A massive thanks to the team behind BitcoinPlay for sending this awesome infographic. What other Bitcoin facts would you add to the list? Feel free to tweet me your interesting facts with #BitcoinFacts.
Crypto in 2017 has really become a hot asset to own, the digital currency behemoth Bitcoin recently hit the $18,000 mark (11th December 2017) and looks to continue to rise in value.
So what’s it all about? In layman’s terms, (and a common definition that’s found across the web) cryptocurrencies are limited entries in a database no one can change without fulfilling specific conditions.
In addition, they can be exchanged or speculated on just like any conventional or fiat currency. The only difference is that they are decentralised.
There’s a wide range of cryptocurrencies on offer and they all have different features, these include Bitcoin (BTC), Bitcoin Cash (BCH), Bitcoin Gold (BTG), Ethereum (ETH), Litecoin (LTC), Dash (DSH) (formerly known as Darkcoin and Xcoin), and Ripple (XRP).
The Cryptocurrency landscape has a lot of its own terms and they can be a tad confusing, below is a list of meanings that you’ll need to become familiar with and will help you get your bearings.
In a nutshell Altcoin refers to any digital coin that isn’t bitcoin.
All-Time-High – we’ve witnessed a lot of them this year!
To put it simply, the blockchain is a way of recording data and also the foundation for cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin. This innovative form of technology is made up of blocks of transactions (think of it like strands of DNA being joined together), and are added in chronological order.
It acts as a public decentralised ledger, which means that it is simple to query any block by using an explorer (detailed information about Bitcoin blocks, addresses, and transactions can be found at Blockchain Info) and there is no centralised issuing authority.
Block(s) are like a record keeping book. The transaction data is bundled up into a block that is then verified and ‘chained’ to the most recently verified block and permanently saved on the blockchain.
This term refers to taking cryptocurrency wallets (your public and private keys) offline as a way of protecting your digital assets from potential cyber attacks. There are quite a few ways of using cold storage. Some of the popular methods include printing a hard copy of a QR code from a software wallet to storing your wallet on a USB drive, or simply just writing down on a piece of paper your keys, but make sure you don’t get them wrong! Hardware wallets that encrypt the contents and control access are popular, especiallly for large sums. Market leaders are Nano Ledger and Trezor.
This occurs when a blockchain splits into two separate chains. It can happen when a new rule is decided by developers. The new chain keeps the network transaction history of the original chain up until the block where it forks.
This is the first block that’s created on a blockchain.
A hard fork is a software upgrade that introduces a new rule set by developers that isn’t compatible with the previous software. For example, a new rule that allows a block size capacity of 3MB instead of 2MB would require a hard fork.
A hash algorithm encrypts data into a fixed-length hash. Hashes are large numbers are written as hexadecimal.
The Hash Rate how powerful a miner’s machine is. It measures the number of times a hash function can be computed per second.
As you’ve already guessed, hot storage is the opposite to the cold storage process. Hot storage is a hardware wallet that’s connected to the internet.
Think of hot storage/having a hot wallet as carrying a real wallet around all the time.
The main risk with this method is that there is more of a chance of your digital coins being stolen from hackers. If you go for this option make sure you have a back-up.
An ICO (Initial Coin Offering) is a way of fundraising a new project and selling crypto tokens in exchange for bitcoin or ether. It’s similar to an IPO (Initial Public Offering) where investors purchase company shares.
The crypto term refers to the process of verifying transactions, packaging them into blocks along writing them to the blockchain by mathematically solving complexed algorithms. Miners are incentivised to do this work through the payment of a mining reward. For the bitcoin network the mining reward is 12.5 bitcoins per block.
Pump and Dump
This term is used when an altcoin gets a lot of attention and gains a rapid price increase until the bubble bursts.
A signature in the crypto world is a mathematical operation that shows a user’s ownership of their coins, wallets, etc. Each transaction is ‘signed’ with the owner’s signature and is impossible to hack; they are protected by complex algorithms.
SegWit (Segregated Witness) involves certain parts of a transaction being removed in order to free up space to add more transactions to the blockchain. The concept was coined by Bitcoin Core developer Dr. Pieter Wuille.
A smart contract consists of code that’s capable of monitoring and enforcing an agreement. For all you developer types out there you’ll be familiar with creating statements – “if X occurs then do Y”, smart contracts are no different. They take such coding and interact with the blockchain. A two-way smart contract is stored on it and is unalterable.
A soft folk is where old nodes accept blocks that are created by new nodes. In this instance, miners can upgrade to a new version to handle the new blocks but can continue to accept old block versions. Users of that particular crypto and merchants respectively can continue to run older nodes which will be recognised by the newer blocks.
In crypto terms, tokens refer to “currency” of projects that have raised money by issuing their own tokens. For example, anyone familiar with the Ethereum network might have heard of the likes of Golem (GNT), Augur (REP), and Iconomi (ICN), all big projects that have issued digital tokens. The token usually gives the owner access to, for example, certain services on the associated network, a share of profits or perhaps the right to buy a product.
Cryptocurrency wallets come in many forms from online, desktop, and mobile to paper and hardware wallets. They store the public and private key associated with your coin holding. The various types of wallets represent the numerous ways a user can keep their private key(s) safe. (Refer back to cold and hard storage in the glossary).
In my latest post, I look at the big data trends in 2017 from open source applications to blockchain-enabled smart contracts.
Gone of the days when “big data” was just a buzzword. Last year, almost 40% of companies are adopting big data technology into their daily operations, according to research that was conducted at Forrester.
In addition, many commentators have mentioned that big data adoption is unlikely die down anytime soon and that this technological adoption is not a fad but a huge necessity.
Companies such as Coca-Cola have been reported on their use of big data and were one of the first firms outside of the I.T. sector to stress the importance of big data. Coke’s chief big data officer, Esat Sezer mentioned back in 2012 that: “Social media, mobile applications, cloud computing and e-commerce are combining to give companies like Coca-Cola an unprecedented toolset to change the way they approach I.T. Behind all this, big data gives you the intelligence to cap it all off.” (Forbes, September, 2017).
Coke is a great example of how a major business has conducted its daily practises using big data from looking at data to help produce and market some its healthier options to customers.
A combination of satellite images, weather and crop yield data, pricing factors, and sweetness ratings, are taken into consideration in order to sustain a taste that suits all.
An algorithm is used to determine the best combination variables which match certain products to local consumers in over 200 countries around the world where their soft drinks are sold.
What I like about this is example is that a traditional company has thought outside of the box when it comes to targeting its consumers by focusing on big data and also AI. By doing this, Coke has once again got another huge competitive advantage from rethinking itself as more than a soft drinks company but also as technology driven behemoth.
Besides Coke doing some interesting things with Big data, what have been the main big data trends in 2017?
Image source: TechRepublic
Open source applications such as Hadoop will continue to dominate the big data industry. Research conducted by SAS shows that nearly 60% of enterprises expect to have Hadoop clusters running in production by the end of the year. In addition, Forrester found that Hadoop usage is increasing 32.9% per year.
Image source: Siemens
Research from IDC 31.4% of organisations surveyed have launched IoT solutions, moreover, 40% of respondents stated they are planning to use IoT in the next 12 months.
Companies such as Siemens have combined both concepts for the transport industry. Through harnessing Big Data, sensors and predictive analytics they say they can now guarantee their customers close to 100% reliability.
They’ve coined their concept the “Internet of Trains” (the railway version of IoT), sensors and big data will drastically improve customer service by making train journeys more efficient.
In the future we could see the likes of airlines using a similar approach.
Image source: Alabama Today
This year we’ve seen many companies sifting through paper-based files, photos, videos, and other corporate assets that are lying in storage closets and putting them to use and turning them into big data.
So why is this useful? Looking back at historical trends can help an organisation when it comes to planning, it can also be an essential tool when it comes to situations such as supporting evidence for trademark infringement and intellectual property violation claims.
Big data analytics capabilities have advanced over the years which has meant that machine learning has been adopted to analyse extremely large data sets and come to conclusions without being explicitly programmed.
Tony Baer’s Big Data trends report states: “Machine learning, which has garnered its share of hype, will continue to grow; but in most cases, machine learning will be embedded in applications and services rather than custom-developed because few organisations outside the Global 2000 (or digital online businesses) will have data scientists on their staff.”
Machine learning has been one of biggest disruptors for big data analytics that we have seen so far this year.
Last year blockchain technology grabbed a lot of media attention and its exposure has shown how it will drastically change an array of industries and organisations.
The technology is commonly associated with cryptocurrencies and the finance industry, however, it’s function is more versatile than just recording transactions.
Blockchain will also be used for recording smart contracts. In a nutshell, smart contracts are traditional contracts, but written in code. For all you coder/developer types out there, you’ll be familiar with “If This Then That” statements, these smart contracts are like that, but are at a more complex level.
What are your thoughts about big data? What other trends would you have added to the list? Feel free to get in contact about the subject. Tweet me @daviddhannoo or alternatively, connect with me on Linkedin. I’d love to hear from you!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
Continuing with my fintech posts once again, I return to Asia and look at Chinese P2P Lending.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!)
Image source : Fortune
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”.