B2B and B2C Applications for IoT in Banking

The Internet of Things refers to devices that, although not technically computers, are able to connect to a network like a computer does. IoT solutions allow users to operate these devices remotely, and they allow the devices themselves to share information.

Internet of Things applications have the potential to revolutionize numerous industries; banking is just one. By coordinating with IoT development teams, businesses can take advantage of this emerging market by creating mobile banking apps, mobile payment apps, and similar products that leverage IoT programming.

The following examples illustrate just some of the ways Internet of Things development can change (and, in some instances, already has changed) financial services for the better.

How IoT Solutions Can Enhance the Benefits of Mobile Banking

Personalized service boosts brand loyalty. Knowing this, expect to see how customization arises within mobile banking trends and how financial institutions may soon take advantage of IoT solutions to offer customers promotions and features tailored to their specific needs.

For instance, banks like Chase are equipping some ATMs with “beacons” that detect when a particular customer may be approaching. This example of IoT device management allows the ATM to prepare, using information about that customer’s preferences and past behavior to streamline the transaction process and potentially suggest relevant offers.

internet of things applications

IoT solutions can also help banks gather and analyze data about customer behavior within a branch. By measuring factors like the amount of time customers spend waiting on line in a branch, the bank can identify customer service issues that may have been overlooked, making the necessary adjustments.

Internet of Things development may also improve mobile payment solutions. For example, a mobile banking platform that leverages voice recognition technology can allow users to instantly and easily transfer funds.

The Integration of Mobile Payments, Internet of Things Applications, & B2B Solutions

The basic examples listed above don’t represent all that IoT programming can do when applied to financial services. Beyond improving customer service and facilitating consumer-friendly products, Internet of Things applications can also help banks better determine how credit-worthy an individual or organization may be, thereby enhancing mobile banking security among other advantages

Imagine a bank loaning money to a business without a strong credit history to evaluate. Perhaps this business manufactures goods that are shipped to retail stores throughout the world. IoT sensors could allow banks to monitor the status of shipments, the quality of the manufacturing equipment, and the overall efficiency of the supply chain. This form of IoT device management helps banks better determine if a potential customer is creditworthy.

This is one of the key benefits IoT development offers to enhance the benefits of mobile banking and fintech solutions: They can monitor many more factors and metrics than humans can track on their own. Banks can use these new metrics in the course of banking mobile app development or other features to learn much more about their customers, their own business, and businesses they may fund.

Businesses Will Leverage IoT Programming for Mobile Banking Development

The popularity of fintech products like mobile payment apps makes it clear that consumers embrace technology that improves upon financial services. Thus, it’s highly likely they’ll embrace IoT programming in mobile banking platforms and throughout the rest of their customer-facing services. By working with Internet of Things development specialists now, banks and other businesses can offer customers the products and services they want before the competition does.

Crypto Chaos 

Dealing with greed, fear and ignorance

The first thing anyone asks me when they hear I can spell Blockchain properly is “Which coin should I buy?” or “Should I invest in this ICO?”. When I tell them I myself prudently ignore my own investment advice, I suppose I come across as some kind of selfish genius who doesn’t want to share his “secrets of success”.

I am not a cryptocurrency speculator or an investor. I am a technologist. It is extremely sad that a technology enabler as powerful as Blockchain is just reduced to a few graphs that just reflects our greed, fear and ignorance.

Cryptocurrency is reduced to a poor Speculative Instrument

Cryptocurrency-to-USD exchange rate is an unintended side-effect of the market. People who want to own Cryptocurrency could either “mine” it or get it as a fee or purchase it from some place or some one. Cryptocurrency Exchanges are just one such source. Sadly, almost all the buzz about Cryptocurrency is about what’s its worth in fiat currency. And given that most cryptocurrencies have fluctuated several percentage points in a day, no one is using them as currency at all. If you can’t buy goods or services with it, it ceases to be a true currency. Some like to think, very wrongly, of cryptocurrency as a store of value. So sadly, what was designed to be a fiendishly clever, decentralized and resilient digital equivalent of currency is now limited to a speculative financial instrument.

Stocks come to mind when one thinks of speculative instruments. And indeed, many think of the crypto-exchanges and ICOs and other related investments are very much like the stock market. They are partially right in the sense that one can bet on a certain cryptocurrency or invest in an ICO just like you would trade shares or invest in an IPO. Both stock markets and crypto markets are driven by fear and greed. However, a good majority of investors in the latter has an added disadvantage at this point: ignorance.

A serious trader who deals with stocks has much greater access to material with which she can make an informed bet. An astute trader who knows the company, the industry and the market has a much better probability at winning the bets (an oversimplification, of course, with apologies to N. N. Taleb). Moreover, there are checks and balances. It is much harder for someone to run away with all the IPO money. Sure an Enron or a sub-prime crisis kind of situation occurs once in a decade or so. But the stock market is a picture of predictability compared to what’s happening in the cryptocurrency world.

Toinvest in the cryptocurrency market at this point, you got to have a really deep understanding of what’s happening under the hood. Right now, there is not just an impossible amount of technology to learn but also insane amount of factionalism & politics that run deep in the cryptocurrency community. Of course, right from the introduction of Bitcoin, cryptocurrencies always had an anti-establishmentarian stand to take. But currently, the amount of factionalism is getting very hard to keep up with. Every fork (e.g., BTC vs BCC vs BTG, ETH vs ETC) is rooted in a deep schism within the community; every new way to integrate better with “traditional” markets and banks (e.g., Ripple XRP, Lightning Network) has its fair share of problems and conspiracy theories that need to be understood. There is so much happening under the surface that even experts’ hindsights after an incident (like a price crash) don’t always concur. Of course, there is a profit chasing motive for everyone in the crypto community. That doesn’t surprise me at all — what surprises me more is that many people think everyone in the crypto-community has altruistic goals. Sorry, folks — everyone wants to make a quick buck, same as you.

What’s worse is that the media buzz covers very little of this underlying stories. The buzz is unavoidable but not very informative; in fact it can misinform. Most of the coverage is about polarized views by seasoned investors, who are still thinking within the framework of their “traditional” business. A common dismissal is that cryptocurrencies have no intrinsic value. Well, of course it is easy to prove they don’t an intrinsic value. The original aim of cryptocurrency was to create an alternative market where they are recognized as tender. Today, the “market-cap” for cryptocurrencies is being solely determined by the amount of trade in the crypto-exchanges (against the USD), not in terms how much goods and services are being bought and sold. It makes no sense to say that Blah-Coin has a market cap of $X trillion when one can’t even buy a pair of shoelaces with Blah-Coin.

The Socratic Paradox is probably the best way to keep yourself grounded.

People, especially the lay investors, are giving in to the media buzz and FOMO. Investing in the cryptocurrency world without understanding the technology, the motivations and the political climate is just a recipe for disaster. People are investing without realizing that they have to deal with an unimaginable amount of information asymmetry. They have only themselves to blame. Greed and ignorance rarely lead to a happy ending.

My advice: Stay humble, stay curious but don’t accept over-simplified views of how the cryptocurrency world works. It is OK not to know. But remember that a simple explanation may be neither complete nor accurate. So don’t settle for a single narrative.

What about Blockchain?

In all this noise, we have forgotten that Cryptocurrency is not the only application for Blockchain. Right from the arrival of Bitcoin, the underlying distributed ledger called the Blockchain has piqued the interests of several smart people around the world. With the rise of Smart Contracts, especially with the arrival of Ethereum in 2015, Blockchain has come out of the shadow of Bitcoin.

However, this is not without its issues. For starters, Bitcoin had several encounters with the darknet that caught the attention of governments and law enforcement agencies for all the wrong reasons. Governments and large financial corporations have always been wary about cyptocurrencies and as a side-effect, the Blockchain also got a bad name.

For me, Blockchain is far more important as a technology than cryptocurrency itself. However, in the current noise and chaos, many seem to have forgotten that Cryptocurrency is only one application of Blockchain. With Ethereum, Smart Contracts were easy to write and for a while it looked very easy to build a Decentralized App (ÐApp). There were over 200 ICOs in 2017 (more than 4 per week) alone, raising over $3.7 Billion worth of investments. In fact, famously, around halfway into 2017, ICO funding trumped traditional VC funding.

However, this was also not without its problems. Soon, there were utterly rubbish ICOs for tokens that made absolutely no sense. Writing ICO whitepapers was suddenly a mini-business. Then were reports of ICO scams, more scams, and Ponzi schemes. On top of that, there were too many phishing attacks, wallet thefts and other security issues that left a very bad taste in the mouth. The Blockchain technology seems to have transported back to its stone-age (post “The DAO”) days. Suddenly, investors that threw money without doing any due diligence, seemed to scream for government regulations. It would have been a hilarious situation but sadly it was true.

The upshot of all this was that Blockchain was suddenly the same old shady darknet technology used by only criminals and fools.

Authorities worldwide woke up from their slumber and decided to slap whatever restrictions they could. Thankfully, recent government news from South Korea and India give me some comfort that the authorities are not against Blockchain as a technology, whatever their views on cryptocurrency as a legal tender may be. However, that may not be enough.

Smart contracts

Smart Contracts are not new at all. Allowing an autonomous piece of software execute as per certain rules has no challenges as such but when it comes to do that in a peer-to-peer environment where there is no central authority, we need some kind trust mechanism baked in. Cryptocurrencies provide that trust. A cryptocurrency reward is a perfect incentive for all parties to remain honest. So writing a ÐApp without a crypto reward mechanism remains a challenge. Without this, there is a high chance that solution degenerates into a pseudo-centralized solution which is no better that the existing solutions.

Blockchain technologies are still in their nascent stages. Much like the early days of automobiles — they are definitely not perfect but at the same time this is not their final form. These technologies will evolve and even if they never reach their Utopian ideal state, they will still make things a lot better. Every new, disruptive piece of technology through these phases. Remember the Internet and the WWW in the early days? The criticism was very, very similar. Some very smart people dismissed the Internet and they had ample logical reasons. It is worth noting that Internet today is nothing like what it was in the 1990s. It has evolved to a very different beast — not the same thing that was criticized back in the early days. It is not very different for Blockchain technologies either.

We should be remain skeptical of any tall claims but still keep an open mind and rely on critical thinking to make informed decisions. My hope is that 2018 is the year where the ICO mania dies out completely (no major ICOs so far, that’s a good start to the year) and there will some good use-cases and ÐApps that will make the news. I also hope that the mainstream media loses interest in Blockchain and cryptocurrencies and the half-baked, poorly-researched clickbait articles will trickle down to nothing.

10 Mobile Payment and Banking Apps You Should Be Using

According to a recent survey, about two-thirds of smartphones owners use at least one financial app.

It’s easy to see why the benefits of mobile payment and banking apps have made them popular so quickly. They simplify a basic aspect of everyday life. The average adult is constantly managing funds, making purchases, and accepting payments. These mobile banking platforms make doing these activities so much easier.

The following examples of mobile payment solutions demonstrate precisely why users embrace these products, and why developers should focus on emerging mobile banking trends. If you’re a consumer, these apps offer convenient features. If you’re a developer, these solutions offer insights that can help you design superior products.

Paypal proves convenience is one of the major benefits of mobile banking

PayPal is one of the first mobile payment apps to gain widespread popularity. As a result, it has more active users than many similar mobile payment companies.

This makes PayPal very convenient as a mobile banking solution. It allows customers to make payments to (or receive payments from) a large pool of current users. It’s also an ideal mobile banking platform for freelancers and small business owners thanks to its invoicing features.

Venmo is a secure mobile payment solution for quick transactions

Venmo is extremely popular among Millennials. That’s partially due to the mobile payment app’s simplicity. It doesn’t boast the invoicing features of PayPal, but it does allow users to make fast, easy payments.

Venmo also attracts Millennial users thanks to its social element. When sending a friend or family member money, users can add quick messages or emojis. These are then displayed publicly on a Facebook-like News Feed.

Perhaps you went out to happy hour with friends and used Venmo to make splitting the bill easier. The app lets you attach a message to the mobile payment that – like a Tweet or Facebook post – can serve to tell all your social contacts what you’re up to.

Google Wallet highlights the accessibility of a mobile banking app

Google Wallet (which Google Pay Send might soon replace) is unique. Unlike many other mobile payment solutions, it lets you send money to a recipient even if they don’t have a Google Wallet account.

Though this brings up the question is mobile banking safe if it’s this easy to access, the entire payment process is overseen by Google’s secure systems. While maintaining the highest level of mobile banking security, the company still manages to introduce mobile payments to the masses.

mobile payment solutions

TransferWise brings mobile banking trends to the rest of the world

Mobile payment solutions have made it easier than ever for people to do business with overseas companies and clients. TransferWise is a particularly useful mobile banking platform, as it lets both consumers and businesses make international transfers with relatively low fees.

Facebook Messenger integrates a mobile banking platform into a pre-existing app

If you’re an adult Facebook user, you can use Messenger to send money to other Facebook users. The convenience this feature offers to both developers and users is clear; because many people already use Facebook, you may not have to download an additional app to send or receive funds.

From a banking mobile app development standpoint, this reduces the workload because it is not necessary to create an entirely new mobile banking platform. Instead, they can just integrate with what’s already in place on Messenger.

Google Pay portrays the potential of banking mobile app development for in-store purchases

Google Pay, the new and improved update to Android Pay, isn’t just for sending money. Users can also store gift cards in the mobile banking app, using it to make purchases at brick-and-mortar shops. You can even store train tickets and similar documents.

These features show how mobile payment companies bridge the gap between ecommerce and brick-and-mortar retail experiences.

Apple Pay is among the best mobile payment solutions for iOS

Apple Pay’s features are very similar to those of its mobile banking platform counterpart on Android: Google Pay.

Users can store money, gift cards, train tickets, and more within the app. The only major difference with this mobile payment app is that Apple Pay is compatible with iOS devices.

LevelUp shows how mobile banking apps can be literally rewarding

The LevelUp mobile banking platform was designed specifically for restaurants and similar businesses. After linking a credit or debit card to an account, users are provided with a unique QR code. The business scans the code when the customer is ready to pay.

Thanks to QR codes, customers can participate in loyalty programs and earn rewards. This makes LevelUp beneficial to both consumers and businesses and portrays a larger mobile banking trend to incentivize investment and finance management. Consumers earn discounts while businesses boost engagement.

Square Cash is the mobile payment app for businesses

Cash (better known by many as Square Cash) is the mobile payment app extension of the popular Square device, which allows small business owners to easily process credit card transactions via smartphones or tablets.

Although its features are similar to Venmo, this is a mobile payment solution geared more towards businesses. Users can choose to keep funds in a Cash account when they receive mobile payments, or have them automatically deposited into a bank account.

Unlike Venmo, Cash allows easy mobile payment cancellation. Combine these features with a very simple interface (there’s no social element, like Venmo’s), and it’s easy to see why a small business owner would find this product useful.

Discover highlights the mobile banking trends of the future

Although there are numerous mobile banking platforms available to users, Discover is among the most highly rated. Based on customer reviews, this is primarily due to its intuitive UI and reliable functionality.

While the mobile banking app does boast unique features that users tend to appreciate – like the ability to quickly free or unfreeze a credit card – the app’s main appeal is simply its ease-of-use. After all, convenience is one of the primary benefits of mobile banking. Thus, as Discover portrays, making a product that maximizes convenience should be the goal of any banking mobile app development team.

The IoT will transform how we make mobile payments

Although these types of mobile banking apps are constantly attracting more users, some still wonder, “Is mobile banking safe?” As developers look to the future, prioritizing mobile banking security is crucial. Users want to know there funds and data are protected.

They also want to benefit from the latest technology. That’s why developers should consider how the Internet of Things is poised to enhance mobile banking and payment apps. With IoT devices, users may soon send or request money simply by speaking to Alexa or a similar product.

Currently, these mobile payment solutions benefit users by simplifying the process of managing their funds, transferring money, and accepting payments. In the near future, the technology may essentially transform a customer’s home into their own bank.

When you can deposit checks with your smartphone, send invoices with an app, and use IoT devices to make payments, there’s much less reason for you to visit a bank in the first place.

This is the future that banking mobile app development companies should anticipate. The organizations that leverage mobile payment technology to offer users the safest, most convenient experience, will be the ones who take full advantage of the benefits of mobile banking.

3 Fintech Apps Changing the Way We Handle Money

In 2016, financial technology, or fintech, raked in$17.4 billion in investment.And investors can’t get enough, mostly thanks to huge success stories like Paypal, Venmo, and Robinhood.

Aside from making customer lives easier by simplifying daily tasks, fintech is also giving small businesses and startups greater access to capital. The technology enables  people who may not have had access to financial services in the past the opportunity to save, invest, and manage their money more effectively.

Thanks to emerging technologies, like augmented reality, virtual reality, and artificial intelligence, the usefulness of fintech apps will only continue to expand.

The following examples highlight some of the more exciting industry trends and developments worth paying attention to:

Royal Bank of Canada’s AR App Helps Customers Find ATMs

The Royal Bank of Canada recently implemented a new app feature that allows users to easily find the nearest bank branch or ATM in an unfamiliar city. Thanks to augmented reality, the app can superimpose directions on the streetscape through the camera on a mobile device.

This feature is valuable  in that it saves customers time and prevents confusion when they need to access cash and aren’t familiar with their surroundings.  Additionally, the convenience of the service helps win customer loyalty and drives more business to local branches.

fintech companeis

BNB Paribas Leverages VR for Better Real Estate Investment

Determining whether a real estate investment is a safe bet when the property has not yet been developed isn’t easy. It’s important to have a clear sense of how a project will look in its completed state before pouring substantial funds into it.

Recognizing this, BNB Paribas collaborated with a France-based startup to develop a VR experience that allows investors to “tour” virtual renderings of proposed developments. This use of VR tech for fintech companies helps investors make wiser decisions, while also potentially boosting overall investment in the real estate sector across the board.

Challenges Makes it a Game to Manage Your Finances

Gamification is simply the process of taking a task a person might otherwise consider a chore and turning it into a game. This can involve rewarding a person for reaching a certain milestone, placing time limits on a task to boost efficiency, or encouraging competition by measuring how successful two people are at completing a given task.

It works by essentially “hacking” the natural human tendency to play. For instance, some people consider exercise to be a chore. They’re more likely to enjoy it when they’re rewarded with points for reaching key goals.  Hence, the reason fitness tracker apps are popular.

Fintech company Challenges is following the fitness tracker model, offering users an app that gamifies the process of managing their finances. The app supplies users with simple financial goals, like “Don’t buy fast food for a week,” and allows them to share their progress through social media and a community of users.

As these examples prove, AR for fintech and other emerging technologies are enhancing already useful products.

Fintech apps succeed because people will always need help budgeting, investing, and spending wisely. Your organization could benefit by coordinating with developers to offer users valuable products that take advantage of the latest innovations.

Just make sure you work with a team that understands the importance of embracing the potential of new technology. With their help, you can also join the fintech revolution.

How Fintech Companies Can Leverage Augmented Reality Solutions

Thanks to the success of Pokemon Go! and Snapchat, many mobile device users are familiar with augmented reality tech. They already recognize this advancement for the role it can play in gaming and social media. However, these are not the only industries that will benefit from augmented reality development. AR for fintech applications is another major vertical affected by this technology.

Broadly, fintech is a term that covers any technology that offers a financial service. Think of banking app, Venmo as a leading example of fintech popular with consumers today.

Thanks to AR solutions, these companies will soon be able to provide an even greater degree of convenience to their customers. Even threatening the existence of many traditional banks if they refuse to embrace the technology to make their consumers' lives easier.

Optimizing the consumer experience with AR

Some fintech products already incorporate AR design features. For instance, The Commonwealth Bank of Australia and Halifax offers an app with features that give users the ability to immediately pull up information about houses for sale that they see on the street. Other banks are leveraging AR solutions to make it easier for customers to find the nearest branch or ATM.

These features are impressive, but they barely scratch the service of what’s to come.

Fintech is often praised for helping people manage their accounts without visiting a brick-and-mortar bank. This allows customers who might otherwise struggle to reach their nearest branch to take advantage of financial services.

Making meetings easier and faster

AR could expand on these features by offering users the choice to participate in virtual “meetings” with bank staff. The Bank of Ireland is one example of a financial institution that has already implemented this AR design for hosting virtual meetings.

Instead of going to the bank itself to open an account, imagine meeting with a specialist right in the comfort of your home. Unlike teleconferencing tools, these products would feature virtual people sitting around a table. This would make it seem as if you were attending an actual meeting.

AR for fintech - eCommerce app

Creating a better retail environment

Fintech and AR technology will also enhance customers’ shopping experiences. In the near future, you could walk into the mall, point your phone’s camera at an item, and immediately receive  information about the product itself. You could also get information about your own account balances and available credit, or both. This will help you make smarter purchases.

Wearable technology will improve upon the features that AR and fintech can offer. Headset-users could walk into the grocery store with a fintech/AR app. This technology could then “highlight” items that fit both their diet and their budget.

Coop Italia is the largest grocery chain in Italy. They have already tested out AR solutions that highlight nutritional value and additional “augmented” information about a product. Brands could modify this type of program so that their products stand out more clearly to headset-wearing shoppers at the mall.

How bankers benefit from the intersection of fintech and AR 

People currently working in the financial services industry could also take advantage of the fintech and AR design revolutions.

Perhaps you’re an investor. Your job requires making decisions based on your assessment of data. Thus, you need tools that help you visualize said data efficiently.  

AR programming and fintech will soon offer such tools. Investors can wear headsets that transform their surroundings into data visualization centers. This makes it easier than ever to evaluate the necessary information quickly.

Fidelity Investments is one financial institutions utilizing AR design for precisely this benefit. They’re developing an AR app for the Oculus Rift to help traders envision decisions in a virtual landscape.

Across many industries, AR also boosts the efficiency of employee training programs. Typically, when employees throughout a company need to be trained in a new skill or task, they all must attend in-person sessions.

The logistics and costs associated with arranging these meetings can be very burdensome. Thanks to AR, bankers will soon be able to attend virtual training sessions without ever leaving the office.

These examples represent only some of the ways AR technology can improve fintech. They illustrate how both bankers and their customers can benefit from the marriage of these technologies.

While some in the financial services industry are worried that fintech may be a threat, they’ll soon see what a tremendous opportunity these technological revolutions offer.

How to Talk About Blockchain Technology And Sound Smart at the Same Time

A few months back, we learned that Bitcoin mutated itself and the other strain is called Bitcoin Cash (what?).

Let’s be honest: it doesn’t matter how undeniably ingenious you are -- discussing cryptocurrencies and the blockchain technology behind it is sure to make your brain squirm a little.

But as digital assets and fintech technologies become a larger part of the conversation, it’s essential to understand the basics, and you don’t have to mine a cryptocurrency to achieve this. Even the most untechnical of us can carry on a conversation about blockchain. Below is a simple guide, in straight up layman’s term, to help you do just that:

The current “real money” system

Before we get into what blockchain is, let’s discuss why and how it was created. To keep things super simple, consider this scenario:

Your younger sister needs you to send her money, so you log into your online bank account to transfer money to her.

Afterward, you call your sister to let her know you’ve come to her rescue again. It’s a simple process that you’re used to it and it's easy enough. But, the reality is, a number of things can go wrong. For instance, what if the system was hacked and your information was stolen? Or what would happen if the systems just blew up? Caught on fire? Then what? Those are the problems that digital assets and fintech technologies are trying to solve by eliminating the current “real money” system where your entries are logged into a register that a third-party, or middleman, entity owns. Because it’s a centralized database, the system is extremely vulnerable, not to mention the fact that it excludes billions of people around the globe who lack access to resources and capital.

Birth of a new kind of system

Back in 2008, motivated by the broken system that led to the financial crisis, Satoshi Nakamoto, whose real identity is unknown and could be a person or a group of people, designed Bitcoin. Along with the cryptocurrency, Nakamoto also created the first blockchain database. Because the fintech technology was created to answer the question, who did what and when did they do it?” a lot of the issues that come with relying on the middleman or intermediaries like banks, commerce platforms or governments, are eliminated. Instead, a peer-to-peer protocol is used. Since the network is constantly updated, and every blockchain is connected to another one across every ledger of the network simultaneously, hacking is virtually impossible. For that to happen, every single block would require hacking.

Think of it sort of like a massive Excel sheet, or a notebook, that maintains a continuously-growing list of records, called blocks. In each block is a list of transactions -- grouped together by a timestamp -- and every transaction recorded and processed is done so by members of the network called miners. Once a block is time stamped and added to the network or chain in chronological order, it can never be changed or removed. This means that every time you buy a share, it’s recorded as a line in your Excel sheet, or notebook. And your notebook isn’t the only one that exists. There are thousands of notebooks located around the globe, and every time a new line is added, it’s simultaneously replicated in every notebook.

This public distributed ledger is the most important concept in a blockchain, says Vivek Rajanna, senior vice president of engineering at YML.

“When you make a transaction with a bank, they keep the transactions to themselves and only they know,” Rajanna explained. That’s called a private ledger. “But in a blockchain,” he continued, “it’s a public ledger, meaning everyone can see.”

This kind of extreme transparency prevents history from being re-written by a single entity.

Additionally, a major advantage of the blockchain technology is anonymity, said Rajanna. "It's not like if Vivian sent me 100 USD the whole world will know Vivian and Vivek [are sending each other money]," he explained. Instead, a "sort of encrypted Bitcoin address represent Vivek and Vivian so no one can track who the real person is." A disadvantage, though, is if you lose access to your account, there's no middleman or third-party entity to help you "log back in," so to speak.

In a blockchain world...

What’s most exciting about the blockchain technology overall is that it's able to disrupt industries across the board. Think of any third party you have to go through for services, from an art dealer to real estate agent. Since the fintech technology is able to validate and secure anything, it can be used for health information, proof of intellectual property, government records, and so much more. In the future, if blockchain becomes trusted enough, it can certainly be used to speed up time to market for any system that’s had enough of the headaches that come with a middleman.

SEE ALSO: What YML is doing to help reshape early education learning in a screen obsessed world >

The 5 Hottest Fintech Trends to Watch for in 2018

If there was ever any doubt that a fintech revolution is underway, that time is gone.

Just take a look around you, and it's clear that financial technology is disrupting the traditional financial services industry. By embracing the latest technological innovations, fintech startups have been able to provide users with a degree of convenience that banks and similar institutions have yet to match.

This trend will continue as fintech companies continue to make use of new tools and techniques. The following are some of the more significant fintech trends that are likely to develop in the near future.

1. The Rise of Mobile Trading

Mobile fintech apps like Matador have ushered in a new age for anyone who has ever wanted to invest in the stock market. By jettisoning the brick-and-mortar offices of traditional invest firms, these services allow users to invest without having to pay broker fees. This makes it much easier for people with limited capital to make investments.

It’s highly likely that existing firms will also begin developing their own mobile strategy and software to facilitate easier mobile trading.

2. Increased Collaboration

Financial technology is disrupting an industry full of established practices. Strategic people working for traditional financial institutions recognize that collaboration with startups will be key to their survival.

If banks do partner up with fintech companies, everyone wins. The startup brings a fresh, convenient approach to financial services.

Meanwhile, the bank has the experience to help them navigate the regulations that dominate the financial services industry. This allows startups to release their products more efficiently.

3. Blockchain Technology

Although it’s only about a decade old, blockchain technology is poised to have a major impact on fintech. That’s because it allows banks to create digital ledgers that record transactions in real-time.

This ledger is accessible to anyone in the community. As such, it will boost the overall efficiency of processes like international wire transfers. It’s simply going to be much easier for banks to confirm where money is coming from and where it’s going.

4. Efficient Transactions

Fintech development companies often strive to reduce the friction involved in a transaction. For example, consider Amazon Go, the e-commerce company’s brick-and-mortar project. Allowing customers to simply walk into the shop and walk out with their goods (the transaction is processed digitally) offers tremendous convenience to users.

That being said, while people may enjoy the convenience of frictionless transactions, they need to be more careful when making purchases. Otherwise, they’re likely to suffer from buyer’s remorse. It’s easy to spend more than you planned when buying something is a one-step process. The same rule applies for investment and other financial-related activities.

5. Increased Lending

Amazon recently announced that they’ve already loaned over $1 billion to their merchants via their lending department. As such, companies like Amazon have a lot of data about their merchants, thanks to the nature of digital connectivity. Thus, it's easier for them to assess whether or not it’s safe to lend funds to a merchant.

Other companies are following suit in this fintech trend. This helps individuals and organizations who might not qualify for a bank loan acquire the funds they need to grow their own businesses. Increased lending via fintech services will likely have a substantial impact on the entire economy as small businesses gain more opportunities to thrive.

As with any technological revolution, it’s not entirely possible to predict all the innovations and fintech trends we can expect in this industry. However, these five represent some of the most likely financial technology developments we can look forward to in the near future. Very soon, they’re going to reshape the way virtually everyone spends, saves, and invests their money.

Strategies for Better Mobile Banking with Apple iOS 11

Together, with mobile and iOS 11, we’re making banking better.

As customers increasingly engage with paperless and on-demand interactions, they expect their financial providers to also offer the same services across all channels.

According to a study by Bain & Company, Mobile is the most likely channel to delight retail banking customers in the US, UK, Australia, China, South Korea and Japan. In fact, a 2015 SNL Financial survey showed that over 25 percent of customers who changed banks that year did so for a better mobile banking experience.

Source: AppAnnie

As more and more users turn to mobile for their financial interactions, it is vitally important for banks to plan ahead for the new technologies and design paradigms unveiled at Apple’s annual Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) this year.

These are a few of the strategies that we recommend:

Vision, Augmented Reality, and Machine Learning: Your money; faster, smarter, safer than ever.

Today, Mitek’s Mobile Cheque Deposit is being used by 5,600 banks, credit unions and brokerages to deposit cheques through mobile phones across the globe. Eighty million consumers love Mobile Deposit for its ease and convenience. This phenomenal growth is entirely due to the integration of banking infrastructure with phone capabilities permitted by camera access and wireless Internet. However, the apps we engage for these processes are finally reaching a stage where they can correct errors and guide humans in a much more personalized way.

With the new iOS 11, Apple has opened up its platform to integrate Vision, Augmented Reality and Machine Learning Kits, which have given rise to a much faster and seamless mobile banking experience. Some benefits:

  • Mobile Check Deposit: The user experience will be vastly improved with on-device validation for cheque deposits with Augmented Reality and Vision Kit augmentation of planar detection (think flat surfaces), light check (think flash and error for dark images), text detection (signature, etc.). The need to rely on the internet to validate information—for example, in cases when the mobile check image sent from a bank might be imperfect—becomes virtually eliminated, saving the user from the hassle of re-sending images, as well saving large amounts of those precious MBs.  Data costs users money.  Not only did transactions just get faster; they got cheaper too.

Source: washtrust.com

  • Inbuilt Barcode & QR detection: iOS 11 will automatically detect QR codes and provide appropriate CTAs when scanned with iOS camera. This is a giant step forward in terms of mobile banking efficiency.  It eliminates the need for users to download an app or to scan the QR code to a separate location. Banks can provide easy-to-use QR codes for businesses to accept payments directly, linking the app internally; the user can complete their transaction without manually inputting the information. The customer experience is improved by a speedier, less demanding transaction. 

Furthermore, inbuilt QR detection helps with new-user onboarding: imagine receiving a bank statement or initial-offer letter from a financial institute with a personalized QR code containing all your information. Upon scanning the QR code, it will deep link to the FI’s app and then segue immediately into the next steps in the app. It’s utterly innovative and friction free.

  • ML Kit - Machine Learning: Banking apps can become more intelligent using machine learning with Core ML - iOS framework to integrate machine learning models into their apps. Core ML will allow the apps to use on-device hardware resources to do intensive deep learning & data training tasks and provide better value to the users, while still ensuring the privacy of users’ data.

For example: machine learning can be leveraged for budgeting and understanding consumption patterns. Research shows that 70% of consumers check their account balance when making a bigger purchase. Using the power of machine learning, financial apps can now recognize when a customer is more likely to spend money—like when the rent, as well as major money is due.  Based on that knowledge, they can advise users to plan more discretionary purchases—air pods, furniture, Christmas presents—accordingly. The obvious advantage to consumers is budgeting assistance, as well as increased awareness of account balances, even when a customer is offline.

Thinking beyond apps

Mobile Apps are just one form of the banking experience that financial institutions can provide to their users—but that is far from where the story ends. It is critical that these companies think beyond the norm and look towards innovation for the mobile experience, whether it be engaging automatic assistance platforms or embracing whole new forms of communication.

Siri

Use of voice to buy a product or service, send money to friends or pay a bill is estimated to increase to 31% of US adults by 2021 according to this BI report. As of today, Siri can help users pay bills (“Siri pay the current balance on my rental bill”), as well as send and request money from friends (with apps like Venmo and Paypal).

With iOS 11, Siri will be able to help you stay on top of your account balances, as well help complete tasks like transfers, without even opening the app. Essentially, the user no longer has to open the app and navigate their way through a transfer of, say, $500, from their checking account to savings. Instead, Siri will allow the user to say “Transfer $500 from my checking to savings account within My Awesome Bank,” and all this can be securely verified and completed using fingerprint authentication. Literally, with the touch of a button.

Source: VentureBeat.com

Why integrate this?

Simple account access and management is the #1 most frequently praised feature by users (in current reviews across all top banking apps). Using Siri, we can now provide this functionality to users without even opening the app thus providing a much faster, cleaner and smoother approach to their most frequently used banking experience.  Advances in voice-powered operations provide users not only with advancement in these tools but a cleaner, faster, less demanding approach to their entire banking experience.

And this is just the beginning.  It is very likely that Siri will soon be able to handle commercial payments (we predict in next year). Also, with the advent of HomePod and Car Play, Siri’s capabilities are certainly going to extend beyond the iPhone.

Business Chat

This year, Apple introduced Business Chat for iMessage, which lets customers contact and interact with businesses directly in Messages, facilitating a simple and more accessible means of communication.

With Business Chat, customers will find message icons alongside the names of businesses in Siri, Safari, Spotlight, and Maps. They can click on these icons to initiate a personalized chat wherein they can ask questions, schedule appointments, and make purchases—all with built-in features—by connecting the user with business’s customer service platform.

For example, a bank could set up business chat that allows users to schedule an in-person appointment, purely through messaging them and thereby eliminating the need to go to their website or calling. It could also integrate their mortgage department into Business Chat for people looking to get more information about loans and thereby providing a much more personalized service via text message without bothering users through calling or emails. (Thing that Millennials love these days: text!)

Source: Apple

Why Plan for this?

Banking relies heavily on customer service. Having a personalized chat gives customers a chance to talk with the banker/customer service representative on-demand without even downloading the app. Realistically, not all customers are going to have mobile banking app installed. Business Chat acts as a much simpler on-demand method of communication with the user and adds a human touch to the experience. Business Chat can then prompt the user to download the app right from the chat window for a later use.

Conclusion

Many financial institutions fear a takeover by mobile banking and the subsequent extinction of the local branch.  We feel that these fears are unmerited. Mobile isn’t about less, it’s about expansion. As banks open up their customer data securely across platforms, these mobile experiences will be able to leverage the true USP of the platform and create better value for the end customer. Users might use ATMs for withdrawal, mobile app for transferring money, Chatbot for investment advice and retail branch loan applications or to open accounts. Eventually, banking will mature and become omnipresent — anytime anywhere and in the way we need it.

With iOS 11’s coming adoption this fall, now is the time to start considering what the future truly looks like.  Mobile isn’t everything, but it is a new beginning.  We want to help you innovate, plan, and implement solutions quickly, not just for the coming revolution, but for what comes after.  And after that.  And after that.  

You are here for your customers.  And we are here for you.

Why Marketplace Companies Will Demand Fintech Innovation

This interview is part of our Future of Fintech Series where we interview disrupters in Fintech. Tom Villante is Chairman, CEO and Co-Founder of YapStone. Founded in 1999, the company has raised over $110MM from investors, including Accel Partners, Meritech Capital and Bregal Sagemount. With a mission to change how the world pays, YapStone offers an end-to-end payments solution for global marketplaces and large vertical markets.

We live in truly revolutionary times. The world is changing at a rapid pace and we can pretty much get hold of anything we need whenever we need it. Thanks to this ease of access, consumers’ preferences are naturally becoming more demanding. Companies that fail to satisfy them will ultimately be replaced by providers who can.

The marketplace business model is an excellent example of companies able to identify and satiate consumer desires. By creating a new way of exchanging goods and services, businesses in all verticals are forced to sit up and take notice – or fall by the wayside like Tower Records and Blockbuster Video.

The rise and rise of marketplaces

From raising finances to online entertainment, transport and vacations to freelance employment, marketplaces are causing widespread disruption across the board. More than half of the workforce could be working remotely online by 2020, thanks to companies like Upwork and TaskRabbit.

Kickstarter democratized the once private and elite capital raise process and gave anyone and everyone the opportunity to participate. Since its inception in 2009, this crowdfunding platform has helped raise almost three billion dollars for products to come to market.

Uber (valued at $68 billion) has upset the taxi industry worldwide and turned our personal cars into personal revenue streams. Airbnb took on traditional hotels and monetized the extra rooms in our homes. HomeAway offered travelers their dream vacation while giving homeowners the opportunity to leverage their second homes. And Etsy gave independent artisans the ability to scale a local business, turning a hobby into a real career.

For the average consumer, these relatively new services have become intrinsic to our daily lives. All we have to do is download an app and we can organize our activities from our smartphones. But how is it that marketplace companies have been able to achieve such widespread market penetration and success?

Marketplace companies built their services with a number of goals, yet the common thread was paramount – ease of use. Regardless of service or industry, they had to make it easy for both the buyer and the seller to use, and they did so by leveraging our mobile devices. Considering that as many as 77 percent of Americans now own a smartphone, this was a sound strategy to follow.

With a revolutionary business model, desirable product, engaged audience and enviable potential, it would seem that marketplaces have it all figured out – or do they?

The complex payments issue

As marketplaces continue to disrupt, expand and scale, the issue of payment processing becomes ever more critical. They need to evaluate the payment transaction and process (as it’s one of the few areas where friction still exists for the consumer). This is where fintech comes in. Partnerships and products will be the next strategic area of focus for marketplaces.

With 17 years in the payments industry and experience powering online payments for global marketplaces, Tom Villante, CEO and Co-founder of YapStone, understands marketplace companies like no other. He comments:

"Payments are inherently hard and complicated and they will not be getting any easier for marketplaces as they scale globally. In order to fully support a transaction for the buyer and seller, these companies will have to build an entire in-house ‘payment company’ or create one as a subsidiary. But the simple fact is that marketplaces are not payments companies, they already have a business. A business that they have been very successful in building and growing. If they are running their business and building a payments platform, inevitably, it will take away their focus and could negatively impact growth.”

Online payments are critical when talking about marketplaces. These companies are responsible for millions of online or mobile transactions every day. The sheer complexity of the payment platforms needed to process these transactions is overwhelming. Funds must be disbursed to multiple entities in multiple currencies. Consumers’ information must be protected. Safeguards against fraud need to be applied and industry standards for security and compliance have to be met. Not to mention providing 24/7 customer service.

Add in the goal of hyper-growth and scale that marketplaces are reaching for, and the financial responsibility increases exponentially.

The need for fintech

“Most marketplaces do not want to deal with the complexity, and to be honest, the burden of online payments,” says Villante. “With the exception of Uber and Airbnb, which mainly manage payments in-house (or with support from partners), marketplaces are not willing to take on the challenges of going deep, building a team to manage payments and regulatory obligations, as well as risk and fraud.”

To solve this problem for marketplaces, YapStone began offering a customized, end-to-end payments solution for marketplaces. “For six years, we have been powering payments for HomeAway, the world’s leading online marketplace for the vacation rental industry. We have acquired in-depth knowledge and expertise on what these companies need in a comprehensive payments partner,” says Villante. “With this in mind, we take care of the entire payment transaction, from processing to customer service, so that the marketplace can focus on what they do best – their business and delivering a convenient product or service to their consumer.”

The quest for global expansion of marketplaces has created the need for business requirements that were never contemplated before. In fact, marketplaces are going where no one has gone before! And they need services that have never been designed, built or employed -- especially when it comes to fintech.

One major concern for marketplaces is risk and fraud. Villante states, “Fintech companies must protect their customers against fraudsters and the schemes employed across the globe.” This includes creating fake merchant accounts to pose as mules to drain stolen card accounts and posting photos of a fake property at a too-good-to-be-true price.

A marketplace could find itself in real trouble without a payments partner to help navigate the complex world of global payments, ensuring compliance, security and ease of use for consumers.

"Before we started powering payments for marketplaces, we had a small risk team. Now we have 70 experts, in addition to our ongoing financial investments in building and integrating next-generation risk and fraud solutions,” says Villante. “We have also developed a global view of the customers who transact in the vertical markets we serve. This helps us separate those customers that are known, safe and operating within pattern from customers that require closer evaluation.”

Because fintech companies have global experience and dedicated teams, they are in a better position to prevent fraud for their marketplace customers. As marketplaces scale and grow in their own businesses, it will become increasingly difficult to build and manage the inherent complexity of online payments. That makes fintech and marketplaces a match made in heaven.

About Tom

In 1999, Tom Villante founded YapStone with the simple goal of converting bills commonly paid by paper check into online electronic payments. Today, YapStone processes over $18 billion in online and mobile payments and has raised over $110 million in capital. As Chairman and CEO, Tom leads the strategic vision, operational execution and global expansion of the company. With his experience and expertise in the FinTech industry, Tom is focused on positioning YapStone’s innovative and proprietary payments platform to meet the needs of global marketplaces and large vertical markets.

Prior to YapStone, Tom was a Partner at The Seidler Company, a private equity firm, and an investment banker with S.G. Warburg (now UBS) and William E. Simon & Sons. In addition to his role at YapStone, Tom is a member of Young Presidents’ Organization (Santa Monica Bay) and has served on the Boards of local schools and charitable organizations. With 20 years of entrepreneurial experience, he is an active angel and real estate investor, frequent speaker at FinTech and Leadership conferences as well as a contributing writer to notable business publications. Tom earned a Bachelor’s Degree from Princeton University.

Managing Business Insurance Online – With Rashmi Melgiri of CoverWallet

This interview is part of our Future of Fintech Series where we interview disrupters in fintech. Rashmi Melgiri is the co-founder and COO of CoverWallet.com. They’ve raised over $9.8MM to disrupt how small businesses deal with insurance. Their goal is simple: “Manage all my policies online, all in one place."

CoverWallet Story

I was interested in Rashmi’s story and her thoughts about the future of fintech. I’ll be the first to admit that “insurtech” isn’t the most exciting, but I do firmly believe this is an industry that can really benefit from innovation from the ground up.

Any startup that can create a customer experience that benefits end users and insurers can truly make a big impact.

Here is my interview with Rashmi Melgiri:

How did you come up with the idea of CoverWallet?

I co-founded CoverWallet with my friend, Inaki Berenguer, in 2015 after we saw firsthand the difficulties businesses face when it comes to managing insurance. The company Inaki was working for at the time was trying to close a deal, but first needed to provide their certificate of insurance and full policy.

The company’s agent was out of the office for a few days, and no one could get a hold of him. Inaki and I looked around and found that this is a common difficulty businesses face, and there was a clear opportunity to create a simple digital experience.

We started CoverWallet with the vision of creating a solution we would want as business owners, and have since built an innovative product that can save millions of businesses time and money.

Why hasn’t this problem been solved yet for small businesses? It seems that this problem has been around for decades.

The commercial insurance industry has traditionally focused on sourcing customers through a network of local agents, which captures around 80% of the market.

The opaqueness of information available to business owners has benefited this system as it creates a dependency on the institutional knowledge of the agent.

There hasn’t been a significant effort to help businesses understand how individual policies work to serve their needs, though “getting covered” can involve particular combinations of the dozens of policies available.

How does this affect the traditional broker-driven insurance model? Is your end goal to have your technology be the broker?

While we have new capabilities for small businesses, such as our management platform which lets you track first- and third-party policy information, CoverWallet also acts as a digital broker. This means that through our online platform, you can be quoted and bind a policy online.


In regard to the future of insurtech, what technologies do you think will be dominant 5 years from now?

The $100B U.S. small-business insurance market is on the verge of a big paradigm shift. Business owners are beginning to expect to deal with insurance online, in the same way they use consumer-friendly online technologies to deal with banking, payroll, accounting, or sales.

The dominant process currently used by many businesses involves a platform change for each step of the process – research online, purchase in-person, information requests via phone or fax, and tracking policy and certificate information through spreadsheets. We envision an online single-point solution becoming the norm.

How will this product fit in those technologies? (AI, automation, blockchain, etc…)

When we began digging into small-business insurance, we were surprised to find how difficult and non-integrated the entire process was. The solution we created with CoverWallet therefore connects a business owner through every stage of the insurance process.

We’ve created a resource library and advice tool to help business owners understand their risks and corresponding coverage recommendations. This ties into our digital quoting experience that we’ve partnered with top carriers to create.

And our insurance management platform allows you to manage policy information, request certificates, update business information, and track partner insurance information. Our platform is actually available for those businesses that work with other brokers as well.

What opportunities would you like to explore with updated versions of the product?

Our platform has made it simple for many business owners to get a quote and purchase insurance online, but there are still a variety of scenarios that are currently deemed too complex to handle without an offline component.

We’re working with carriers, using our expertise in big data and UI/UX to significantly increase the number of businesses for which an online solution is available.

Most people feel that insurance is pretty boring. How are you going to convince small business owners that they need this?

Convincing small business owners isn’t the issue, as around 70% of business owners search for and try to purchase insurance online. Instead, we’ve focused on building the best digital experience that meets all the needs a customer expects.

How important is the user experience to helping your end users get the concierge service they need?

Providing a positive user experience is a core focus for us at CoverWallet, and we try to incorporate a user-first mindset into all our processes.

We are constantly tracking interactions with our online platform and iterating in order to make our tools as simple and intuitive as possible. In addition, we’ve invested in making sure that if a visitor has a particularly complex situation, the transfer to our team of licensed experts is as seamless as possible.

About Rashmi

Rashmi Melgiri is the co-founder and COO of CoverWallet, an insurtech startup focused on simplifying insurance for small businesses. Before founding CoverWallet, Rashmi was a strategy consultant at the largest North American TMT consulting group, Altman and Vilandrie & Co. She has worked with a number of startups, including Visible Measures and portfolio companies within Comcast Interactive Media. She has a bachelor’s degree from MIT and an MBA from MIT Sloan.

+