Article | April 15, 2020
The 21st century doesn’t fail to surprise human society with its innovation. Blockchain is going as a part of mainstream business operations and it's impossible to keep FinTech unaffected.
As the new universality of the twenty-first century, technological advancements have now unquestionably seeped into the workflow structure across multiple industries and are an indispensable element of varied business processes. Assignments that once needed human hands, bulky machines, and physical currencies have now been efficiently digitized. Mobility, cloud services, and consumers who have grown up in the digital age are forcing a CHANGE.
Technology has been the core of a number of disruptive trends in financial services and it is a driver behind three key themes; the first being convergence of other industries into financial services that is frankly leveraging data and technology, the second is wholesale sort of interruption or disruption of business models and new entrants entering into the competitive landscape and certainly last is a much more transformative journey and that is the leveraging of things like Blockchain Technology, which is completely going to change the financial services ecosystem and marketplace in 2020.
Anyone with an internet connection can now engage in day-to-day banking activities, trading and investment in the stock market, widen e-commerce platforms, make online payments, exchange currency online, undertake equity funding, and more. Similarly, new players are now experimenting in different areas of financial activity such as banking, payments, peer-to-peer lending, wealth management, and more.
FinTech itself is at the cusp of the renovation as if there was a need. That flux of change is coming from the headwinds of Blockchain swinging its wings. Its stagnant style of doing business is apparent to all. What needs to be examined though, in this distinct phenomenon is the contribution of Blockchain which has enhanced this progressive revolution.
Table of Contents
•Why use Blockchain for Fintech?
•How is it currently managed?
•How big is the impact of Blockchain in FinTech?
•Blockchain for Global Payments/Cross-Border Transfers
•Blockchain in Trading and Trade Finance
•Blockchain in e-KYC Utilities
•for Credit Scoring
•Conclusion (All in all)
Why use Blockchain for Fintech?
When we talk about FinTech, or technology for finance, we are going to touch a very delicate aspect. We are in 2020 and banks still demand people to send them a fax with their information, because regulators that are there are not catching up with the technology. So Blockchain for FinTech is a very powerful tool. But until the regulators don’t allow it to be deployed in full, recognizing digital signature, recognizing a contract, a time stamp by blocks in a blockchain is going to be hard.
How is it currently managed?
Let’s understand this with an example - payment with a credit card. Before the payment with a credit card arrives in our bank account, there are 12 companies with 12 databases. They bring the data one to the other before it arrives to the bank account. With the blockchain, it’s up in a single transaction. So in many cases for remittance and for rebalancing accounts, even between branches of a single bank, a blockchain solution allows to remove error in transaction. There are banks that have branches in different time zones. At the end of the month, one time zone branch writes the transaction in the previous month, the headquarters writes the transaction in the next month. And when the month goes to level, it creates a lot of confusion. The accounting system based on blockchain technology will guarantee that all is aligned perfectly.
How big is the impact of Blockchain in FinTech?
Blockchain surely is born for fintech and is already bringing quite a lot of interest. The reaction of the financial industry is being very positive, one of adoption. When the financial board saw blockchain, rather than getting scared, they started adopting the technology for their own good. In fintech, blockchain is making a big influence to start with.
According to a survey on the financial services sector and fintech conducted by PwC, around 77% of the financial services industry plan on adopting blockchain by 2020. Banks being 1/3rd of the institutions surveyed have shown an inclination in incorporating blockchain in their operations as was reported by a study published by Accenture and McLagan (January 2017) that made mention of at least eight of the ten biggest global investment banks comprising the blockchain route.
Blockchain for Global Payments/Cross-Border Transfers
Blockchain-powered payments are hyper-secure and private. Each user has personal cryptocurrency keys that they can use to conduct transactions safely. The blockchain ensures that only participants involved in a particular transaction know the details of this transaction. Any changes to the transaction are possible only with the consent of all participants.
Learn more: https://capital.report/blogs/tracking-the-future-of-cross-border-payments-with-ai-ml-and-blockchain/8124
As per Deloitte, blockchain-based payments from business-to-business and peer-to-peer results in 40% - 80% reduced transaction costs. They’re also settled within seconds. Yes, it would be a paradigm shift but as per a projection by Mckinsey & Co. blockchain could drive $50 - $60 Billion in transcontinental B2B and $3 - $5 Billion in P2P payments respectively.
A blockchain records and validates every transaction and administers transactions in a way that no one can tamper with or delete them post-execution. FinTech companies such as Aeternity leverage this advantage of the blockchain to protect payments.
Another benefit of blockchain is that it eradicates the need for a mediator to handle financial services like money transfers. This is a huge relief for businesses that provide peer-to-peer (P2P) transactions.
Learn more: https://rubygarage.org/blog/how-blockchain-works#article_title_1
Blockchain in Trading and Trade Finance
The trade financing field requires lots of tedious paperwork and bureaucracy. Stock and share purchases have to pass through brokers, exchanges, clearing, and settlement. Shipping, for example, requires client-side etiquettes like lading bills, invoices, and the letter of credit. Each transaction is typically completed within three days. Yet transactions can be delayed when trading transpires over the weekends.
The blockchain technology can release traders from troublesome checks of counterparties and optimize the complete lifecycle of a trade. Using a blockchain, companies can intensify trade accuracy, speed up the settlement process, and reduce contingencies.
Ornua and Barclays completed the world’s first blockchain trade transactions in 2016, employing four hours rather than a week on a letter of credit — a document guaranteeing the export of $100,000 worth of agricultural products. IBM & Maersk collaborated for a global trade platform to attain scalable solutions of Blockchain in Fintech. Furthermore, Forbes released its report of Top 50 Billion-Dollar companies who’re exploring the scope of implementing blockchain solutions.
Learn more: https://www.forbes.com/sites/michaeldelcastillo/2019/04/16/blockchain-50-billion-dollar-babies/#3d2cf7be57cc
Blockchain in e-KYC Utilities
Identity can be undoubtedly established by government-issued documents such as driver‘s licenses, social security cards or passports, etc. Establishing identity through KYC verification is a lengthy procedure.
While exploring the bank-driven approach to KYC customer record sharing, there is always a debate around centralized versus decentralized approaches.
According to Niall Twomey, Chief Technical Officer, Fenergo, The centralized model offered centralized KYC utilities, controlled by a single entity. The main proponents and vendors behind these models at the time were incumbents with huge data resources and reach, which makes sense when it comes to creating a KYC utility. However, each utility had separate financial institution members, meaning that the overlap of customers and the ability to re-use customer information between them was seriously diluted. This was a key showstopper for utilities at the time. This led to a shift towards a decentralized model, where control is shared and participants coordinate with each other without going through a single intermediary.
Blockchain is a form of distributed ledger technology, having a specific technological foundation and cryptographic features that enable the storage of data in an immutable (unchangeable) ledger of ‘blocks’ of records. The blocks of records are linked in groups or a ‘chain’, which are maintained by a decentralized network, where all records are approved by consensus. It can build trust between financial institutions as it is auditable, and can help streamline the attestation process; ensuring clients are in charge of their own personally identifiable data.
The use of blockchain, currently best known as the foundational technology for Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, could overcome inefficiencies and duplication of effort in KYC information gathering between legal entities within a more comprehensive financial corporation or even between competing banks.
The blockchain offers a digital identity system. Using this system, clients need to go through validation just once and can then use this verified identity document to conduct transactions all over the world. A blockchain allows clients to
• Manage their personal identity data and reputation;
• Share their data with others without safety concerns;
• Log in to digital services without passwords;
• Digitally sign any type of documents, such as claims and transactions.
for Credit Scoring
FinTech companies are widely using blockchain to cater to the unbanked population lacking CIBIL score and helping them get credit. Apart from the unbanked and underbanked, two more groups of consumers — credit invisible and unscorable — lack banking services. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) shows that one in ten adults in the USA don’t have any credit history, and 19 million Americans have unscored credit records.
Unscorable consumers mean people who have credit records at least in one credit reference agency but the data is too out-of-date to generate a reliable score. Consequently, millions of people are deprived of loans, mortgages, the ability to rent apartments, and more.
Traditional banks and lenders approve loans based on a system of credit reporting. Blockchain technology unlocks the possibility of peer-to-peer loans, complex programmed loans that can approximate a mortgage or syndicated loan structure, and a faster and more secure loan process in general.
When you apply for a bank loan, the bank evaluates the risk involved. They do this by looking at factors like your credit score, debt-to-income ratio, and homeownership status. This centralized system is often unfriendly to consumers. The Federal Trade Commission concludes that one in five Americans have a “potentially material error” in their credit score that negatively affects their ability to get a loan
Alternative lending using blockchain technology offers a cheaper, more efficient, and more secure way of making personal loans to a broader pool of consumers. With a cryptographically secure, decentralized registry of historical payments, consumers could apply for loans based on a global credit score.
All in all
In fintech, blockchain finds application in areas like digital ID, customer authentication, insurance, to name a few. Blockchain practitioners are experimenting with this technology to bring out new use cases and applications to solve the repetitive and complicated issues in the fintech industry.
Blockchain in fintech is anticipated to reach $6,700 million by 2023 in the United States. Financial institutions will use blockchain for smart contracts, digital payments, identity management, and trading shares. The blockchain sector in fintech has been intended to provide banking with a more seamless and efficient experience. We will soon see the process of cash to crypto and vice versa to become ubiquitous.
Blockchain technology has tremendous potential to deliver excellence in core areas of banking and financial institutions’ business model. But to succeed in implementing blockchain, financial institutions should collaborate with the ecosystem before they launch blockchain solutions.
Article | March 4, 2020
Last week TripActions announced TripActions Liquid™ — the first-of-its-kind, end-to-end global corporate travel management and payments solution. Travel is a huge line item for businesses with robust travel programs, making travel payments top-of-mind for TripActions and our customers. We explored the trends and technology impacting payments at TRAVERSE 19 in the panel “Technology Trends in Fintech: Virtual cards & Other Tech Impacting the Future of Payments & Settlements.” Dave Packer, Vice President Product Marketing at TripActions, led the conversation with leaders from Stripe, Visa, and TripActions around emerging trends in commercial payments, how payments are evolving, and potential solutions for the marketplace.
Article | March 6, 2020
FinTechs are helping banks focus on the customer experience through accounts payable (AP) automation. AvidXchange Senior Vice President of Financial Services Boyce Adams Jr. told PYMNTS in an interview that banks foundationally value “the relationship they have with the customer” and “they understand the customer.” These financial institutions are providing lines of credit, and he says it’s the company’s job as a leader in FinTech to provide banks with the products and solutions that are going to help them advance their case with the customer.
Article | March 19, 2021
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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