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New Tech to Help 2 Billion People Without Bank Accounts

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New Tech to Help 2 Billion People Without Bank Accounts

FN Media Group Presents SafeHaven.com Market Commentary

LONDON,-For all the talk of an emerging “cashless” society, in much of the world cash is still king. In Mexico, it’s estimated that 65 percent of the adult population is still without a traditional bank account – and 80 percent of all financial transactions are conducted in cash. Yet an upstart company is working to change that. Mentioned in today’s commentary includes: DPW Holdings Inc. (NYSE: DPW), Square Inc. (NYSE: SQ), Teradata Corporation (NYSE: TDC), Advanced Micro Devices Inc (NASDAQ: AMD), Rapid7 Inc (NASDAQ: RPD).

 

QPAGOS (QPAG) has developed a way to offer digital payment services to as many as 2 billion “unbanked” consumers worldwide. By installing self-serve payment kiosks in easily accessible locations, QPAGOS helps people without bank accounts pay bills electronically, transfer money to relatives and friends, and access digital services once cut off to them.

It’s a brand-new industry in many places – and business is exploding. QPAGOS reported a 58 percent increase in revenue in the first quarter of 2018 – and is now expanding to an initial target market estimated at 400 million people.

Not surprisingly, QPAGOS’s stock has also soared in recent months, up more than 100 percent in value since late January 2018. Plus, there are reasons to believe that QPAGOS’s recent revenue growth will persist – and that QPAGOS’s stock could continue to rise in value in the months ahead.

Advanced technology: The key to QPAGOS’s (QPAG) growth lies in its simple yet sophisticated self-service kiosks and secure digital payment technologies. The digital banking kiosks are like ATM machines on steroids, allowing “unbanked” consumers who normally use cash to pay bills electronically and transmit payments to remote locations.

In addition to the kiosks, the company also provides payment solutions via mobile phones.

That’s important because, according to estimates from the World Bank, half of the world’s 2 billion unbanked consumers have cell phones – and thus could potentially access QPAGOS’s “Monedero” electronic wallet app.

The app lets users without bank accounts pay for products and services with their phones, and the same technology gives small businesses the ability to accept payments in remote locations without expensive merchant card terminals.

Strategic partnerships: To achieve its ambitious goals, QPAGOS (QPAG) is working with some of the world’s largest companies, including AT&T, XBox, Dish, Apple, Virgin Mobile, Nextel and 150 others.

These companies are able to use QPAGOS’s digital banking platforms to gain access to millions of cash-paying customers who might not normally avail themselves of digital services. Consumers, for their part, can use QPAGOS kiosks to pay in cash for services such as cell phones, utility bills and even digital movies.

Huge revenue potential: The fees that digital banking generates are legendary. Although the individual charges can be relatively small, the large number of transactions creates a revenue stream that is a virtual tsunami of cash. Since it started in 2014, QPAGOS has seen its revenue soar from $1.1 million in 2015 to $3.9 million at the end of last year.

Plus, in addition to the traditional fees that QPAGOS collects – payment processing fees, service provider commissions, advertising fees and kiosks sales and rentals – QPAGOS is also now targeting the enormous “remittances” market in North America.

Each year, foreign workers in North America transmit an estimated $60 billion to relatives back in their home countries, often using expensive and inconvenient storefront locations, such as 7-11 or Western Union, to do so. With its easy-to-use self-serve kiosks, QPAGOS hopes to siphon off a large portion of this $60 billion cash payment stream.

Virtually unlimited market: At the moment, QPAGOS (QPAG) has consolidated its position in emerging market countries in Latin America where an estimated 80 percent of the adult population still uses cash alone to pay its bills. For QPAGOS, this represents a market of 320 million unbanked consumers in countries such as Brazil, Chile, Columbia, Peru and Mexico.

In Mexico alone, QPAGOS has already placed 700 kiosks and is targeting there an untapped market of 36 million unbanked consumers with the potential of 320 million payments per month at 214,000 possible locations, such as supermarkets, pharmacies and mom and pop stores. And beyond the emerging markets in Latin America, QPAGOS also aims to expand into the U.S. and beyond.

Its initial goal is to establish 1,000 kiosks in the U.S., primarily in California, and then to expand quickly to 10,000 kiosks. If the company can assist foreign workers with just 1 percent of their $60 billion electronic transactions, that represents payments of some $600 million.

Plus, the U.S. is just the beginning. As noted earlier, the World Bank estimates there are currently 2 billion adults around the world without access to formal financial services. QPAGOS could potentially service -billions of electronic payments per month. It could easily end up being the PayPal of the unbanked world.

Limited competition: What makes QPAGOS (QPAG) a potentially exciting opportunity is the relative lack of competition in the unbanked market. While those with access to regular bank accounts can avail themselves of a wide variety of electronic payment systems, such as Venmo, Apple Pay and PayPal, the unbanked have limited choices.

QPAGOS stands virtually alone in aiming to introduce the 2 billion unbanked consumers around the world to the entire digital electronic “ecosystem” – one that includes cell phone “wallets,” cellular advertising, point of sale payments, bill paying and more. In Mexico, there is currently no comparable technology and QPAGOS has a virtual monopoly on the electronic payment market among the unbanked.

Experienced management team: In addition, QPAGOS’s (QPAG) management team has unique experience in both the Latin American market as well as in the financial services, IT, telecom, and digital payment industries. The broad international resources available to the management team give QPAGOS a foundation for rapid expansion across multiple markets.

The CEO, Gaston Pereira, is a seasoned financial executive whose experience includes serving as CEO of IUSATEL Chile, MARCATEL Mexico and as vice president and country manager for Citibank. Chief of Operations Andrey Novikov served as vice president for business development at a large Russian electronic payments company, Qiwi. And the Independent director James Fuller served as Chairman of the Board of the Pacific Research Institute, Senior Vice President of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) and past president of both the Bull and Bear Group and Morgan Fuller Capital Group.

Undiscovered windfall: Right now, QPAGOS is a relatively small, brand-new company. Yet already its stock has shot up 114 percent just in the past few months as word of its unique position in the self-serve payment market spreads.
At the moment QPAGOS is generating annual revenue of approximately $4 million with just 700 of its self-serve, touch-screen kiosks operational. If it adds an additional 3,000 kiosks per year, it’s possible that QPAGOS could hit $35 million in sales in just 24 months.

Best of all for investors, QPAGOS is currently flying below Wall Street’s radar. Yet that could change overnight – especially as QPAGOS strikes new deals with such giant e-commerce companies as Virgin Mobile, Movistar, Telcel and others.

It’s possible that QPAGOS (QPAG) might eventually be seen as the “PayPal of the emerging market.”

Other companies to watch as financial technology takes off:

DPW Holdings Inc. (NYSE:DPW) is a holding company focusing on the acquisition of disruptive tech within a number of industries. From aerospace to cryptocurrency mining, DPW identifies and incubates undervalued assets with the possibility of significant growth in the future. The company’s devotion to innovation cannot be ignored, and as the fintech revolution takes off, DPW is sure to jump in head first.

DPW’s sharp eye for emerging technology and dedication to shareholders make it a likely choice for investors, and as the tech boom accelerates, the company is unlikely to disappoint.

Square Inc. (NYSE:SQ): Its genesis was all about smartphone plug-ins (hardware) targeting food truck vendors and other small businesses that needed an easier way to accept credit cards, or face losing major business. They filled a niche that did not exist but needed to…and quickly. Since then, the company has started targeting much larger businesses with an array of services and software-all geared toward merchant convenience, which translates into bigger revenues for all parties.

Teradata Corporation (NYSE:TDC): Providing other data platform solutions, Teradata Corporation specializes in analytic data platforms, analytic applications, and related services. The services are used around the world and its offerings include analytic solutions, ecosystem architecture consulting and hybrid cloud solutions.

Teradata Corporation may be flying under some investors’ radar, for the moment, but with the rapid growth of the fintech industry, the opportunity to get in cheap won’t last for much longer.

Advanced Micro Devices Inc (NASDAQ:AMD) is Nvidia’s biggest competitor. The company has developed a cult following among gamers, leading to many a Reddit debate. AMD’s groundbreaking technology not only rivals that of Nvidia, some even argue that it outperforms it. As the two square off, one of the key areas to keep an eye on is in the GPU race. Widely purchased across the world as Bitcoin frenzy heats up, AMD is making a particularly hard push toward conquering that emerging demand.

While Nvidia has a significantly higher market cap (and stock price), AMD provides investors a much cheaper entrance into the gaming market. Those looking to get into tech industry stocks, mine Bitcoin, or play their favorite game on the highest quality are definitely not ignoring AMD.

Rapid7 Inc (NASDAQ:RPD) is a huge player in security and information technologies. The company’s special, analytics-driven approach to cybersecurity and IT operations give it an incredible advantage over its competitors. The company’s in-depth knowledge of the threats facing businesses’ physical, virtual, and cloud-based assets allow for high quality service which puts Rapid7, Inc ahead in the field.

As the threat of cyber-attack becomes more and more apparent, investors are realizing the value of cybersecurity firms, making them some of the hottest stocks on the market.

By. Ian Jenkins

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Digital collaboration: Shaping the Future of Finance

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Digital collaboration: Shaping the Future of Finance 1

By Ryan Lester, Senior Director of Customer Experience Technologies at LogMeIn

With heightened economic uncertainty and increased customer expectation becoming the norm in the banking industry, it is understandable that the sector is struggling to keep afloat. Due to its precarious nature, banking institutions are trying their best to ensure they remain relevant in the competitive landscape and guarantee that their customers continue to be a priority.

When it comes to the first half of this year, the pandemic has shown how easy it is for industries to fail. Customers and companies alike had to get used to the new normal, as physical locations started to close. The banking industry felt this first hand, as banks were made to restructure how their business ran, with restricted opening hours and a wider push to motivate people to use online banking.

While some had already embraced digital options prior to the pandemic, this proved to be a stark contrast to the elderly population, who frequently visited branches to access their finances. Moving forward, banks have to adopt new methods to ensure customers get the most out of our their accounts, without their experience suffering.

Heightened Customer Expectations

When the pandemic reached its peak, people were encouraged to use online banking, as telephone contact was under strain with long waiting times and pressure mounting on contact centre agents. According to Fidelity National Information Services (FIS), which works with 50 of the world’s largest banks, there was a 200% jump in new mobile banking registrations in early April, while mobile banking traffic rose 85%.

With branches remaining closed, customers were continuously being urged to limit the amount of calls they made to the most urgent cases and consider whether they could solve their answers through mobile online banking or checking the company website. Although already being adopted in pockets of the industry, this was a real catalyst that spurred banks to up their game on digital channels and with self-service tools.

Banks are challenged with precariously balancing customer needs with the cost of personalised support. With the demographic of customers changing over the last few years, customers are becoming increasingly younger and more comfortable with technology. Influenced by the “Amazon Effect”, their expectations have raised to an all-time high, placing record strain on the sector

Customer experience isn’t just about support anymore, it’s about serving your customer at every point in the journey. Companies have an opportunity to elevate the experience they provide by moving beyond one-and-done interactions to create continuous engagements with their customers. It is starting to become a primary competitive differentiator in the market and one that doesn’t have a lot of variation. Deploying AI chatbot technology will be able to strategically help banks improve customer experience and raise the level of support that agents provide.

Digital collaboration: Working around the Clock

The benefits of adopting digital channels and self-service tools are second to none. By implementing chatbots, fuelled by conversational AI, banks will be able to help serve a wide range of customer queries and ensure they are protected from fraud and scams.

Ryan Lester

Ryan Lester

Conversational AI is exactly what it sounds like: a computer programme that engages in a conversation with a human. When it comes to service delivery, conversational AI can be deployed across multiple channels to engage with customers in ways that effectively address evolving customer needs. At a time defined by COVID-19, self-service tools such a conversational chatbots can work around the clock to solve customer queries in a concise and timely way. Of course, self-service tools won’t completely replace human agents in the banking industry, but they will help companies re-distribute customer traffic and workflows in ways that enhance customer experience. Self-service tools fuelled by conversational AI can also improve employee experience because service employees can handle fewer, but higher-level service tasks that chatbots might escalate to them.

Adopting new tools to help facilitate consistent and concise answers and help maintain customer experience is on the forefront of many industry minds. Banks such as the Natwest Group have seen this first-hand and are testament to the benefits that a good digital experience can provide. Simon Johnson, Capability Consultant, Digital at NatWest Group highlights NatWest’s use of digital tools during lockdown, “Over the last few months, we’ve learnt how to use digital tools to help our employees remotely. From a banking perspective, there have been a lot of changes including base rates, waive fees and the best ways of contacting our vulnerable customers, ensuring we keep them protected from frauds and scams.

“By introducing our Bold360 chatbot interface, Ella, we’ve been able to get relevant information out quickly, apply the best practice and ensure that our customer journeys are being developed correctly. Due to the volume of questions, some of our customers were finding themselves waiting longer than usual. So digital channels become essential to helping reduce the wait time. Using Bold360, we were able to mitigate issues and answer questions in a more timely way through our chatbot.

“Moving forward, as we open more digital services, we are analysing our data to see if customer will return back to their usual way of banking, now that they’ve seen what a good digital experience can provide. Either way, with Ella, we are ready.”

Chatbots and Humans: The Best Option for Customer Service

Over the last year, banking institutions have recognised the power that digital collaboration can have to their success. Delivering exceptional customer service and support is key for any business wanting to stay competitive in today’s market and banks are especially challenged with precariously balancing customer needs with the cost of personalised support. Leveraging the right technology, such as AI-powered chatbots, will enable the banking industry to provide better support and a more robust customer experience in the long term. Other institutions must follow suit, or risk becoming obsolete.

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A sleeping digital giant wakes? 4 key trends accelerating payments transformation in the US

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A sleeping digital giant wakes? 4 key trends accelerating payments transformation in the US 2

By Lauren Jones, International Payments Ambassador, Icon Solutions

The US payments industry is undoubtedly ripe for change. Before the unprecedented shock of COVID-19, digitization and payments transformation initiatives had been organic, piecemeal and predominately the preserve of the largest banks.

Now, increasing pressure means that financial institutions of all sizes are working to define a digital strategy to unlock new opportunities, drive business value, and stay competitive. But beyond the immediate impact of COVID, what underlying trends are accelerating digitization in the US?

  1. Real-time payments – the stimulus for change  

Real-time payments have been met with a degree of caution by US financial institutions. Risking traditional profit generators in return for potential revenues down the line is a gamble many have not been willing to take. But immediate payments are coming to the US whether banks like it or not.

Major payments infrastructure providers, including NACHA and The Clearing House (TCH), have moved to encourage immediate payment adoption in recent years. But the Fed, frustrated with a slow rate of progress, has announced that it is pressing ahead with the implementation of its FedNow system (despite significant industry objection). Although the Fed’s true intentions are open to interpretation and this may just be a play to accelerate private initiatives, it is a clear signal that they mean business.

This means holdouts risk their own ‘Kodak’ moment if they miss the huge opportunities in front of them by fixating on traditional revenue streams. Banks are in a position to support innovation across entire industries such as healthcare, which could be released from the constraints of paper-based bureaucracy and slow, expensive transactions.

Another opportunity that can be unlocked via instant payments is ISO 20022 (used in the TCH RTP system). It is the future of payments messaging standards and can greatly enhance various payments processes through increased data-carrying capabilities. More importantly given the current climate, citizens reliant on federal or state support can benefit from RTPs combined with additional data to immediately access emergency funds.

  1. The kids are growing up

The US is getting older. Consumers who were 10 when the iPhone first launched are now 23. This means we are seeing a ramp-up of digitally native Gen Z consumers (roughly those born between 1995 and 2010) accessing banking services.

Demographics are an inexact science and not perfect predictors (there are technophobe college students and 100-year-old Instagram influencers), but we can detect noticeable trends.

Younger customers don’t usually choose a bank because there is an ATM in their neighbourhood, a slightly better interest rate or an advert in the newspaper. Rather, a strong digital presence, personalised tools, rewards and experiences, and the trusted recommendations of friends and family, will have a more significant impact on customer acquisition.

Banks must look at the effect this will have on their longer-term digitalization strategy and be able to segment what this emerging customer base might want and how they will interact in years to come.

  1. Checkmate? Evolving corporate requirements

    Lauren Jones

    Lauren Jones

Corporate treasurers are people and their experience of seamless, immediate payments in their personal lives shapes expectations in the workplace. Although check usage for business-to-business (B2B) transactions is still the norm in the US and barriers remain, corporates are increasingly demanding the ability to transact in a real-time, omnichannel environment, 24×7.

The benefits are clear. Corporate treasurers stand to enjoy enhanced liquidity management and transparency, greater control over payments and enhanced data for reconciliation purposes. And for consumers, alternative digital payment options such as buy now pay later promote choice and flexibility.

  1. Increasing competition

A significant consequence of emerging consumer and business demand for digital offerings is the increase in competition from fintechs, technology giants and other third-parties. Traditionally, incumbent banks have enjoyed the advantage of consumer trust to offset more limited innovation. But as consumers become more comfortable entrusting their financial transactions to non-banks, banks must differentiate and digitize to remain competitive.

Data is where the technology giants excel, and their ability to personalise experiences and emotionally connect with their users is unprecedented. Banks need to learn from the positive aspects of this model to better understand their users and deliver meaningful, useful products and services.

For data to become the cornerstone of a banks’ customer relationship and take services to the next level, breaking the channel silos and extracting value from a comprehensive dataset will be decisive. But with only 18% of banks reporting that they are in the process of shifting from a transactional revenue model to a data-driven revenue model, this work has some way to go.

Taking customer propositions to the next level

Customers now expect services that work for them, not their banks. All banks, no matter the footprint, need to move quickly to offer a broad digital service platform that adds value to both the customer and the bank.

By defining a robust payments transformation strategy, banks of all sizes can remain fiercely competitive by rapidly lowering costs, unlocking revenues and promoting innovation

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Return to Work Doesn’t Mean Business as Usual When it Comes to Travel and Expense

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Return to Work Doesn’t Mean Business as Usual When it Comes to Travel and Expense 3

By Rob Harrison, MD UK & Ireland, SAP Concur

The last few months have been an exercise in adaptability for businesses across the UK. With the sudden mandate to work from home, company processes that were ingrained in employees’ day-to-day routines were either put on hold or turned upside down. The new office normal now includes virtual meetings, conversing through instant messaging instead of in the hallway, and the redefining of “business casual” attire.

Many of the processes that have undergone changes fall into the category of travel and expense. With most business travel on hold and the nature of expenses changing, finance managers have had to adjust policies and practices to accommodate the new world of work. Recent SAP Concur research found that 72% of businesses have seen changes in the levels and types of expenses submitted, but only 24% have changed their policies to support this. Examples of travel and expense related changes that were made at the beginning of work from home mandates include:

  • A halt to business travel and its associated expenses.
  • Temporarily ending expensed meals for business lunches, dinners, or in-office meetings.
  • Increase in office expenses like monitors and chairs as employees furnish their home offices.
  • New expenses to consider like Internet and cell phone bills for employees who must work from home.

Now, as companies begin thinking about return to work plans, finance managers are discovering it’s not simply business as usual again. SAP Concur research found that many expect finance will return to normal quicker than general workplace practices, but vast majority see the process taking up to 12 months. New policies and processes need to be put in place to accommodate travel restrictions and changes in expenses. While finance managers need to stay flexible as the business environment continues to evolve, spend control and compliance should still be a high priority.

Here are a few questions that can help finance managers prepare for return to work while keeping control and compliance top of mind:

  • What will travel look like for the company? Finance managers must work with travel and HR counterparts to determine the need for employee travel, if at all, and how to keep employees safe. At SAP Concur, we surveyed 500 UK business travellers and found that health and safety is now seen as more than twice as important than their business goals being met on trips (34% versus 16%. Clear guidelines should be developed, even if they are temporary or evolving, so it’s clear who can travel, when they can travel, and how they can travel. Duty of care plans should also be re-evaluated and businesses should ensure they know at all times where employees are traveling for business and how they can communicate with them in the event of an emergency.
  • Who needs to approve travel and expenses? While it may be temporary, businesses may have to implement a more stringent approval policy for travel and other expenses. Due to health concerns related to travel and the need to conserve cash flow, business leaders like CFOs may want to have final approval over all travel and expenses until the situation stabilises. To help ensure new approval processes don’t cause delays and inefficiencies, finance managers should implement an automated solution that streamlines the process and allows business leaders to review and approve travel requests, expenses, and invoices right from their phones. According to SAP Concur research, 11% of UK businesses implemented some automation of financial processes in response to COVID-19. This is definitely set to increase post-pandemic.
  • Rob Harrison

    Rob Harrison

    What types of expenses are within policy? Prior to social distancing, employees may have been allowed to take clients out to dinner. In-person team meetings held during the lunch hour, may have included expensed lunches. As employees return to work, finance managers need to determine if these activities and expenses will be allowed again. Clear guidelines must be put in place and expense policies need to be updated to reflect any changes.

  • What happens to home office items that were purchased? While new office equipment may have been purchased for employees’ home offices, they remain the business’s property and what to do with them as employees return to work needs to be determined. Perhaps employees will continue to work from home a few days a week and need to keep the equipment to ensure productivity. However, if a full return to work is expected, finance managers have options that can maximise their asset investment and possibly save the company money, like replacing old office equipment with the new purchases, reselling to a used office furniture company, or donating to a non-profit.
  • How can cost control be ensured? For many businesses, cash flow will be tight for the foreseeable future. Spend needs to be managed to help ensure recovery and stability. An important aspect of controlling costs is having full visibility of expenses throughout the company. Implementing an automated spend management solution that integrates expense and invoice management brings together a business’s spend, giving finance managers an understanding of where they can save, where to renegotiate, and where to redirect budgets based on plans and priorities.

Once finance managers have asked themselves the questions above and determined how they want to approach travel and expense procedures, it’s vital they create guidelines and communicate clearly to employees. Compliance can only be ensured if employees have a clear understanding of what has and has not changed with travel and expense policies and what’s expected as they return to work.

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