Singapore Accepting Applications for Digital Banking Licenses
The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) will accept five applications this year, three of which for “restricted digital banks” and two for digital all-inclusive banks. The move is a historic one for Singapore, which has been slow to lay down a framework for financial technology adoption.
Cielo Launching B2B service Cielo Pay
Brazilian payments giant Cielo is expanding its capabilities with the launching of Cielo Pay, a Bank-to-Bank platform, and by enabling cryptocurrency purchases on its point-of-sale devices. Now, the Brazilian merchants using its devices will be able to display a QR code for the customer to scan and then pay the merchant in various crypto assets via network apps like Uzzo. Brazil has become increasingly supportive of bitcoin and the latest development from Cielo places them ahead of most countries in terms of real economic usage.
PNC Goes Live on RippleNet
PNC is the first major US bank to process cross-border payments for clients using RippleNet. Existing users of RippleNet include financial services companies such as Santander, MoneyGram, American Express, and MUFG. PNC says doing so will provide its users immediate improvements in international transaction speed and cost-efficiency.
Ethos Completes $60MM Funding Round
Ethos, a startup using predictive analytics to issue life insurance policies, completed it’s series C round of funding last week, receiving $60MM. Lead by VC giants: GV, Sequoia Capital, Accel, and Goldman Sachs, Ethos is now valued at around $500MM.
Ethos pitches itself as the “antitheses” to the traditional insurance process. Founded in 2016, Ethos offers term life insurance, where the insuree pays for (and is covered for) a set time period, rather than their whole life. In using human analytics, Ethos uses machine learning analyze customer data to ensure that customers are paying the correct amount based on personal factors and mortality risks, rather than what a sales agent (who earned commission) bestows upon them.
Apple Launches Apple Card
Apple has officially launched the no-fee Apple Card, backed by Goldman Sachs and operated on the Mastercard network. The card itself provides varying levels cash back, referred to as “Daily Cash” from 3% – 1% depending on the context of the purchase; Apple products & iTunes purchases garner 3% cash back, Apple Pay spending earns 2%, and all other purchases earn 1%. Furthermore, there is a 13% – 24% APR based on the creditworthiness of the cardholder.
All in all, the big play for Apple comes through integrating the personal finance space with the iPhone, expanding their theoretical wallet-share. All payments made with the card are authorized via face ID on the phone, and a detailed breakdown of spending is also available through the app. Thus the Apple Card is essentially a commitment to the Apple brand, with a full integration between Apple and finances of the cardholder.
Better.com Raises $160MM in Funding Round
Better.com, a lending startup that streamlines the mortgage process to allow buyers to close in 21 days, receives $160MM after its series C round of funding. In a wave of funding led by Activant Capital, American Express Ventures , and Citigroup, the $160M investment sends the valuation of Better to north of $600MM.
The capital will be used to further scale and enhance the lender finance FinTech, and grow its product offerings. According to company CEO Vishal Garg, Better.com has “tripled its growth year-on-year” since its inception in 2016. The startup is expected to finance $4 billion in mortgages in 2019.
Klarna Becomes Highest Valued FinTech in Europe
The Snoop Dogg backed startup, Klarna, announced a new round of equity funding, adding $460MM to bolster scalability and operational growth in the United States. The Swedish payment provider received Europe’s largest FinTech post-money valuation, a number hovering around $5.5B.
Klarna’s presence in Europe is strong, based on their alternative payment method. This value proposition allows customers to pay over time, with the payment broken down into four equal installments. Furthermore, the payment is drawn directly from the customer bank account not incurring any interest. The company also offers pay-now options for customers interested in paying traditionally.