The SEC is seeking support from private firms on understanding blockchain; a group of global regulators has launched a global regulator sandbox for cross-border fintech products and services; money transfer service WorldFirst is spinning off its U.S. operations ahead of its acquisition by Ant Financial; IBM completed a pilot test of its blockchain-based trade shipment platform; Stripe raised an additional $100M, reaching a $22.5B valuation; and Lithuania made strides in 2018 as a destination for fintech firms seeking a variety of EU operating licenses.
In the News
SEC seeks information on blockchain. The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) released a “sources sought” announcement requesting a partner to help it “support the SEC’s efforts to monitor risk, improve compliance, and inform Commission policy with respect to digital assets” [full text]. The SEC has asked interested firms to respond with a statement of capabilities by February 14.
WorldFirst leaves U.S. for Ant deal. The U.K. money transfer company will end its U.S. operations to avoid U.S. regulators blocking a planned £700 million takeover by China’s Ant Financial. World First USA will become Omega and operate independently from the group. The decision comes almost a year after Ant’s attempted acquisition of MoneyGram was blocked on national security grounds.
Global sandbox opens for applications. The Global Financial Innovation Network (GFIN) has published its terms of reference [link] and is inviting applications from firms that wish to test cross-border fintech products and services. Chaired by the U.K. Financial Conduct Authority, GFIN members include the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the Monetary Authority of Singapore, and the Hong Kong Monetary Authority.
IBM reports a successful blockchain-based trade shipment. Pacific International Lines (PIL) used an electronic Bill of Lading (e-BL) built on the IBM Blockchain Platform to successfully track a shipment of mandarin oranges from China for the Lunar New Year. The pilot test helped reduce the time required to transfer a title deed to one second from five to seven days.
American Express blocks Curve. American Express has blocked attempts by the U.K. card startup to load Amex cards into its all-in-one wallet, just days after Curve announced support for the feature. “Amex has given no good or fair reason for their decision and we believe it is entirely disproportionate and discriminatory to Curve and [its] customers,” said a Curve spokesperson.
Stripe raises $100M with a $22.5B valuation. Stripe, the technology company that provides software allowing people and businesses to receive online payments, secured another $100 million in funding from Tiger Global Management. A company spokesperson told CNBC that the company “is rapidly scaling internationally” and that the funding will give the firm more leverage in strategic areas.
The next phase of fintech: anti-fraud startups. TechCrunch looked at new fintech startups specializing in identity verification services for crypto platforms and using AI to detect financial crime and fraud. Domestic financial crime in the U.S. results in roughly $300B in proceeds for money laundering and detection of this activity could prove lucrative for startups.
Lithuania positions itself as a destination for fintech. The country has been working to make itself a desirable location for innovative financial firms, issuing 47 e-money licenses, 22 payments licenses, and three banking licenses in the past year, including to companies like Google, Facebook, and Revolut. Lithuania said its fintech sector grew by 45% in 2018 .
Mimiro raised $30M. The financial crime-fighting AI platform raised $30 million in a Series B funding round led by Index Ventures. Mimiro, a regtech startup which uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to help fims meet AML and terrorist financing rules, already has 350 clients in 45 countries. With the new funding, the startup plans to move beyond its near-term focus on KYC and build a comprehensive global repository.
Coinbase loses its Director of Data Science and Risk. Soups Ranjan, who has worked at the digital currency exchange since 2015, left the firm on Thursday without announcing his next move. In his farewell post, Ranjan noted the fraud difficulties associated with cryptocurrencies, particularly in the crypto bull run of 2017.
Fintech companies raised a record $39.6 billion in 2018. Venture capital-backed financial technology companies raised a record $39.57 billion across 1,707 deals from investors globally in 2018, up 120 percent from the previous year. The surge in funding was due in large part to 52 mega-rounds, or investments larger than $100 million, with Ant Financial’s $14 billion investment leading the pack.