London – Nesta’s Challenge Prize Centre has today announced the twelve fintech businesses who will participate in the final phase of the ‘Open Up Challenge’ – a £2.5m prize fund backing the next generation of financial technology for small businesses.
The Open Up Challenge was announced by Nesta’s Challenge Prize Centre in February 2017. It is part of the Competition & Markets Authority’s package of remedies to shake up the UK retail banking market. It builds on the UK’s pioneering role in implementing open banking to bring greater competition and innovation to the market.
The Challenge led a global search for talented teams building innovative products and services that will help small businesses save time and money, find better services, reduce stress and discover the intelligence in their financial data.
The twelve Finalists, who were selected by an independent judging panel, will each receive a £100k grant, special access to open banking data and support to bring their products to market. Five or six of these Finalists will go on to win a further £200k each at the end of the year.
The list of twelve Finalists includes seven teams from the Challenge’s 2017 cohort, plus five new entrants. Their products and services reflect the breadth of innovation in financial technology for small businesses: personalised comparison services to find the best-value bank accounts and loans; intelligent cashflow management; ‘credit passports’ updated in real time; automated completion of tax returns; ‘trade intelligence’ tools to help UK small businesses to compete internationally; and marketplaces which enable small businesses to plug into additional fintech apps via their bank account.
Chris Gorst, Challenge Prize Lead at Nesta, commented:
“The Open Up Challenge has again been overwhelmed by the range and quality of innovations that fintechs want to bring to small businesses.
“Over the course of the next six months, we are looking for these twelve talented teams to build and take to market solutions that will have the greatest impact on UK small businesses.
“The Open Up Challenge, which forms part of the CMA’s remedies for the Open Banking rollout, is demonstrating that smart regulation plus active engagement with innovators is a powerful combination to make markets work better. There are many other markets – from energy to care to legal services – that could benefit from this strategy.”
Bill Roberts, Head of Open Banking at the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) said:
“We’ve put Open Banking at the heart of the action we’ve taken to shake up retail banking in the UK, remove barriers to competition and innovation, and enable small businesses to take control of their finances.
“A new generation of products and services is now transforming this sector and the Open Up Challenge, led by Nesta, will further encourage innovation and drive improvement for the benefit of small businesses and their customers.”
John Glen, Economic Secretary to the Treasury said:
“I want to congratulate all of the innovative British fintechs that have come this far in the Nesta Open Up Challenge. The UK is leading the way in fintech and the Challenge is yet another great example of our entrepreneurs and regulators coming together to tackle new challenges and revolutionise how people and businesses manage their money.”
The Open Up Challenge is part of a package of reforms to retail banking from the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA). The Challenge is managed by Nesta’s Challenge Prize Centre, which delivers innovation through challenge prizes including the Longitude Prize and the Flying High Challenge.
For more information visit: www.openupchallenge.io
Interviews with Nesta and the participating teams are available on request.
*List of 12 Finalists:
Akoni aim to fundamentally change the way businesses bank. We use the multiple sources of business data and the power of innovation to deliver personalised prompts and products to SMEs. We are born out of the frustrations experienced by our CEO, Felicia Meyerowitz Singh, when she was an SME director managing cash. Akoni believe SMEs should receive the same services, tools and financial products as larger corporates.
We have partnered with Coriolis Technologies as our trade data partner for the Open Up Challenge, headed by Dr Rebecca Harding, author of ‘The Weaponisation of Trade’. Trade data, in addition to our existing partnerships for company and sector data, ratings data, bank partner and product data, allows Akoni to offer SMEs support for Trade solutions as well as existing cash, savings and corporate membership solutions.
Akoni delivers significant value to small and midsize companies, increasing returns and ensuring products are aligned to the different stages of their business growth. Our platform provides personalised solutions using the various open data sources and as part of the challenge, also adding Open Banking data. Akoni is already live in the market and FCA authorised with 10+ established banking relationships. Our new platform will leverage these existing technologies to add a SME Trade Intelligence for business planning, cashflow planning and access to credit products.
The Open Up Challenge comes at a time when there is the perfect storm of market pressures impacting the sector – banks being impacted by ring-fencing and liquidity requirements under Basel III, as well as threats from innovators due to Open Banking. We see this as the first step facing UK businesses, to be followed by global solutions.
Bokio is a proactive assistant for SME companies which automatically takes care of day-to-day administration, invoicing, accounting VAT etc, and helps companies to form better decisions for the future, free of charge. Gone are the days when companies spend lots of time and money on confirming what happened in the past and instead it is now time to look to the future and work proactively to improve the financials of the company. Open banking will finally enable banking, administration and accounting to sit in one place with an automatic and seamless process to constantly stay up to date on the financials of a company. This will enable more accurate prognoses and deeper understanding of the customer need to be able to offer increasingly more relevant services to each individual company.
Bud is the financial network that intelligently connects banks, fintechs and customers together. Our tech makes it easy for banks to collaborate with other service providers to create amazing new experiences for both their existing and new customers.
Bud was set up to help people have a healthier relationship with their finances and there’s no context where this is more important than when it comes to small businesses. These businesses make up the backbone of the British economy. Their founders’ time is immensely valuable – and yet the majority of time spent on financial management is spent on tasks that can, and should be automated. Cashflow management should be much easier than it is, as should access to credit and our tech can play a central role in making this happen. Open Banking can and should make a huge impact on this, helping more young businesses to succeed and become the big businesses of the future.
Businesses who work with an adviser are 4x more likely to receive funding than those without a trusted adviser. “Adviser-led Capital” helps accountants build a strong advisory service-line in their practice through technology and training. As of April 2018, over 1,000 accountants use Capitalise.com to help UK business builders avoid the trap of being left with limited, last minute financial solutions – if any at all. Instead the platform encourages a change of behaviour, by moving to a more considered selection of products, exploring a network of over 100 institutional lenders to find their most appropriate match.
Open Banking has enabled the launch of Capitalise Monitor to help advisers track client portfolios and proactively identify funding needs. Their next product, Capitalise Protect, looks at protecting businesses from the short-term impact of late payments.
Coconut is a current account for freelancers and self-employed people that keeps track of your expenses and how much tax you owe. We help you manage your cashflow with confidence by automating your accounting. With open banking we’ll get a complete picture of your finances, so you save as much money on your tax bill as possible and get access to financial products that are right for you and your business.
Last year we loved working with the Open Up team, the companies supporting them and getting early access to Open Banking data and APIs which really accelerated our understanding of open banking. We’re building on this to develop products that support personal businesses with tax and accounting and we’re really excited.
Credit Data Research is the market leader in credit behavioural analysis, it is active in 5 European countries bringing new scoring solutions for the SMEs and consumer segments. The company is innovating the credit scoring space through its Basel compliant Credit Passport® platform, leveraging credit behavioural data through Open Banking, increasing transparency and competition. Credit Passport® accelerates the capital flowing in the SME and consumer segments, facilitating transparency between small businesses, consumers and potential lenders.
The Open Up Challenge allowed Credit Data Research to really focus on PSD2 innovation for SMEs and other segments. The immediate advantages for SMEs will be quicker and safer access to funding as well as the creation of a stronger financial culture amongst SMEs. Instant lending will become possible for SMEs and new liquidity, through securitisation, will be a reality.
Finpoint is the UK’s trusted business funding platform. We redefine business funding by combining hundreds of finance options with impartial advice in a free online service.
SMEs using our platform prepare one application and publish it anonymously. This saves precious time while allowing SMEs to find finance on a whole of market basis.
Finpoint is regulated by the FCA and we offer free access to over 100 lenders with AI technology matching businesses seeking funding with the best lenders for their circumstances. We check each funder before they can access any SME data on our platform. This means we can feature a high-quality selection of providers. From high street banks, P2P lenders, trade financiers to asset finance specialists.
The Open Up Challenge will help us to introduce new functionality to extend our platform, i.e. a new ‘eligibility checker’ that will require fewer data inputs than those our competitors require, while allowing SMEs or other users to access options anonymously. This strong emphasis on data privacy is informed by positive feedback from users. The new Finpoint ‘one-stop-shop’ will enable its users to compare BCAs, overdrafts and loans in one of three ways:
- ‘fast track’ option for users that want a quick decision,
- a ‘whole of market search’ for users that want the best terms without time constraint,
- ability to find a suitably skilled advisor, for users that are seeking advice.
Fluidly is an Intelligent Cashflow engine – our technology plugs into accounting packages and bank accounts and uses machine learning to predict and optimise business finances. We help SMEs to sleep better at night by providing tools to intelligently manage cashflow.
Cashflow management is the single biggest painpoint for SMEs; 80-90% of small business failure is due to cashflow problems. It’s also time consuming. SMEs spend over 1,300 hours/year chasing late payments.
Fluidly provides automated credit control and cashflow forecasting so that small businesses can get paid more quickly and have more certainty around their cash position. Fluidly saves time for small businesses and allows them to make better financial decisions using a cashflow forecast that is always up to date.
Backed in September 2017 with a £2M seed round from leading investors such as Octopus Ventures, Anthemis and Nyca, Fluidly combines human, financial and artificial intelligence to deliver control, certainty and confidence around cashflow.
Funding Circle is a global small business loans platform, matching small businesses who want to borrow with investors who want to lend in the UK, US, Germany and the Netherlands. Since launching in 2010, investors across Funding Circle’s geographies – including more than 70,000 retail investors, banks, asset management companies, insurance companies, government-backed entities and funds – have lent over £4.5 billion to more than 45,000 businesses globally.
Funding Circle was founded in 2010 in direct response to the decrease in bank lending to small businesses that followed the 2008 financial crisis. Small businesses make up half of the UK’s turnover and half of all employment, yet continue to struggle to access finance through traditional channels. Funding Circle is on a mission to help these successful small businesses to grow and thrive. The platform provides small businesses with fast and flexible financing through a simple online application, allowing businesses in even the most rural locations in the UK to access the funds they need in days rather than months. As a result, 90% of businesses would return to Funding Circle first in the future, rather than a bank or another provider.
Open Banking has the power to create real value for small businesses across the UK. Participating in the Open Up Challenge provides us with the opportunity to demonstrate how Funding Circle can use Open Banking data to help businesses better manage their finances and improve eligibility for finance. Ultimately, these services will support the growth of even more small businesses, which in turn will add huge value to the economy and job creation across the country. In 2017 alone, businesses used their Funding Circle loans to create and sustain 45,000 British jobs, which contributed £2.4 billion to the UK economy (measured in Gross Value Added).
Funding Options is Europe’s leading online marketplace for business finance, each year raising £100m+ in vital finance, for thousands of UK SMEs, from 50+ active lenders. With globally award-winning financial technology (fintech), Funding Options brings consumer-like ease and speed to comparing business loans, and has funded firms in less than an hour. With partners including leading banks and comparison sites, Funding Options is also designated by HM Treasury for the mandatory bank referral scheme.
In its winning entry for Phase 1 of the Open Up Challenge, Funding Options used anonymised Open Banking data to show that once a small business hits its overdraft limit for the first time, there is an 80% chance that this will become a recurring problem. Funding Options then worked with leading UK artificial intelligence (AI) firm Logical Glue to identify signals to predict in advance firms at risk of hitting their overdraft limit. In Phase 2 of the Open Up Challenge, Funding Options will use Open Banking to enable banks and trusted advisors to deliver proactive and personalised finance offers to their SME customers, solving cashflow challenges even before they emerge.
At OpenWrks, we build the technology that makes Open Banking work. Our toolkit makes it easy for SMEs to share their data securely with businesses they trust, so those businesses can deliver better products and services.
The Business Current Account market is broken. SMEs are paying too much for their business banking and the service they receive is not good enough. SMEs need free access to a personalised comparison of all business bank accounts and overdrafts in one place.
OpenWrks is building a free, personalised SME bank account and overdraft comparison tool. For the first time SMEs will be able to get an accurate, independent and real-time comparison of the true cost of business bank accounts so they can find the right product for them.
At OpenWrks we’re obsessed with helping small businesses succeed. So, to make sure our tool is available to the whole SME market, we are going to make the service completely open source. This means companies that help SMEs, from banks to accounting software providers can make it available to their customers for free, to deliver our vision of all SMEs having the best bank account and overdraft tailored to their businesses unique challenges.
OpenWrks are small business experts having already helped 50,000 small businesses find the right finance for their business. We are also at the leading edge of Open Banking technology and will now combine our expertise, using Open Banking APIs to connect to an SMEs bank account to provide them with the true cost of their current BCA based on their own unique usage.
We’ll also help those that decide to switch to a better deal, by using Open Banking to securely passport key information between banks, delivering a fast and painless switching experience so SMEs no longer have to take a leap of faith when changing bank accounts.
Swoop is a one stop money-shop for businesses. We simplify and speed-up access to business loans, grants and equity finance. Swoop has built a simple to use technology platform that enables businesses to apply for multiple sources of funding through one application. Swoop analyses every opportunity on the market across lenders, investors and grant providers to find the best finance for your business in seconds. Once we find you the right options, our experts will manage your application from beginning to end so that you can focus on building your business.
When it comes to funding, most businesses get stuck navigating a highly fragmented market. 60% of businesses spend less than an hour shopping around for finance, 76% are not confident when it comes to their knowledge of finance options outside their bank and 71% have never applied for a grant. Why? It is too complex and time consuming. And that is why we built Swoop.
Using Open Banking data and combining this with accounting and other data sources, Swoop enables businesses to get make the right funding choices in a fast and frictionless way.
U.S. inauguration turns poet Amanda Gorman into best seller
WASHINGTON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – The president’s poet woke up a superstar on Thursday, after a powerful reading at the U.S. inauguration catapulted 22-year-old Amanda Gorman to the top of Amazon’s best-seller list.
Hours after Gorman’s electric performance at the swearing-in of President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, her two books – neither out yet – topped Amazon.com’s sales list.
“I AM ON THE FLOOR MY BOOKS ARE #1 & #2 ON AMAZON AFTER 1 DAY!” Gorman, a Los Angeles resident, wrote on Twitter.
Gorman’s debut poetry collection ‘The Hill We Climb’ won top spot in the online retail giant’s sale charts, closely followed by her upcoming ‘Change Sings: A Children’s Anthem’.
While poetry’s popularity is on the up, it remains a niche market and the overnight adulation clearly caught Gorman short.
“Thank you so much to everyone for supporting me and my words. As Yeats put it: ‘For words alone are certain good: Sing, then’.”
Gorman, the youngest poet in U.S. history to mark the transition of presidential power, offered a hopeful vision for a deeply divided country in Wednesday’s rendition.
“Being American is more than a pride we inherit. It’s the past we step into and how we repair it,” Gorman said on the steps of the U.S. Capitol two weeks after a mob laid siege and following a year of global protests for racial justice.
“We will not march back to what was. We move to what shall be, a country that is bruised, but whole. Benevolent, but bold. Fierce and free.”
The performance stirred instant acclaim, with praise from across the country and political spectrum, from the Republican-backing Lincoln Project to former President Barack Obama.
“Wasn’t @TheAmandaGorman’s poem just stunning? She’s promised to run for president in 2036 and I for one can’t wait,” tweeted former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.
A graduate of Harvard University, Gorman says she overcame a speech impediment in her youth and became the first U.S. National Youth Poet Laureate in 2017.
She has now joined the ranks of august inaugural poets such as Robert Frost and Maya Angelou.
Her social media reach boomed, with her tens of thousands of followers ballooning into a Twitter fan base of a million-plus.
“I have never been prouder to see another young woman rise! Brava Brava, @TheAmandaGorman! Maya Angelou is cheering—and so am I,” tweeted TV host Oprah Winfrey.
Gorman’s books are both due out in September.
Third on Amazon’s best selling list was another picture book linked to politics and projecting hope: ‘Ambitious Girl’ by Vice-President Kamala Harris’ niece, Meena Harris.
(Reporting by Umberto Bacchi @UmbertoBacchi, Editing by Lyndsay Griffiths. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers the lives of people around the world who struggle to live freely or fairly. Visit http://news.trust.org)
Why brands harnessing the power of digital are winning in this evolving business landscape
By Justin Pike, Founder and Chairman, MYPINPAD
Delivery of intuitive, secure, personalised, and frictionless user experiences has long been table stakes in digital commerce, well before the era of COVID-19. As businesses harness the revolutionary power of digital technologies, they have pursued large-scale change to adapt to evolving consumer preferences (some more successfully than others, but that’s a blog for another day). Digital transformation is a term we hear repeatedly, and it looks different for each organisation, but essentially, it’s about utilising technology and data to digitise, automate, innovate and improve processes and the customer experience across the entire business.
As I said, this was already well underway but then came 2020 and no industry escaped the disruption of the coronavirus outbreak, which has had an indelible impact on businesses performance, operations, and revenue. Regardless of whether the impact of COVID has been very positive or very challenging, it has forced organisations globally to re-evaluate and re-orient strategies to adapt.
As lockdowns and pandemic-related restrictions continue to change daily life, this raises the question of how we can balance a dramatic shift to digital and the benefits it brings, while ensuring business continuity and innovation both during and post-COVID, and protecting everyone against fraud?
Digital is an essential survival tool, and even more so in a COVID world
No one could have predicted the dramatic digital pivot that has taken place over this year. Indeed, within weeks of the COVID outbreak cash usage in the UK dropped by around 50%. Digital solutions including delivery applications, contactless payments, mobile commerce, online and mobile banking have become essential components of a touchless customer experience in the era of social distancing. It’s no longer just about an enhanced and superior customer experience, it’s also about health, safety and survival.
In store, businesses have benefited from contactless payments enabling faster throughput and reduced need for consumers to touch payment terminals (therefore requiring greater cleaning, which degrades the hardware much faster). Mastercard reported a 40% increase in contactless payments – including tap-to-pay and mobile pay – during the first quarter of the year as the global pandemic worsened. Digital has also become an essential sales channel for many B2C brands. Where brick and mortar stores have been required to close, digital commerce enables continuity of customer relationships and revenue. This channel also provides brands with rich customer data, which can be used to enhance and personalise the customer experience and typically results in greater levels of engagement and uplifts in revenue.
Industry forecasts estimate that worldwide spending on the technologies and services enabling digital transformation will reach GBP 1.8 trillion in 2023 – a clear indication that the process represents a long-term investment and a global commitment to digital-first strategy. The key point here is that digital brings significant benefits, and regardless of COVID, is here to stay.
The challenges that rapid digital transformation brings to businesses
Regardless of whether businesses are operating in developed or less-developed economies, these times of crisis have levelled the playing field in the sense that all businesses are facing similar issues. Access to products and supplies, maintaining customer relationships, accelerating sales for some and declining sales for others, health and hygiene are just a few of the unique challenges brought about by COVID.
Many businesses in physical environments have had to swiftly implement changes to significantly reduce safety risks for staff and customers, such as contactless payments, mobile ordering and delivery options. But with these changes come a host of other benefits of digitisation, such as faster transactions, and reduced human error at the point-of-sale.
The reliance on technology, however, can also expose organisations and consumers to certain vulnerabilities. In particular, the risks of fraud and cybercrime have dramatically increased since the onset of the pandemic as scammers have taken advantage of digital technologies to target both businesses and individuals.
As a McKinsey report illustrates, new levels of sophistication in the activities of fraudsters have placed more pressure on companies that have been previously slow to go digital, bringing “into sharp relief how vulnerable companies really are”, and damaging the financial health of small and large businesses. In fact, the Bottomline 2020 Business Payments Barometer reveals that only one in 10 small businesses across the UK report recovering more than 50% of losses due to fraud.
But take these stats with a grain of salt. While it is important to be aware of the risks and challenges this new business landscape brings, it’s equally as important to have a lens firmly across your own business, industry and audience, and to identify the changes you can make internally to mitigate risk as well as improve your customer experience. Where can you make some quick wins? Do you have the right skillsets internally to achieve what you need to achieve? What technology is out there that will enable your business goals? There are tech companies like MYPINPAD that are making huge strides in software development, which will transform businesses globally.
A digital world post-COVID
Almost a year in, the line between business success and failure remains fragile. However, an ongoing transition towards greater digitisation will be the difference between survival and the alternative.
There is a wide range of initiatives businesses can implement to weather this storm. If we look at the space MYPINPAD operates within, secure digital consumer authentication is crucial to the ongoing success and security of not only financial products but also identification and verification across a range of different industry verticals. Shifting the authentication of consumers securely onto mobile devices enables businesses to completely reshape their customer experiences. By bringing together a more seamless, frictionless customer experience, accessibility, privacy, security and access to consumer data, businesses are able to drive digital transformation across day-to-day activities.
Against this backdrop, software with stronger security standards continue to play an ever more vital role in supporting society, protecting consumers and businesses from the increase in risks that rapid digitisation brings. Already, merchants can deploy PIN on Mobile technology from companies like MYPINPAD, onto their smart devices to speed up the digitisation process many are now tackling.
Essentially, opening up universal payments and authentication methods that feel familiar, for both online and face-to-face transactions, will be key to opening up a world of possibilities when it comes to redefining how businesses engage with consumers.
Brexit responsible for food supply problems in Northern Ireland, Ireland says
LONDON (Reuters) – Food supply problems in Northern Ireland are due to Brexit because there are now a certain amount of checks on goods going between Britain and Northern Ireland, Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney said.
British ministers have sought to play down the disruption of Brexit in recent days.
“The supermarket shelves were full before Christmas and there are some issues now in terms of supply chains and so that’s clearly a Brexit issue,” Coveney told ITV.
The Northern Irish protocol means there are “a certain amount of checks on goods coming from GB into Northern Ireland and that involves some disruption,” he said.
(Reporting by Guy Faulconbridge; Editing by Tom Hogue)
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