NovoPayment, Latina-founded BaaS Plans to Expand

April 21, 2022
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novopaymentNovopayment has raised $19 million in Series A financing, led by Fuel Venture Capital and IDC Ventures. The company, which offers digital banking, payment, and card solutions, is planning to grow and expand within current and further US markets while focusing on countries in Latin America and the Caribbean.

CEO and Co-founder Anabel Perez stated, “We define a digital payment as the simple transfer of value from one payment account to another using a digital service such as a mobile device, POS, or computer.”

With the new funding, NovoPayment plans to continue increasing capabilities, introduce new features and functionalities, heighten security, and capitalize on US market opportunities. To accelerate their expansion of current offices in Mexico, Colombia, Peru, Ecuador, and headquarters in Miami, they are adding over 100 new engineers, business development, and product experts to their team. Austin and San Francisco are the first two spots where the branching out will begin.

“Austin and San Francisco are huge hubs for tech innovation and we want to expand there to ensure we attract the best talent for our operations,” Perez discussed. “As we grow in those markets, we’ll assess if we need more boots on the ground in additional states.”

NovoPayment currently holds a strong placement in the LAC region and works with several US clients and partners. This places the company in the right position to broaden in these markets they already have successful track records in.

“Based on our ongoing discussions with clients, we have special insight into the challenges and technology gaps these markets face, and realize the potential to further connect the Americas with a common banking infrastructure. We will be growing our product offerings to enable new data and money flow solutions to account for the increasingly globalized, cloud-based world of financial services,” Perez explained.

As Miami is the “Latin America capital of the US,” NovoPayment holds an advantage as a native of South Florida with the tech scene gravitating towards this region. Miami has served as a gateway to other markets.

“Unlike other companies that are now playing catch up and rushing to the LatAm market, we have a strong foothold and reputation in 14 markets across the Americas,” said Perez. “Establishing those relationships, and understanding the nuances of each market, requires regional expertise that takes time to build.”

Empathy in Design, Data in Development; How Specialized Fintechs are Bringing Humanity and Finance Together

March 15, 2022
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Ahon Sarkar, GM of Helix

“I think the idea of being human has to exist at the core of your business. When you’re building a product, you have to start by asking ‘what’s the problem I am trying to solve and who is the person and what are they actually dealing with, and then how do I build it.’ You don’t build something and then bring it out to people. Empathy has to be the core of your product development.”

Ahon Sarkar is the GM of Helix, Q2’s BaaS arm, and a brand new homeowner. According to him, innovation happens when you define products based around problem solving, not creating products and then trying to force them on industries that desire innovation. 

“I just finished buying a house, and it’s been a crazy process,” said Sarkar. “When I sent the wire to go buy my house, I went and asked my bank, ‘how will I know it’s been sent?’ Obviously I’m anxious about it,” he continued, “it’s the largest amount of money I have ever sent in my entire life.”

Sarkar said that his bank told him their system doesn’t give notifications that wire funds are indeed sent. The bank was like “‘oh, you won’t know.’ I was like what?”

“That day, I walked out and called our Product Owner for Wires and I said, ‘Kady, we have to build wire notifications.’ That’s empathy. That’s putting yourself in the shoes of the person and figuring out what is wrong with the system and making it better for a human being, as opposed to focusing on just the top line revenue.”

Helix’s whole mantra is about making finance human. By creating specifically tailored products for their clients, the company has developed both a brand and mindset internally and externally about their goals, values, and outlooks on what their work means to the greater good of both levels of consumer and B2B economics. 

On top of offering employees complete flexibility on where and how they work, Helix also looks for people who are outside of the ‘cookie cutter’ software guru fintech employees are labeled as. Instead, Sarkar and Helix are looking for genuine human beings with life experiences that they can bring value to both the product and company’s culture.

“It’s hiring people that are empathetic, that are curious and are driven, because that propagates this idea into customer support, into operations and how we work with our bank partners,” said Sarkar. “It goes into marketing and how we’re talking about the overall message, so if it’s not at the core of what you do, at some point it will be pushed to the side so you can do the innovation and revenue you really want to do.”

“We have realized that you can innovate and drive revenue by being empathetic, by being human, and actually entrenching those values within the genetic fabric of the company,” Sarkar said. 

When asked about the state of small business lending, Sarkar spoke about the data pools some companies are sitting on that would allow them to approve individuals for financial products. However it’s regulations according to him that are holding companies like Uber back from offering financial products to their employees.

Sarkar pitched the scenario of Uber lending a driver money at a cheaper rate because the information they have on their own employee may be able to prove their creditworthiness more than the information that is accessible to a bank. 

“Let’s say you have an Uber driver, who has been on the job for four years. Five star driver, five thousand rides, Uber trusts this person. When that person walks into a bank, what does the bank see? Someone they never met before who makes $35K-$45K a year and comes with a bucket of risk. So that bank is going to run it through traditional underwriting, and that person may be challenged to get a loan because they have non-traditional income.”

According to Sarkar’s analogy, it’s Uber who should be funding this driver. “Uber trusts this person, Uber has been paying them for years. They know who this person is and they’re willing to extend more credit because they don’t think they are taking as much risk,” Sarkar said.

“So if you could take that idea and give Uber the ways to conform to a [financial] product that is based on what they already know about their drivers, those people might actually qualify for funds.”

Sarkar stressed that underwriters cannot even attempt to develop these products without the government giving these companies clearance to go out and provide these types of products for employees.  “Whether it be gig economy workers or solopreneurs, or medium-sized business owners, it doesn’t matter,” he continued. “At the end of the day, if regulation doesn’t allow the underwriting for these products, no company is going to put them into practice.”

Whether it’s culture, product design or staffing a team, it seems that this idea of humanity is sticking to the fundamentals of Helix’s brand. “If you take the financial products and loans being written and just make them more practical and more human, I think we would be able to solve a lot of problems.” said Sarkar.

Fintech is Bringing Data to Banking, and It’s Going to Change Everything

March 9, 2022
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As the rush to innovate legacy finance and its surrounding institutions continues, companies across the fintech space are rushing to build tech-infused brands while designing and marketing innovative financial products. Paul Walker, Senior Vice President of Revenue and Partnerships at Helix, spoke with deBanked about how tech’s impact in finance will not only impact how money moves in a B2B space, but how it will impact the lives of everyone who works to earn and spend money.

Walker spoke about how many banks are sitting on stockpiles of potential revenue, but just don’t have the infrastructure to leverage it. “[Fintechs] are data driven companies, and banks have not been data driven,” said Walker. “They’re sitting on some of the most valuable data you can ever imagine, but it’s the fintechs that are able to apply and anticipate areas of a consumer’s need [with this data] that not even the consumer knew they needed.”

Paul Walker - Helix - Q2
Paul Walker, Senior Vice President of Revenue and Partnerships at Helix

According to Walker, fintech’s incoming impact on banking will hit both consumer and commercial banking pretty quickly. He spoke about how things like payroll information can be leveraged by banks as a harnessing tool for data on particular individuals who might be ripe for certain financial products.

“Imagine something like [banks] tracking the fact that your payroll or direct deposit changed by 20%, that might indicate that you got promoted,” said Walker.

“If you got promoted, is that a good time to go and engage you in a [financial] service that might be appropriate?”

Walker continued to speak on how smaller fintechs are bringing new ideas to traditional financial products and services on a widespread basis through approach via a problem solving lens.

“Using context is where these fintechs have done a change in things, some of the things are fundamentals like paychecks two days early,” Walker said. “I think fintechs have really tried to think about these points and new services.”

Walker spoke about how fintech has impacted every facet of the financial system and how the industry’s vast array of companies makes up a pretty large basis of his company’s clientele. With a history of banks and credit unions being their primary customers, Q2’s branch into Helix appears to be an effort to meet a rising demand of tech’s desire to incorporate themselves into legacy banking.




“From a tech perspective, more-so than anything, one of the interesting things we’ve done which what appeals to a lot of folks is our long history of working with a long line of banks and credit unions,” said Walker. “Over the last few years, we have been on the forefront of working with fintechs, and I think we’ve brought some really unique partnership models to market.”

“We’ve combined the things that fintechs do really well, and the things that banks and credit unions do really well, especially in regards to oversight and understanding the regulatory environment that will keep someone out of hot water in a highly regulated space.”

When asked whether innovation is truly exponential, Walker was hesitant to identify a point in which innovation reaches limits. According to him, innovation has no limits. In Walker’s world, finance seems to be just a subset of societies’ immersion with technology.

“I don’t think innovation ever stops, and I think that’s the basis of technology,” he said. “I don’t think its specific to just finance, but when tech and finance converge, there’s an opportunity to say ‘how do we do this better’”.

Walker expanded on how innovation has changed legacy products over and over again in a short period of time, and how examples of this are just the starting point for what is to come. “Now we’re going from same-day to real-time payments. At some point, you’re not going to have a physical card, you will have a digital card.”

“I think data will continue to create innovation,” said Walker. “Ultimately, I’m confident that innovation is not a destination—it’s a journey.”

Cashback-Crazed Enzo Launches Deposit Accounts

January 4, 2022
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enzo logoEnzo Wealth, the fintech launching a neobank-esque software through Blue Ridge Bank finally came out with their initial account offerings to a select group among the 35,000 people on the account holder’s waitlist. Since the announcement, the company has marketed themselves by offering attractive cashback and equity-based incentives to account holders. According to an email sent out to the selected invitees by CEO Jeremy Shoykhet, the company is still working out the kinks to their offerings.

“We launched the Enzo Early Access Beta a few weeks ago, and are thrilled with the progress so far,” said Shoykhet. “We’ve seen over one-thousand customers join the early access beta. We’ve also been excited to see the uptake in our Rent Payment Cashback Program, with a current run-rate of $1mm of rent payments we will be processing annually.”

Invited waitlist members who sign up for the trial will not only receive a $50 bonus, but any money they spend that may qualify for cashback in the future will be retroactively funded to accounts, should money spent now be qualified for cashback at a later date.

The trial period includes the originally offered 1.5% cashback on rent payments, but with a stipulation during the trial period. Enzo customers seeking cashback on rent must pay rent via ACH from the landlord’s payment portal. According to an email sent by Shoyket to invitees, Enzo account holders will be able to receive the cashback on rent regardless of their payment method as launch progresses.

Enzo caught eyes when it offered wild cashback offerings like 10% on Ubers, 5% on DoorDash, and 1.25% on pretty much everything else. Enzo accounts also pay out a 0.50% APY, which the company claims will be increased as their capabilities allow.

Shoykhet hinted at Enzo continuing to grow as the trial period takes stride. “We are excited to continue growing the platform, adding more features, and inviting more folks to use the product.”

Citi Uses Branding and Fintech to Bring Merchants Directly to Funders

December 3, 2021
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CitigroupCiti’s release of Bridge, a virtual loan broker offering merchants a three step process to apply for capital through over a dozen banks, has branched out across seven states and is continuing to grow four months in— according to recent LinkedIn posts from Citi employees.

“I am excited to announce I have been working on a new and innovative platform along with the Citi team for the past few months!” wrote Caitlyn Boyle, Assistant Vice President and member of the team who designed Bridge. “I am extremely proud to be part of such an amazing team, and to assist in building out a great platform to connect small and medium sized businesses with local, regional, and community banks.”

“If you are looking for a loan, do not hesitate to visit our platform!” Boyle wrote.

Richard Banziger, Head of Citi’s U.S. Commercial Bank, commented during the launch of the program about Bridge’s potential to not only improve the application process for merchants, but how the program gives access to capital that will be given to minority business owners who may have never been able to get access to that capital in the past.

“Citi believes in the power of local, small businesses and continues to find ways to support businesses that are the foundation of communities across the U.S. Citi funded loans totaling more than $5 billion as part of the Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program during 2020 and 2021.”

“As both a lender and a community stakeholder, we have a deep understanding of the problems businesses face when trying to navigate the borrowing process” said Banziger. “We are committed to finding digital solutions that can make the process easier, more seamless and more equitable.”

According to Citi, Bridge’s goals are broken down into five points. They hope to create liquidity and access to capital, modernize and automate prospecting, add digitization, transparency, and standardization to the loan process, continue to digitize small and medium sized business lending, and democratize the loan process for lenders and brokers.

“Citi prides itself on encouraging a spirit of entrepreneurship among its employees to solve financial access issues and improve digital offerings for our clients and community partners,” said Vanessa Colella, Citi’s Chief Innovation Officer.

Loan options range from as little as $100,000 to as high as $10,000,000.

Marcus By Goldman Sachs Will Become Goldman Sachs Marcus

November 12, 2021
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Goldman SachsBrace yourself for the craziest rebrand in fintech history.

Just kidding.

Marcus by Goldman Sachs is changing its name to Goldman Sachs Marcus.

:::Mind Blown:::

The news, publicized by Forbes, said that the bank now feels more confident in leading the division with its own name first after initially applying caution.

Goldman found that their customers had a strong brand affinity with the name ‘Goldman Sachs’ and wanted to “be closer to the brand,” said Stephanie Cohen, Goldman’s Global Co-Head of Consumer and Wealth Management.

The full scoop can be read at Forbes.

LendingClub Finding It Pays to be a Bank

November 1, 2021
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LendingClubAt $48.75, LendingClub stock recently surpassed the highest valuation it has had since January 2016.

Successfully becoming a bank earlier this year and dropping its peer-to-peer lending business for good, the company is showing the benefit of that by recording a net income of $27.2M in Q3.

And its loan business is still strong. LendingClub originated $3.1B in loans last quarter, up from the $2.7B in Q2.

“When we launched back in 2007, LendingClub’s vision was to leverage technology, data and our marketplace model to transform the banking industry,” said company CEO Scott Sanborn on the earnings call. “We began by bringing a traditional credit product, the installment loan into the digital age by moving it online, broadening access, lowering costs and delivering a fast and frictionless experience for borrowers, all while delivering attractive risk-adjusted returns for loan investors.”

In 2014, however, it was their designation as a “tech company” rather than as a financial company that saw their valuation surge to nearly 3x higher than what it is now. (Note: The company did a reverse 1:5 stock split in 2019). But now as a bank, that valuation is surging back.

“Now with the added funding benefit of our bank, we’re able to generate positive unit economics,” Sanborn said.

Canada is Looking Forward to Open Banking

October 4, 2021
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open banking“It’s a fairly big deal,” said Tal Schwartz, Senior Advisor to the Canadian Lenders Association, when discussing the Canadian government’s renewed interest in alternative lenders after the recent Canadian election. As potential government officials from both parties discussed ideas about open banking in their election campaigns, such a conversation had been quelled by the “Big Five” Canadian banks— until now.

“The closer we get to some kind of entrenched regulatory framework, the better positions fintechs will be in to actually compete, get access to financial data, and raise money in an environment where there is regulatory certainty,” said Schwartz.

In August, the Canadian department of Finance welcomed a Final Report from the Advisory Committee on Open Banking that showcased a plan to modernize the Canadian financial regulatory system, with open banking and fintech in mind.

“Consumer-driven finance, or open banking, is already part of Canadians’ lives,” said Chrystia Freeland, Canada’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, in the report.

“Many use digital services every day to manage their money, to budget for expenses, and to make investments. Working towards a regulated, made-in-Canada system will make sure that we continue to enjoy a strong, stable, and innovative financial sector that is globally competitive, promotes consumer choice, prioritizes data privacy, and contributes to economic growth,” Freeland continued.

Schwartz said that the traditional oligopolistic structure of Canadian banking can offer advantages in times of financial crisis, but not when the government is shelling out money to help businesses during pandemic-related shutdowns.

Toronto Canada“The reality was, if you’re a small business, you don’t have a credit relationship with a big bank, the only credit relationship you have is with an alternate lender,” said Schwartz. “By distributing money through big banks, in one sense, you’re not servicing customers the way they want to be served, and you’re cutting oxygen to a flourishing part of the innovation economy in Canada.”

Unlike in the United States, the Canadian government gave exclusive access of allocation to pandemic-induced federal assistance loans to the Big Five banks, leaving small business lenders relatively out to dry during that time. When asked about what issues he would like to see the new administration tackle first when it comes to alternative lenders, Schwartz mentioned the allocation of this type of money moving forward.

Other institutions outside of big banking in Canada are making strides in their effort to compete. Fintech giant Stripe announced hiring sprees for their new Toronto office last Thursday. Then there’s Nuula, a startup that aims to build a user-centric financial super app, announcing $120M in funding in early September.

To reach its full potential, Canadian fintech companies need the access to more data. The report recognizes the acknowledgement of the necessity this data is to fintech companies. “The scope of Canada’s open banking system in its initial phase should include data that is currently available to consumers and small business through their online banking applications,” it says. “Financial institutions should be allowed to exclude derived data – described as data enhanced by financial institutions to provide additional value to their consumers, such as internal credit risk assessments” the report reads.

“Historically, there hasn’t been very tech friendly or [Big Bank] challenger friendly regulations,” Schwartz said. “This is really the first time we’ve seen the political parties even mention issues of open banking and saying this will be a priority for our next government.”

“This has given the industry a lot of hope,” said Schwartz.