4 Fintech Trends to Watch For in 2020

LANRE ONIBALUSI | February 26, 2020

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The fintech industry is one of the most visibly disruptive sectors since it can dramatically impact everyday consumers as well as the business of all sizes. It’s also potentially a highly regulated sector, with governments and regulators well aware of the need to both protect consumers and businesses, and to provide a fair, competitive environment for industry players.

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Experts on financial regulatory & compliance, business analysis, project Implementation and delivery for Corporate and Investment Banking, Asset management clients Firm headquartered in New York with activity in New York, California, India, UK and Middle East Emphasize on implementation and delivery with focus on operational excellence Our teams of experts roll up their sleeves and are recognized for working alongside our clients and regulatory bodies to deliver organizational changes

OTHER ARTICLES

Will fintech change everyday lives in Africa and Asia?

Article | March 19, 2020

The modern world is constantly changing, offering more to societies across the globe than before. The recent technological development has proven to be unprecedented and revolutionary, changing the lives of millions in different corners of the world. The financial industry is one of the most affected sectors that is experiencing a major transformation due to a number of different factors. As a result, we now witness a diverse range of services in forms never seen before.

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BITCOIN AND CRYPTO

Bitcoin, Rare & Gold Coins—Which Investment for You?

Article | March 19, 2020

Coin Conundrums: Expert vets 3 popular ‘flight to safety’ coin assets amid forecasted financial strife As the financial markets strive to rebound from what has been a hugely trying and tumultuous period, courtesy of a deadly global pandemic, we may need to brace ourselves for yet more trouble ahead. This as an ongoing Harvard Business School study predicts a 40% probability of a financial crisis in the next three years, which is largely based on unprecedented growth in credit coupled with the reality that interest rates will eventually rise, making debt service unbearable. “Now factor in over $10 trillion in global economic stimulus, as well as increases of 26% in the M2 money supply and 78% in the Federal Reserve’s balance sheet over the last year, and the lack of sustainability becomes readily apparent,” says alternative investment pundit Thomas Neptune, Esq. “As the economy artificially recovers and we inch toward full employment over the next few years, the reality is that the Federal Reserve is trapped. It only seems logical that the Fed will, at some point, be forced to raise interest rates to combat inflation, while doing so could put a giant pin in several asset price bubbles.” When financial markets collapse, it’s known that non-correlated “flight to safety” assets generally perform very well. Due to the heightened level state of uncertainty in the current climate, many investors are already increasing allocations to alterative investment vehicles like Cryptocurrency, U.S. rare coins and gold bullion coins while prices are relatively modest (depending, of course, on whom you ask). The question then becomes, which of these distinctive “coins” is right for you relative to your situational needs for downside protection, upside opportunity, inflation hedging and overall utility? Below, Neptune offers his analysis of all three. ** Bitcoin In simple terms, Bitcoin is a decentralized peer-to-peer payment system that utilizes an accounting ledger called the blockchain. Bitcoin is the unit of accounting. It can be used as a medium of exchange for some goods and services, but there has not been universal acceptance of Bitcoin as a form of payment. It has recently garnered attention as an asset class as the price has skyrocketed. Almost anyone can own a tiny fraction of a Bitcoin through sites such as Coinbase. Downside Protection The supply of Bitcoin is capped at $21 million, with approximately $18.5 million currently in circulation. The annual supply increases similar to that of gold, unlike monetary and fiscal policies that promote unlimited growth through the printing press. With 78% of the circulating Bitcoin classified as illiquid and not changing hands, there is not a high likelihood of sellers flooding the market. That being said, the price has been historically volatile as demand varies and competitor cryptocurrencies enter the market. Theoretically, the price could plummet to near-zero if demand shifts elsewhere or regulators step in with force, although Bitcoin has institutional traction and its loyal following is most likely here to stay. Upside Opportunity It is no secret that the price of Bitcoin has unlimited upside opportunity based on its supply and demand dynamics. Now almost everyone is getting in on the action. What might have been shocking news only a few years ago, even college endowments like Harvard, Yale, Brown and others have been placing bets on Bitcoin as have influential business leaders such as Elon Musk. It will be interesting to see whether Bitcoin can sustain its meteoric rise. Inflation Hedging As an inflation hedge, Bitcoin does not have a long track record, as it was created in 2009 just prior to a market expansion where we saw little inflation for the last decade. Although the supply may increase now at a rate consistent with inflation, its demand and the ensuing price history have been extremely volatile. As such, buyers are placing a bet that, regardless of their entry price, the performance of Bitcoin will outpace inflation over the long-term, despite high volatility. Overall Utility The technology around how Bitcoin is stored, sent and received is rapidly advancing. For example, the Bitpay wallet can now be added to Apple Pay to use Bitcoin as payment anywhere that accepts this type of monetary exchange. This is a significant development as there are over one billion active iPhones and these crypto-wallets can automatically settle transactions in the users’ currencies, potentially eliminating the risk of price volatility for transactions. Two other major benefits include portable wealth and instant liquidity for retail buyers. ** U.S. Rare Coins Collecting financial artifacts of various civilizations has been in high demand for over 2,000 years, from when wealthy Romans were collecting Greek coins up to the present day. Representing the birth of the United States economy, its sovereignty on the world stage and notable events throughout the nation’s history, the U.S. rare coins that have survived in spectacular condition have been in high demand from wealthy global collectors and investors since the birth of this young nation. Downside Protection There is a finite supply of high-end U.S. rare coins, which can be publicly verified on the census reports of the two major authentication companies: Professional Coin Grading Service and Numismatic Guaranty Corporation. These historical artifacts are not known to flood the market, as wealthy individuals with holding power generally do not need to liquidate them for less than their purchase price. Further, there is immense passion and competition to own the best trophies—why this market is known as the Hobby of Kings—which has evolved to sport for the affluent to locate and own these elusive artifacts in a private market. This passion-driven market with an extremely long track record has attracted investors to hold these highly sought-after assets as a long-term wealth protection strategy. As such, the market has demonstrated long term stability and steady price appreciation for well over a century based on these driven collectors and investors. Upside Opportunity The U.S. rare coin market has benefited from numerous advances in technology and other innovations, most recently the introduction of the two major certification companies in the 1980s, followed by the ubiquity of the Internet in the 2000s. Although the market has largely flown under the radar from institutional investors, there has been a massive increase in demand for U.S. rare coins over the last decade, which has ramped up during the pandemic, as wealthy individuals have more time to pursue their interests and compete (via a publicly available points system) to own the finest rare coin portfolios. According to Michael Contursi, Partner at Contursi Rare Coin Investments, “The high end of this market is currently dominated by ultra-wealthy, sophisticated collectors and investors who can afford to own multi-million dollar portfolios. Imagine if these assets could be fractionally owned by the masses. We are already currently seeing this in collectibles such as fine art and baseball cards. The upside for U.S. rare coins is astronomical when you consider the potential for an exponential increase in demand.” Inflation Hedging With unprecedented fiscal and monetary stimulus, coupled with a finite supply of U.S. rare coins with intrinsic value, these assets have proven to be an excellent hedge against inflation due to this disequilibrium of supply and demand. As the least volatile of the three “coin” markets here, the high end value of the U.S. rare coin market can be a safe diversification tool for those seeking an inflation hedge, largely based on historical price appreciation data from the last 125 years. Overall Utility The two major certification companies secure these little treasures in sonically-welded holders with a certification number, barcode and other methods for protecting against counterfeit threats. Due to the weight and size of these items, owners can transport large amounts of wealth with extreme ease. Further, there are no reporting requirements for owning these assets, which makes them extremely private and can be a great way to retain wealth outside of the banking system in case of a financial meltdown or digital economy. ** Gold Bullion Coins There are many ways to participate in the gold (and silver) bullion markets, some of which include owning mining company stocks, futures contracts on the commodities exchanges, ETFs, or physical control. To this extent, gold bullion can be owned as both a digital asset (like Bitcoin) or a physical asset (like U.S. rare coins). Downside Protection Many people forget that from 1933 to 1975 it was illegal for Americans to own gold in the United States. Since then, investors have been making small allocations to gold as a diversified investment. It is globally-accepted that gold is a non-correlated, flight-to-safety asset during times of great uncertainty, such as The Great Recession of 2007-09 or the current global coronavirus pandemic. However, the spot price of gold is also extremely volatile, similar to Bitcoin, and the price could move significantly lower depending on one’s entry level to the market. Upside Opportunity The value of the U.S. dollar, as well as virtually every other major fiat currency, has drastically declined in its purchasing power over the last century. Since the gold market is currently transacted in U.S. dollars, it becomes cheaper for international buyers (mainly governments or large institutions) to own gold as an alternative to holding dollars or their own currencies as the currency continues to decline. For the retail investor, it is clearer than ever that fiat currencies will continue to decline as governments print an unlimited supply of money to monetize their debts. Similar to the masses that have already entered the Bitcoin frenzy, and those poised to enter the various collectibles markets such as U.S. rare coins, the upside opportunity for gold has already been demonstrated by the Reddit black swan event last month that caused silver spot prices to soar. The same could happen for gold, perhaps in a more sustained trajectory. Inflation Hedging Gold is known as an inflation hedge, which to some extent creates a self-fulfilling prophesy—as inflation expectations increase, institutions purchase gold and the increasing spot price protects their purchasing power. In addition, only approximately 2,500 to 3,000 tons of above ground gold are added to the global supply each year, with the majority used for jewelry. These relatively small increases to supply (similar to Bitcoin and finite rare coins) are a significant benefit when compared to printing binges for fiat currencies, thus helping protect against inflation. Overall Utility The utility of owning physical gold is primarily as a store of value where the owner maintains direct control and access to a tangible asset. Many believe they can use their gold to transact during a doomsday scenario, as these are uniform products owned globally. The downside is that gold is very heavy, making it difficult to store or transport. Nonetheless, it is highly liquid and easy to turn into cash during times of need, like an insurance policy. Which Coin is Right for You? All three of these “coins” have either a finite or slowly increasing supply, making them very attractive during times of economic uncertainty, as even relatively small increases in demand can move prices higher. Depending on needs, there is a case to be made to own any of these assets, including small positions in all three. According to Neptune, “Many of the families who invest with us side by side in the U.S. rare coin space also own small positions in cryptocurrencies and precious metals. Bitcoin is fun and people are speculating on its tremendous upside, whereas gold bullion is highly liquid and has a long track record as an inflation hedge. People have preconceived notions of all three markets, but I think with education and more transparency you will find more portfolios containing small allocations to all three of these assets.” As investors become more comfortable with the idea that they do not have to be renowned experts to own these tangible assets—similar to the idea that they do not need a Ph.D. in mechanical physics to drive a car—investors can utilize all three markets for various needs in a diversified portfolio. Since many financial advisors don’t yet know how to access or offer these types of alternative assets, they simply aren’t included in the investment mix and, thus, clients can’t reap the benefits—ostensibly suffering opportunity loss. Therefore, the prudent entrée to owning one (or all) of these “coins” is engaging with reputable companies or trusted experts. They will certainly help wealth-seekers make heads or tails of the burgeoning coin category. ~~~ Forbes Business Council Member Merilee Kern, MBA is an internationally-regarded brand analyst, strategist, futurist and marketplace trends pundit who reports on industry change makers, movers, shakers and innovators across all B2C and B2B categories. Connect with her at www.TheLuxeList.com / Instagram, Twitter & Facebook @LuxeListReports Sources: https://www.hbs.edu/faculty/Pages/item.aspx?num=58289 https://www.federalreserve.gov/releases/h6/current/default.htm https://www.federalreserve.gov/monetarypolicy/bst_recenttrends.htm https://cryptoguidepro.com/buy-fraction-piece-percentage-bitcoin/ https://news.bitcoin.com/data-shows-78-bitcoin-supply-illiquid-only-4-2m-btc-constant-circulation/ https://www.coindesk.com/harvard-yale-brown-endowments-have-been-buying-bitcoin-for-at-least-a-year-sources https://bitpay.com/wallet/ https://www.gold.org/about-gold/gold-supply/gold-mining/how-much-gold

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Five Application Scenarios of AI in Banking

Article | March 19, 2020

Over the past decades, banks have been improving their ways of interacting with customers. They have tailored modern technology to the specific character of their work. For example, in the 1960s, the first ATMs appeared, and ten years later, there were already cards for payment. At the beginning of our century, users learned about round-the-clock online banking, and in 2010, they heard about mobile banking. But the development of the financial system didn’t stop there, as the digital age is opening up new opportunities — the use of Artificial Intelligence. By 2023, banks are projected to save $447 billion by applying AI apps. We will tell you how financial institutions are making use of this technology in their operations today. AI-powered chatbots Chatbots are AI-enabled conversational interfaces. This is one of the most popular cases of applying AI in banking. Bots communicate with thousands of customers on behalf of the bank without requiring large expenses. Researchers have estimated that financial institutions save four minutes for each communication that the chatbot handles. Since customers use mobile apps to carry out monetary transactions, banks embed chatbot services in them. This makes it possible to attract users’ attention and create a brand that is recognizable in the market. For example, Bank of America launched a chatbot that sends users notifications, informs them about their balances, makes recommendations for saving money, provides updates to credit reports, and so on. This is the way the bank helps its clients to make informed decisions. Another example is the launch of the Ceba chatbot, which brought great success to the Australian Commonwealth Bank. With its help, about half a million customers were able to solve more than two hundred banking issues: activate their cards, check account balances, withdraw cash, etc. Mobile banking AI functionality in mobile apps is becoming more proactive, personalized, and advanced. For example, Royal Bank of Canada has included Siri in its iOS app. Now, to send money to another card, it’s enough to say something like: "Hey, Siri, send $30 to Lisa!" - and confirm the transaction using Touch ID. Thanks to AI, banks generate 66% more revenue from mobile banking users than when customers visit branches. Banking organizations are paying close attention to this technology to improve their quality of services and remain competitive in the market. Data collection and analysis Banking institutions record millions of business transactions every day. The volume of information generated by banks is enormous, so its collection and registration turn into an overwhelming task for employees. Structuring and recording this data is impossible until there is a plan for its use. Therefore, determining the relationship between the collected data is challenging, especially when a bank has thousands of clients. There used to be the following approach: a client came to a meeting with a bank employee who knew their name and financial history and understood what options were better to offer. But that's history now. With the wealth of data coming from countless transactions, banks are trying to implement innovative business ideas and risk management solutions. AI-based apps collect and analyze data. This improves the user experience. The information can be used for granting loans or detecting fraud. Companies that estimated their profit from Big Data analysis have reported an average increase in revenue by 8% and a reduction in costs by 10%. Risk management Extension of credit is quite a challenging task for bankers. If a bank gives money to insolvent customers, it can get into difficulties. If a borrower loses a stable income, this leads to default. According to statistics, in 2020, credit card delinquencies in the U.S. rose by 1.4% within six months. AI-powered systems can appraise customer credit histories more accurately to avoid this level of default. Mobile banking apps track financial transactions and analyze user data. This helps banks anticipate the risks associated with issuing loans, such as customer insolvency or the threat of fraud. Data security According to the Federal Trade Commission report for 2020, credit card fraud is the most common type of personal data theft. AI-based systems are effective against malefactors. The programs analyze customer behavior, location, and financial habits and trigger a security mechanism if they detect any unusual activity. ABI Research estimates that spending on AI and cybersecurity analytics will amount to $96 billion by the end of 2021. Amazon has already acquired harvest.AI - an AI cyber security startup - and launched Macie - a service that applies Machine Learning to detect, sort, and structure data in S3 cloud storage.

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Five lessons US banks can learn from fintech disruptors

Article | March 19, 2020

The financial crisis of 2008 levelled the legacy banking industry quickly and decisively in North America. And rebuilding has been a long process — culturally, operationally and technologically. With the market once again in a state of volatility in part due to the spread of COVID-19, we’re facing the question once again: what does it take for financial institutions to weather the storm?

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SOHO Square Solutions

Experts on financial regulatory & compliance, business analysis, project Implementation and delivery for Corporate and Investment Banking, Asset management clients Firm headquartered in New York with activity in New York, California, India, UK and Middle East Emphasize on implementation and delivery with focus on operational excellence Our teams of experts roll up their sleeves and are recognized for working alongside our clients and regulatory bodies to deliver organizational changes

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