourite stand at Brisbane Road) and it was my girlfriend’s first ever game at E10 (poor girl!).

From what I remember from the first half, both sides seemed quite even, unfortunately for Orient, they severely deteriorated in the second half.

Portuguese defender Ricardo Santos latched onto Alex Cisak’s fumble and slotted in from close range in the 63rd minute, however, things went from bad to worse for the East London side as the Bees doubled their lead 3 minutes later, Santos again got his name on the scoresheet, team mate Nana Kyei toyed with the O’s defence and found Santos in a prime position to beat Cisak for the second consecutive time.

Orient pulled one back 13 minutes later, Paul McCallum heading in from Callum Kennedy’s corner kick.

The home side were stung again by the Bees in the dying embers of the match, former  Southend player Jamal Campbell-Ryce’s lob attempt hit the crossbar, the rebound came straight to Curtis Weston who tapped in to make it 3-1.

From then on I felt maybe it would be best for the club to get relegated and start over, after that performance I just couldn’t see any light at the end of the tunnel. Fans who have supported the club for years all stated that this was the worst squad they had ever seen.

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Above: Morecambe players training in front of an empty Brisbane Road crowd

I continued to go to homes from the rearranged Tuesday night fixture at home to Morecambe (kudos to the Morecambe fans who travelled down that evening), a game I thought Orient played well despite losing 1 nil, youngsters such as Victor Adeboyejo showed their potential; to games where we had extremely poor refs, who remembers the overweight ref against Carlisle? Probably one of the worst refs I’ve ever seen!

I could talk about all the games I went to this season but I’d be here all afternoon, the majority of the games had recurring situations such as conceding early in the second half, switching off at the back (don’t get me started on the likes of Jens Janse and Teddy Mézague), not making substitutions when Danny Webb was in charge, and seeing the squad get younger, as demonstrated by Football Analyst’s Matt Bristow below.

Month Games Average Age Average Number of Players Under 21 in Starting 11 Average Number of Players Under 20 in 18 man Squad
August 5 25.1 1 2.8
September 5 25.7 0.2 4.6
October 5 25.9 1 4.4
November 4 26.1 0.75 5.5
December 4 25 2.25 5
January 4 25.6 1.5 6.25
February 7 23.6 4.3 8.7
March 5 22.7 6 10.6
April 6 21.9 6.8 12
May 1 21.6 8 15

Sticking our youngsters in at the deep end has been extremely tough and as the results show, under Danny Webb at times it felt like there was a glimmer of hope, when he was given the job we saw a side that didn’t look like it was on the verge of given up when they were losing, which had been seen under previous managers.

Dressed like a “Romford estate agent” Webb always gave an honest approach to games in pre-match interviews, he was popular with fans, and seemed to be very respected with the youngsters. The highlight for me was when the O’s won 3-2 away at Plymouth on Valentine’s Day, which no one saw coming!

He clearly had some ideas and openly stated in his last ever pre-match interview that the club needs a plan. Frustrated with the Becchetti regime, Webb had enough of the ludicrous runnings of the club and resigned at the end of March.

Above: Danny Webb’s last ever interview as O’s manager.

Ömer Rıza (Danny’s assistant) become Orient’s fifth manager of the season and took the hardest job in the football league.

The former Hammers player gave it his all but it just wasn’t to be as Orient won 1 drawn 1 and lost 5 and were relegated to the Vanarama National League. The East London club had spent 112 years in the football league and frightening to think that 3 years ago they were a penalty kick away from The Championship. The incompetence of one man has turned the club upside down.

No matter what happens at Leyton Orient, the only positive to takeaway from all the crazy goings ons at the club from farcical statements (Mr Becchetti doesn’t play on Saturday) to the players and staff not being paid is that it has made the supporters stronger and that was clearly shown at the Colchester game.

I predict a Riot

leyton orient protest

It was inevitable that there would be a pitch invasion after the Colchester United game, but many would have never predicted that it would happen whilst the match was still being played. 3-1 down (despite conceding sloppy goals, what a goal from Sandro, which I sadly missed from coming back from the bar!) and in the 85th minute a flare was thrown from the South Stand and a few kids run onto the pitch, a few seconds later others followed suit. Chants of “Becchetti out!” and “Sit down for the Orient” were echoed all around Brisbane Road, even Col U fans joined in!

The scenes at E10 were shown around the globe from Italy to The States and showed a clear message that the fans won’t be messed with and Becchetti can’t win this battle.

Fans made their voices clear for over an hour before the remaining 5 minutes of the game were played behind closed doors.

My first season as an Orient fan has seen more ups and downs than an episode on Albert Square. Would I do it again next season? Of course I would! It will be an eye opener playing against the likes of Guiseley in our 2016/2017 campaign, but just like this season we will need all the support we can get, even if the Becchetti regime is still there in August.

There are still a lot of uncertainties at the club with a second winding up order being disputed in court on the 12th of June. Again, no matter what the outcome will be, whether the debt is paid or whether the club is reborn from founding a phoenix team, Becchetti cannot kill the solidarity and the passion shown from the supporters. We will be there regardless of the division! See you all in August, up the O’s!

*Bollocks banner image taken from View from the West Stand

A Brief look at the Brazilian Fintech Scene

Brazil Fintech

It’s been a while since the last time I wrote a post, mainly due to being very occupied at weekends and also changing jobs.

How time flies! It’s been over a year since I caught the fintech bug and my interest remains strong.

For this post (and like previous posts) I have linked my interests in the world of fintech and countries.

I’ve always had a fascination with Brazil which started at an early age from seeing their amazing squad from France ’98 to learning about the country in a Year 8 Geography class.

I was fortunate enough to visit the country eight years ago and spent a month in Southern Brazil.

So what’s the fintech scene in Brazil like? Similar to many developing countries, segments of the Brazilian fintech ecosystem is rather segmented and are more developed in some areas. Data from Brazilian Institute for Applied Economic Research (Ipea) shows that over 50 million adults in the Latin American country do not have a bank account. In addition, data gathered from Brazilian Telecommunications Agency, Anatel showed that there are over 282 million mobile activations in Brazil. Mobile is at the forefront and as a result, fintechs have therefore decided to make their services more digital and provide a sound mobile experience for the consumer.

Brazilian Fintech: Who are the big players?

Brazilian fintech

So who are the Neymars of Brazilian fintech? There are a quite a few fintechs in the country, there are so many to mention with new entrants that I have mentioned the ones that have really left their mark in Brazilian fintech so far.

Guia Bolso –  Brazil’s leading personal finance platform. The app has around a million users.

FoxBit – The bitcoin exchange company is the country’s crytocurrency leader.

Nubank –  The São Paulo based fintech is known for its no-fee credit card that is managed via a mobile app.

ZeroPaper – A web platform that combines software and services that increase the chances of survival of micro and small enterprises. It generates detailed reports and tracks KPIs, in order for small business owners to manage their finances more efficiently.

Magnetis – In layman’s terms, Magnetis is a digital advisor which helps investors become more knowledgable about their investment portfolios.

Nibo – An online software that enables companies and accountants to manage and control their finances.

Vindi – A platform that provides invoices and payment gateways for Brazilian SMEs.

BankFacil – The concept behinf BankFacil is to provide consumer loans to Brazilians in an inexpensive way.

Bidu – The first company in Brazil to offer a smart search, comparison and purchase of insurance and financial services.

Above: The Brazilian fintech ecosystem’s segments, taken from Fintech Finance.

São Paulo: The new Latin American hub for Fintechs

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The fintech scene in Brazil is booming and São Paulo is putting financial technology on the map in Latin America. Deloitte featured the city in its latest global fintech hubs index.

Brazil has more fintech startups than any other country in Latin America, with venture capital investment reaching US$161 million in 2016. (Nearshore Americas, April 2017)

Like a lot of large scale banks who are looking to transform the way they conduct their products and services, Banco do Brasil has also jumped onto the fintech bandwagon and has setup its very own lab in Silicon Valley.

Back in Brazil, the country’s largest bank is heavily working on digital innovation by organising hackathons for employees and students respectively to conducting various innovation programs.

From labs and innovation programs, events in São Paulo have also helped Brazilian fintech blossom. Previous events such as the São Paulo Fintech Summit which had a lot of speakers from various fintech companies. The general consensus at the summit was that Brazilian banks have successfully made a digital transition, but are still finding ways to improve their online capabilities and offer a great user experience.

The 2015 summit showed that despite the country’s economic and political situations, the fintech scene is ripe. The future looks bright for fintech in Brazil with the likes of Nubank that won the Marketers That Matter Award last year. The award goes to companies that have demonstrated innovation and the São Paulo company joins tech giants such as Google and Netflix on the list of winners.

Conducting business Brazil is not particularly easy with the complexity of tax and labour laws. The central bank has now made it easy for startups to collect their information digitally from customers. Luckily for the majority of Brazilian fintechs, their business models do not necessarily rely on any potential regulatory changes.

What are your thoughts on Brazilian fintech? I’d love to hear from you, feel free to connect via Linkedin, alternatively, tweet me @daviddhannoo.

5 Fintech Predictions for 2017

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A VERY late Happy New Year to you all! For anyone that does read these blog posts, 2016 for me was all about fintech. This year will be no different, here’s a brief look at what many commentators have predicted – with 5 fintech predictions for 2017.

5 Fintech Predictions for 2017

Artificial Intelligence

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Many in the media have dubbed 2017 as the year of AI, this will be the year that an array of industries will ask how the latest old trend in computing threatens and disrupts. Expect a more intelligent type of fintech, which will cater to the consumer’s every need and deliver a  more of a robust money management experience.

Invoicing

Fintech invoicing

This year one of the biggest things we’re going to see in fintech is the automation of the invoicing management process. We can expect innovative invoicing and as a result, payments will be in real-time and become easier, which will therefore narrow the gap between credit and recovery.

 

Brexit

Fintech Brexit

When article 50 is triggered here in the UK, the two-year journey to exit the European Union will begin and so will the exodus of fintech firms from the UK if the country chooses to end the EU licence pass-porting as well. We could see a big move out for fintech firms from the UK and relocate to other european countries such as Ireland and Germany.

Blockchain

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Blockchain technology will continue to make the headlines in 2017. If you’re new to blockchain, it basically consists of a long chain of data blocks in which one or more transactions are being compiled, encrypted and securely stored without being hacked. Ideas and concepts on where blockchain technology might be used in the future, are only just beginning. There has been a lot of talk about smart contracts. Instead of using a solicitor for example, a computer takes charge of the contracts. Blockchain technology software would proof all preconditions in live mode and can read individual agreements automatically.

Pushing towards a cashless society

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Amazon recently unveiled plans to bring a chain of cashier-free stores to the UK next year. By using technology to track which items have been selected, you’ll no longer have to queue or use those annoying self-service checkouts. Customers will be able to pay via their smartphone as they leave the store. The introduction of these next gen stores will push us towards a cashless society in 2017.

Fintech Predictions for 2017 – What are your thoughts?

What other predictions would you add to the list? Where do you see fintech developing in 2017? I’ve recently set up a Facebook page called Global Fintech News, feel free to share your thoughts and predictions, you can also tweet me. Stay tuned for my next fintech blog post.

*Featured image : In Business.ae

What Is Insurtech?

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What Is Insurtech? A Brief Insight

As you’ve noticed this year I have been fascinated with the world of fintech from looking at many countries and regions around the world and looking at how an array of startups are shaping financial technology. Today, I provide a brief insight into insurtech, a buzzword that you might have heard a lot of this year.

So what is insurtech? The term which fits under the fintech umbrella, relates to the current changes in the insurance industry which has seen both the adoption and evolution of digital technology.

In addition, there are six components to insurtech : p2p insurance, e-commerce insurance, brokerage, health insurance, usage driven insurance. Firms that operate in these respectable insurance areas have one common goal in mind – to focus on the consumer and digitalisation. For example, using the likes of artificial intelligence in the insurance industry, builds up a deep understanding of a client’s needs and helps to understand what additional offers and services they may require.

Since 2013, the insurance sector has seen an ever-growing demand for creativity, new digital technology, and disruption. (Tech Bullion, November 2016) Companies such as AXA have become of the first to become a digital insurer. The French multinational established a lab in Silicon Valley and affiliated themselves with social media giant Facebook back in 2014. Many commentators during this time were expecting big things from the likes of Amazon, Apple, Google, etc.

However, a year later, Google launched a new tool to sell car insurance to U.S. web searchers. Things didn’t go swimmingly, within a year  the search engine giant had shut down its insurance business. Adam Lyons, the founder of TheZebra.com (a comparison site) mentioned in an Insurance Business article that : “Auto insurance is a complex product and a lot of folks underestimate that.”

He also mentioned that the search engine titan focused primarily on price, although this works very well with some products, you need to ultimately have a deeper understanding and be more involved. Lyons stressed that insurance is proving to be one of those industries.

Insurtech and IoT

Insurtech IoT

If a company like Google has failed at insurtech, how does this form of fintech evolve and prosper? It seems that by combing other forms of disruptive tech such as the Internet of Things (IoT) is one method that will change the industry. The beauty of using IoT is the data that it generates. The future of smart homes and self-driving cars means that a lot of insurtech companies will partner with an array of device manufacturers.

For example, insurance companies have partnered with device manufacturers like Water Hero, which monitors and displays water flow in real time. It’s easy to see the appeal in this partnership given that one-third of all household claims in The States are related to water leaks.

As well as using IoT, big data and algorithms are also imperative for the industry. It’s vital that they leverage IoT tech to gather more data about customers’ homes, cars, and even the consumers themselves, insurance companies can therefore utilise real-time data, predictive modelling, and machine learning to create new business models as well as developing new products/offers for their customers.

Insurtech 2017 Predictions

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This year has seen a lot of insurtech investment. Research from CB Insights indicates that venture capital firms made 126 investments in insurance globally in the first nine months of 2016, with a total value of $1.4bn (£1.1m), compared with 118 for the whole of 2015 and 26 in 2011.

As with most things in the tech world, it’s a rapidly changing landscape, as a majority of analysts have already pointed out, next year will have a lot regulations set in stone plus political changes.

One prediction for insurtech in 2017 is that there will be more new entrants to the broker software market. One commentator recently mentioned that tech companies and startups such as Applied Systems, Transactor, Vlocity and Insly are entering the market and looking to displace the incumbents.

In addition, in 2017 it is predicted that insurers will embrace a startup feel as they learn and embrace startup methods. The likes of AXA (as previously mentioned) have made some great results from partnerships. This is something that’s going to be on top of insurance firms’ agendas in the new year.

The final prediction that has been mentioned by many is that the broker proposition will evolve. Traditionally, in the world of commercial insurance, it has been the Holy Grail for brokers to become clients’ strategic risk advisors. In 2017,insurtech will aid brokers by giving efficient solutions to deepen client relationships.

It’s fair to say insurtech has made insurance sexy – something we thought we would never hear! An industry that has been static for some time now, thanks to using innovative tech such as IoT, AI, and using APIs things are finally moving forward. 2017 looks to be a very interesting and exciting year for insurtech with numerous players and the amounts of investment expected to surpass those of fintech very soon.

*Feature image : Fintech Switzerland

Chinese P2P Lending – The Red Dragon Gets Fiery with the Industry

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Continuing with my fintech posts once again, I return to Asia and look at Chinese P2P Lending.

Chinese P2P Lending – A brief insight

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China’s peer-to-peer lending sector has emerged as the largest and most dynamic online alternative finance sector in the world. (ACCA, October 2015)

The P2P lending industry has increased since 2011, with 2,600 platforms by the end of 2015, but has experienced stops and starts due to issues in controlling risk. Over the past year around 1,000 businesses have closed. Risk has been a major talking point, especially with credit risk – a few commentators have mentioned that data mining could provide a way to identify better borrowers, but this ultimately depends on availability and dimensions of data.

In addition, many have stressed that standards need to be put in place in the industry such as being more transparent, the requirement of loan loss provisions, as well as having safety requirements that are put in place to modernise and regulate the industry.

Chinese P2P Lending – Ezubao Scandal

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It’s no surprise that many have commented on the industry and how measures need to be put in place after the Ezubao scandal. At the start of the year, it was announced on Chinese state media that the company cheated over 900,000 investors out of US$7.6 billion.

According to a few sources, 95 percent of investment projects on Ezubao’s site were fake.

The downfall of Ezubao definitely tarnished the industry’s reputation in China, however, the government are clamping down on companies that don’t play by the rules.

They have banned P2P platforms from securitising assets or offering debt transfer mechanisms that mimic securitisation. Companies are prohibited from using P2P platforms to finance their own projects according to The FT.

These regulations mark the first comprehensive framework for regulating the P2P industry in China.

Xu Hongwei, chief executive of Online Lending House told the FT : “In the past when there basically were no limits, and lots of people operated in the grey area. It won’t be like that any more. Now that we have standards, you just follow the standards. The whole industry will become more normalised.”

The Chinese government has a made a push on alternative finance to help people who struggle to access loans from banks (who are known to lend to large corporates or those with hard assets to pledge as collateral).

There are still over a 1,000 what has been dubbed as “problem platforms” in China and these equal to nearly half of all platforms.

Other rules that have been in place that standout include restricting P2P groups from operating “fund pools” in which investor funds are not matched with specific loan assets.

Also, a cap on the amount consumers and businesses can borrow has been put in place. For consumers the cap stands at 200,000 yuan on one platform a 1 million yuan over multiple platforms. For businesses the cap is 1 million yuan on a single platform and 5 million yuan over multiple lenders. (Crowdfund Insider, August, 2016)

Moreover, P2P companies will not be allowed to operate “offline”. Platforms must abide to transparency regulations such as lending statistics and the rate of defaults.  In addition, a blacklist will be put together to block bad actors from fraudulent activities.

Before these P2P rules came into play (and the Ezubao scandal), people didn’t really judge on which platform is good or bad, however, now they have a clearer idea on what’s going on. As a result, investors have become more vigilant on platforms that are breaking the rules.

*Ezubao Image : Fortune

Manchester Fintech : An Alternative To The London Scene

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Manchester Fintech – Unlocking The Northern Powerhouse’s Potential

 

Continuing once again with my fintech series, this time I head to the north west of England and look at the Manchester fintech scene.

Anyone that follows the goings-on in fintech knows when it comes to UK fintech, London is the dominant city. According to Startups.co.uk Only 31 of the top 100 start-ups listed (In May of this year) were based outside of the capital. Even more, interesting, Devon based crowdfunding company Crowdcube broke the London scene’s monopoly (it took the crowdfunding platform just 16 minutes to raise £1.2m from private investors to help fund its expansion plans, read more on the story here). Ernst & Young stressed in one of their reports that regional centres are a must – so it makes sense that the city behind the Northern Powerhouse is ripe for fintech.

Back in May, AccessPay secured a £1m package from Barclays to support its growth, the first in the city to benefit from the bank’s new Innovation Finance product. Anish Kapoor, Chief Executive Officer at AccessPay mentioned in Finextra : We felt that the local Barclays team in Manchester demonstrated from the start that they fully understood our market proposition and drive to make business payments as easy as possible, recognising the potential of the business to achieve rapid growth. They also saw the huge opportunity to deepen the existing working relationship between the two companies. We are very excited to be going on this journey with Barclays.”

When it comes to fintech Barclays is a leader, mainly due to its Rise centres that work alongside the digital community. Their Manchester hub is one of seven globally, and the only UK branch outside of the capital.

One commentator mentioned that the Manchester fintech scene is still in its infancy and that it is fair to say that Leeds has been stronger, due to the fact that the Yorkshire city has a background of customer contact centres and back-end processing in finance.

Manchester Fintech in DueCourse

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Image Source : DueCourse

A recent Manchester fintech case study found that hit the headlines is fintech start-up Duecourse who raised £6.25 million in angel funding.

According to Tech City News, the total investment includes £1.25m equity funding, and £5m of debt for lending to UK SMEs.

The Manchester cloud-based invoice financing service’s backers include investors of property portal giants ZooplaLinkedIn, LoveFilm, and fellow fintech company, TransferWise.

DueCourse launched their invoice software a year ago and is primarily aimed at SMEs who invoice clients on a regular basis.  In a nutshell, the start-up uses it’s propriety risk engine to assess and unlock cash tied up in unpaid invoices.

Company co-founder and CEO Paul Haydock told Tech City News : “We saw the opportunity for a company to disrupt the market and help SMEs get access to the cash they need to fuel their business, in real time.”

In addition, he mentioned in Manchester Evening News that the company started because they realised traditional methods of finance are completely out of sync with what today’s SMEs need. They saw the opportunity for a company to disrupt the market and help SMEs get access to the cash they need to fuel their business, in real time. In addition, DueCourse wanted to be viewed as a new kind of cash flow utility – to put it simply, once a business has linked their accounting package for free, the invoice company is there in the background for them to access the money in their unpaid invoices whenever they need it.

Invoice trading is a popular tool for SME finance and according to the Cambridge Centre for Alternative Finance (CCAF), approximately 5015 SMEs used online invoice financing during 2015 so there is plenty of room for growth. DueCourse have stated that they expect to top £16.5 million in SME advances by the end of the year.

Manchester Fintech : Standing on the shoulders of giants

fintech-2

It’s fair to say a lot of firms have taken inspiration from the fintech scene in the capital and this form of disruptive form of tech seems to be of an opportunity rather than a threat.

However, there  are challenges that remain, the need more for more infrastructure within the city as well as continuing to attract talented individuals hat can meet the pace of expansion will be a major area of focus.

Focusing more on the Northern Powerhouse will help transform another UK fintech centre, the likes of Tech North and Tech UK will help support companies that are dotted around the city by giving them the best advice, networks, support and inspiration they need to further the growth and success.

Bustling Berlin : A Look At The City’s Startup Scene

Bustling Berlin - A Look At The City's Startup Scene

Berlin – An Attractive Place For Startups

The German capital’s low rents, cool image and open attitude has attracted an array of creative startup businesses and the startup scene continues to flourish with a new startup being founded every 20 minutes, according to advisory agency Gruenden.

The city has grown up and become more professional according to Ahoy! co-founder Nikolas Woischnik. As a result, bigger companies are moving to the East German city and a lot of talent has been produced from the first wave of start-ups who are now churning out additional start-up businesses.

I recently started this post (well title idea and left it as a draft for a couple of months) and I am now resumed writing it in post-Brexit Britain, which has left many commentators (including myself) whether Berlin can topple London’s start-up and fintech scenes respectfully.

The Berlin start-up scene has already overtaken the UK capital in terms of venture capital investment and many argue that it offers a pool of talented international developers who may avoid the UK once new migration laws are put in place, in addition, commercial rents that are about a third of those in London, and has a better party scene.

From taking a huge interest in fintech this year, one thing that particularly fascinates me since the majority of the nation voted to leave the European Union is will UK fintech sustain its reputation for being the European fintech capital.

The likes of Berlin in my opinion have an opportunity to steal its fintech crown. For example, fintech start-ups such as Chicken Financial have already expanded their operations in the German capital after the Brexit vote.

Chicken Financial’s co-founder Samuel Ely told The Guardian last month that : “We expect there will be a long-term shift of fintech and banking from Frankfurt to Berlin and that Berlin could eventually become continental Europe’s new financial capital.”

Fintech giants TransferWise mentioned that they will not close their London office, however, they we will probably not grow the team based in the capital much more. Headquartering elsewhere is a possibility mentions Taavet Hinrikus (company co-founder) but the company hasn’t made a final decision yet.

N26 Inspired

n26

Image source  : FT

Any UK fintech might take inspiration from Berlin company Number26 (now N26) who has recently been given a banking license and giving a huge opportunity to shake-up financial services across the continent.

What’s even more inspirational besides fintech champions such as N26 is that compared to the likes of London and New York, it does not host a stock exchange or even have a major bank.

Unlike German banking giant Deutsche Bank which does come from the country’s financial hub, Frankfurt. The David vs Goliath battle here between N26 and Deutsche Bank has recently gained media attention, with the Frankfurt based bank currently going through an identity crisis, there has been reports that the bank is thinking about splitting itself into a lender focused on capital markets and another targeting retail and corporate clients.

Whilst Deutsche Bank seems to be going through an identity crisis, in the German capital N26 has attracted 200,000 customers with its virtual banking model. In addition, the fintech is already operating in six European countries.

N26 are working on some new features such as allowing customers share expenses between friends with a simple swipe between friends (similar to splitting an Uber fare).

N26’s chief executive officer Valentin Stalf, was recently interviewed by Bloomberg’s Caroline Hyde, she asks Mr. Stalf about the importance of being based in Berlin, she questions that many would have thought that Frankfurt would be an obvious place for a fintech company. Stalf mentions that he feels that it is a good thing not to be in the centre of finance, he stressed that at N26 they wanted to build a product that didn’t like it has been created from a traditional bank, Berlin is the place to attain the best creative people in Europe. N26 are very happy to be in the city where they can get the minds to work with them. He also mentions that Berlin (post Brexit) is even more attractive to Europe.

So what can we learn from Berlin? Firstly, from looking at the N26 example, the fintech has stayed in the capital because of the array of both domestic and international talent, the city as a whole is an international magnet for talent, similar to London which has attracted many tech enthusiasts and young entrepreneurs.

In order to keep its talent, Berlin has helped people relocate, it’s common for start-ups in the city to help with paperwork and with an employee’s first month of accommodation.

They also go that extra mile and provide free language classes, as well as help people open their first bank account and register in the city.

Start-ups in the German capital work hard to give their employees reasons to stay. Employees seem to stay at one company, and rarely switch from one role to another. The likes of offering flexible working hours to offering loyalty programmes are some of the methods used by Berlin start-ups.

In addition, Berlin definitely has more of a grass roots feel compared with London which has more of an established start-up scene. Berlin has a tenacious approach, and a main reason why the city has been put on the start-up map. A ‘we can do it’ attidude (whether that involves money or not) is apparent in pretty much all the start-ups in the city, with a strong ‘nothing will hold us back’ approach.

We’ve learnt from Berlin that all you need is a forward thinking and engaged approach for your start-up as well as having a strong community focus, this can make so many differences, regardless of where you are situated.

This type of philosophy that the German capital has on the start-up scene might sound very tempting for London start-ups and fintechs who are looking to relocate due to the Brexit vote, with lower rent prices compared with the UK capital and also having a wealth of talent in Berlin, many would find relocating to the East German city very tempting.

Spanish Fintech : Spain Bullish on the Fintech Scene

espfin

When it comes to European fintech, for the majority, the likes of the UK, Sweden, and Germany all spring to mind straight away with all having a vast amount of companies dealing with an array of areas from money transfers to P2P lending.

However, Spain shouldn’t be overshadowed by its northern European counterparts. Spanish fintechs such as Kantox, Coinffeine, and peerTranfer for example, have caught the industry’s attention, and as a result have had very successful venture rounds.

Kantox from Barcelona, a foreign exchange service provider, offering SMEs and mid-cap companies a comprehensive solution to their foreign exchange needs, based on transparency, efficiency and value (as described on their website), has received over 7 million euros in investments from Partech Ventures, IDinvest Partners, Cabiedes Partners as well as a number of business angels.

In Addition, other fintechs such as Coinffeine which have also put Spanish fintech on the map, from developing a bitcoin and foreign currency exchange platform (and the first company in the world to be created using Bitcoins!)

Spanish Fintech : BBVA Turns To Fintech

bbva

Image source : Fortune

From fintech start-ups to banks, national bank BBVA early this year bought Finnish fintech Holvi which provides online banking and financial planning services for small businesses.

The Spanish bank also took a 29.5% stake in U.K.-based mobile-only bank Atom, they also purchased U.S. banking service Simple (which is very similar to Holvi and only focuses on customers in North America).

BBVA have been very bullish on fintech and have a long term plan of becoming more and more digital savvy.

Chief Development Officer Teppo Paavola mentioned in a City A.M. article that : “We’re excited about Holvi as we share a vision about the benefit of technology for the customer. They use digital to bring a new approach to small business banking, where services essential to a business’ future such as invoicing are built into their core offer.”

Spain’s largest and most well known bank, Santander, has also been investing in fintechs and has launched a $100 million VC fund for fintech investments.

It’s particularly interesting to see the contrasting views in Europe with regards to fintechs, staying in Iberia, the region sees fintechs as acquisition targets. Research conducted by IDC and SAP found 29% of Iberian respondents linked fintechs with acquisitions, in contrast, only 14% of French respondents shared the same viewpoint.

French banks were the most likely to see fintech companies as a major threat, whilst Italian respondents viewed fintechs as a way of collaborating with banks (nearly half had this viewpoint).

With last month’s news of the UK leaving the European Union, many have questioned if London will be able to sustain its global fintech crown. It will definitely be interesting to see how the future will pan out for the city, the likes of Barcelona is a perfect place for any fintech that is looking to relocate. Since the 2008 financial crisis people in Barcelona have been forced to become more innovative, creative, and independent. As a result, a surge of office spaces have popped up and like-minded people have come together to create a tight knit community in the Catalan city.

It seems that the lesson learnt particularly in Spain is that if you can’t beat them, join them and BBVA have shown this, as Business Insider’s Andrew Meola points, out : “BBVA’s approach adds even more credence to the growing belief that established financial institutions and startups must work together in order to move ahead”.

Fintech Euro 16 : Who Will be Crowned European Champions?

Euro 16 – The Fintech Tournament

Fintech Europe 2016

This post is just a bit fun for anyone who has an interest in footy and fintech, what if the tournament was based on fintech investment – who would be crowned champions of Europe?

Euro 16 – Fourth Place – Germany

germany fintech

Die Mannschaft would finish the tournament in fourth place, investors in Germany have put in over $80 million. Berlin leads the way and puts the German fintech scene on the map with almost half the firms based there, German financial centre Frankfurt also contributes to Germany’s success, with quite a few fintechs based in the city.

Euro 16 –  Third Place – Netherlands

Holland Fintech

The Dutch missed out on this year’s tournament as they finished behind Czech Republic, Iceland and Turkey in Group A to miss out on their first Euro tournament since 1984. However, in the fintech tournament, Oranje qualify and finish the Euros in third place. In 2014 it was reported that the Dutch invested over $300 million in fintech. Companies such as BitonicAdyen, and AcceptEmail have helped put Dutch fintech on the map.

Euro 16 Runners-up – Sweden

Sweden fintech

Sweden, representing the Nordics is the Fintech Euro 16 runner-up. The Nordic region invested over $340 million on fintech, companies such as iZettle which has as a high valuation of $244.04 million puts the Swedes as clear runners-up of the tournament.

Euro 16 Winners – England

London Fintech

The Three Lions are crowned the Fintech Euro 16 tournament champions. Thanks to the London fintech scene, UK fintech firms have a combined value of £1bn. From looking at this number alone, fintech in London has a proven track record and also the pedigree to deliver continued value and forward-thinking startups in any market conditions.