FU | March 4-10, 2017

Leading Off 

OCC’s Thomas Curry delivered the keynote address at the 2017 LendIt Conference, sharing his agency’s “responsible innovation” agenda with the borrowing and lending community; the Canadian Securities Administrators launched a regulatory sandbox to attract more blockchain and digital currency startups to the country; CurrencyCloud raised £20 million to fund global expansion; and digital payments firm Align Commerce changed its name to “Veem” and announced $24 million in new funding.

The Big Idea 

Large companies look for real-world uses for blockchain technology.

The story:  The New York Times’ Dealbook explores IBM’s blockchain pilot projects, noting that IBM seeks to “position itself at the forefront of the heated competition for practical [blockchain] uses.” IBM’s blockchain partners include a variety of governmental and non-governmental entities, including Dubai’s Trade and Customs Authority, Walmart, and global shipping company Maersk.

Why we care:  Some observers believe the most immediate business opportunities for blockchain are in the financial and legal worlds, particularly within the context of securities, as a means to track and trade stocks, bonds, real estate assets, and monitor other financial transactions. However, others believe that the technology is “more than just a currency” — they argue that it is an essential component to establishing trust and confidence in any system where goods and services are exchanged. Blockchain allows its users to trace all steps of an activity and ensure that no one has tampered with any part of it. As a result, supply chain partners can create technology that can be applied quickly and inexpensively to manufacturers, suppliers, and customers.

What we think: Last week, we wrote about blockchain in the context of global banking, but this week we want to highlight its applications in the global supply chain.  Much like in the context of financial services, the difficulty of applying blockchain technology to “real world” applications such tracing and tracking shipping containers and paperwork within the global supply chain is that “everyone at every step along the way needs to be involved,” otherwise, as the Times notes, “it’s unlikely to induce any more confidence than the old system.”

In Other News…

OCC’s Curry delivers keynote at LendIt Conference. In a speech [full text] at the 2017 LendIt Conference, Comptroller of the Currency Thomas Curry discussed his agency’s “responsible innovation” agenda, acknowledging how digital technology is changing consumer finance for the better while ensuring that new products are launched “in a manner consistent with sound risk management.”

FTC hosts third fintech forum.  The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) hosted a fintech policy forum at UC-Berkeley on Thursday. The event, which was the third in the FTC’s ongoing fintech series, “[focused] on the consumer implications of two rapidly developing technologies: artificial intelligence and blockchain,” and featured representatives from industry and government.

CSA launches regulatory sandbox. The Canadian Securities Administrators, the governing body for Canada’s provincial and territorial securities regulatory agencies, has launched a regulatory sandbox to attract more blockchain and digital currency startups to the country.

Align by any other name… (still raises as much cash). Money transfer and remittances firm Align Commerce changed its name to “Veem” and announced $24 million in new funding, led by National Australia Bank Ventures, Google Ventures, and VC firm Kleiner Perkins. Veem has now raised over $40 million total and is planning to expand its global operations.

CurrencyCloud raises £20 million.  The London-based startup that develops backend technologies for challenger banks, prepaid cards, and digital payment firms to make remittances and money transfers has raised £20 million in Series D funding. Google’s venture capital fund led the round and was joined by return investors Anthemis, Rakuten FinTech, and Sapphire Ventures.

New fintech fund for underserved customers.  U.S. non-profit Accion International and VC firm Quona Capital Management raised $141 million for a new joint fund, the Accion Frontier Inclusion Fund. The new fund will invest in fintech firms that “provide services to underserved consumers and businesses,” specifically targeting startups in Africa, Latin America, and Asia.

Can fintech democratize financial services? In a video interview with McKinsey, PayPal president and CEO Dan Schulman shares his thoughts on how mobile technology can be used to broaden financial inclusion and connect over two billion people who are underserved by the traditional financial system.

Have a great weekend!
Joe Oehmke and Austin Tuell

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