David Freuden is blockchain advisor to IIB Council of Blockchain Professionals and XinFin
Job creation is the fuel for economic growth in both advanced and emerging economies. Because of this, I am a massive fan of technology that creates and leverages opportunities that result in immediate and sustainable job creation, as well as economic development.
The two sectors that create the largest significant employment and sustainable economic impact are:
- Critical infrastructure projects
- Nano, Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (NMSME)
These sectors require financing of all magnitudes in order to thrive. Access to appropriate funding is the major challenge experienced for both these sectors.
“It is forecast that $94 Trillion needs to be invested in global infrastructure projects by 2040”
TradeFinex provides a solution for these financing needs. By using a hybrid blockchain, TradeFinex is creating a global trade and financing marketplace that enables both Infrastructure
Projects and NMSME’s to:
- Globally crowdsource investments — with more competitive rates than what may be available locally
- Reduce cost of financing by using fewer intermediaries
- Increases automation and auditability with Hybrid Blockchain smart contracts
- Increase speed transactions — with practically zero remittance fees
TradeFinex global trade and finance marketplace services three interconnected participants: Beneficiaries; Suppliers and Investors.
Let’s look at these three participants in more detail.
There are two major beneficiaries in TradeFinex marketplace, and they are also the largest drivers of employment and sustainable economic growth:
The role of infrastructure is to provide essential services with long lifespans to communities and industry. Critical infrastructure projects include water, health, education, transportation networks, energy, wastewater-treatment plants to name a few. Infrastructure projects are central to sustainable and growing economic development and also provide immediate and significant employment.
Infrastructure projects, by their nature, involve significant long-term investment — ranging from multi-million-dollar solar power plants, to billion-dollar budgets for airports, roads and other major projects.
Governments are the largest beneficiary that seek investment of infrastructure projects. Chris Heathcote forecasts that global infrastructure investment will require $94 trillion by 2040 — which can be found in his article published by The World Bank “Forecasting infrastructure investment needs for 50 countries, 7 sectors through to 2040”.
One of the greatest challenges in solving this need for global infrastructure investment is access to global finance on acceptable terms and with transparency.
Nano, Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (NMSME)
NMSME represents the largest employers and contributors to job creation in every economy in the world.
Access to funding for NMSME’s continues to be complex, expensive and difficult. The quantum of obstacles to funding increase significantly when enterprises are located outside of the developed world and highly urbanised cities.
TradeFinex provides NMSME with a global marketplace to increase access to funding with transparency and for all parties.
Suppliers are the companies that provide the products and services to the beneficiaries. In some instances, the supplier may also be sourcing investment directly, or in collaboration with beneficiary. In many countries it is common practice for suppliers to seek co-financing for the development and management of infrastructure projects.
Global infrastructure and NMSME investment opportunities are sought from Governments, Sovereign Funds, Private Equity, Venture Capital, Financial Institutions, etc. They wish to have access to a broader range of global investment opportunities with more transparency, less intermediaries, and lower investment/transaction-related costs.
To demonstrate how TradeFinex would be used to crowdsource finance for a solar power plant and integrating IoT to enable smart contracts you can view this short video here.
Why Hybrid Blockchain is the backbone for TradeFinex
Participants that are invited to join TradeFinex have permissioned-access to review infrastructure projects and NMSME commercial opportunities on a hybrid blockchain — protected by enterprise-grade security and smart contracts to help facilitate transactions.
XinFin’s Hybrid Blockchain offers the benefits of both a private blockchain and public blockchain. It is built on Ethereum and, a fork of Quorum. Quorum is an enterprise-focused version of Ethereum developed by J.P. Morgan.
The private blockchain offers participants an invitation-only/permissioned environment with data-security, privacy, higher transaction speeds with the ability to host multiple private sub-networks within the network.
The public blockchain provides a decentralised verification of transactions providing transparency, immutability and a trustless environment. Additionally, in approved jurisdictions, cross-border settlements can be made using XinFin’s underlying XDC tokens.
Smart contracts will enable XinFin Hybrid Blockchain to be interoperable with other public chains. This is important to provide a transparent and immutable payment mechanism on TradeFinex.
For more information XinFin Hybrid Blockchain, check out Hybrid Blockchain — the best of both chains.
Transparency is the Future
XinFin Hybrid blockchain enables private, transparent fund allocation and expenditure. This transparency offers significant economic benefit to all parties.
Like trust, transparency should be prerequisite to good business practice, and it is becoming a bigger trend every year. . Currently, transparency is a competitive advantage in the world of business simply because transparency allows companies to build a higher degree of trust with the public eye. Blockchain is pushing this degree even higher.
In an article published by Enrique Aldaz-Carrol on The World Bank website found that using cryptocurrencies and blockchain for tracking infrastructure projects would save up to $2 trillion annually, or 2% of global GDP.
“If a government decides to construct a road, it can now track how each dollar is being spent, identify all the users of the funds, and ensure that only those authorized to spend money do so on originally intended expenses within the permitted time. Fraud and corruption investigations that now take on average 15 months could be performed at the touch of a button and at a fraction of the cost. More importantly, this type of financial tracking would be a deterrent for bribes in the public sector, which amount to between $1.5 trillion and $2 trillion annually, roughly 2 percent of global GDP. This in turn would increase development impact. All it would take is adopting a cryptocurrency and using blockchain software.”
Partnerships & Pilots
Partnerships and pilots are the lifeblood of all technology projects and blockchain is no exception. Pilots provide all parties with a real use case and all the learnings that come with it.
Pilots usually take two forms:
- Replacing existing processes and relationships with the objective of providing more transparency, remove unnecessary intermediaries and reduce related costs
- Create new commercial opportunities
One of the most significant benefits of a partnership is that it allows blockchain projects the opportunity to run multiple pilots, for multiple use cases — with the overall objective of having that partner either become a supplier, a customer, or provide access to customers.
TradeFinex has partnered with several key industry leaders that provide access to their members to pilot and participate. In regard to TradeFinex, there are two partners in particular worth noting are OMFIF, and ASSOCHAM
In May 2018, XinFin became the official technology partner of the Official Monetary and Financial Institutions Forum (OMFIF).
OMFIF is a global think tank for central banking, economic policy and public investment relating to central banks, sovereign funds, pension funds, regulators and treasuries, also known as Global Public Investors (GPI), with investable assets of $33.8 trillion.
Their 750 GPI are currently reviewing TradeFinex as both a resource to identify and assess global infrastructure investment opportunities, as well as a mechanism to provide transparency around the expenditure of their investments.
In early 2018, TradeFinex was launched at the 2nd Global Summit on P2P Digital Asset System Summit in Delhi, India. Here they announced their partnership with India’s largest trade organization, ASSOCHAM.
This partnership provides ASSOCHAM’s 450,000 members access to the TradeFinex platform. Currently, several of their members are piloting TradeFinex.
TradeFinex = Jobs + Economic Development
In the four months since XinFin concluded their ICO, XinFin have successfully launched TradeFinex in beta and established representation across APAC, North America, South America, Europe and Africa.
The XinFin team is in discussions with all participant groups to onboard them to TradeFinex, and are expected to launch live TradeFinex platform with global case-studies in the September/October 2018.
It is important to note that infrastructure projects in particular, where governments are the beneficiaries, are complex projects. Therefore, they take longer to secure approvals before being announced to the public.
The Psychology Behind a Strong Security Culture in the Financial Sector
By Javvad Malik, Security Awareness Advocate at KnowBe4
Banks and financial industries are quite literally where the money is, positioning them as prominent targets for cybercriminals worldwide. Unfortunately, regardless of investments made in the latest technologies, the Achilles heel of these institutions is their employees. Often times, a human blunder is found to be a contributing factor of a security breach, if not the direct source. Indeed, in the 2020 Verizon Data Breach Investigations Report, miscellaneous errors were found vying closely with web application attacks for the top cause of breaches affecting the financial and insurance sector. A secretary may forward an email to the wrong recipient or a system administrator may misconfigure firewall settings. Perhaps, a user clicks on a malicious link. Whatever the case, the outcome is equally dire.
Having grown acutely aware of the role that people play in cybersecurity, business leaders are scrambling to establish a strong security culture within their own organisations. In fact, for many leaders across the globe, realising a strong security culture is of increasing importance, not solely for fear of a breach, but as fundamental to the overall success of their organisations – be it to create customer trust or enhance brand value. Yet, the term lacks a universal definition, and its interpretation varies depending on the individual. In one survey of 1,161 IT decision makers, 758 unique definitions were offered, falling into five distinct categories. While all important, these categories taken apart only feature one aspect of the wider notion of security culture.
With an incomplete understanding of the term, many organisations find themselves inadvertently overconfident in their actual capabilities to fend off cyberthreats. This speaks to the importance of building a single, clear and common definition from which organisations can learn from one another, benchmark their standing and construct a comprehensive security programme.
Defining Security Culture: The Seven Dimensions
In an effort to measure security culture through an objective, scientific method, the term can be broken down into seven key dimensions:
- Attitudes: Formed over time and through experiences, attitudes are learned opinions reflecting the preferences an individual has in favour or against security protocols and issues.
- Behaviours: The physical actions and decisions that employees make which impact the security of an organisation.
- Cognition: The understanding, knowledge and awareness of security threats and issues.
- Communication: Channels adopted to share relevant security-related information in a timely manner, while encouraging and supporting employees as they tackle security issues.
- Compliance: Written security policies and the extent that employees adhere to them.
- Norms: Unwritten rules of conduct in an organisation.
- Responsibilities: The extent to which employees recognise their role in sustaining or endangering their company’s security.
All of these dimensions are inextricably interlinked; should one falter so too would the others.
The Bearing of Banks and Financial Institutions
Collecting data from over 120,000 employees in 1,107 organisations across 24 countries, KnowBe4’s ‘Security Culture Report 2020’ found that the banking and financial sectors were among the best performers on the security culture front, with a score of 76 out of a 100. This comes as no surprise seeing as they manage highly confidential data and have thus adopted a long tradition of risk management as well as extensive regulatory oversight.
Indeed, the security culture posture is reflected in the sector’s well-oiled communication channels. As cyberthreats constantly and rapidly evolve, it is crucial that effective communication processes are implemented. This allows employees to receive accurate and relevant information with ease; having an impact on the organisation’s ability to prevent as well as respond to a security breach. In IBM’s 2020 Cost of a Data Breach study, the average reported response time to detect a data breach is 207 days with an additional 73 days to resolve the situation. This is in comparison to the financial industry’s 177 and 56 days.
Moreover, with better communication follows better attitude – both banking and financial services scored 80 and 79 in this department, respectively. Good communication is integral to facilitating collaboration between departments and offering a reminder that security is not achieved solely within the IT department; rather, it is a team effort. It is also a means of boosting morale and inspiring greater employee engagement. As earlier mentioned, attitudes are evaluations, or learned opinions. Therefore, by keeping employees informed as well as motivated, they are more likely to view security best practices favourably, adopting them voluntarily.
Predictably, the industry ticks the box on compliance as well. The hefty fines issued by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) in the past year alone, including Capital One’s $80 million penalty, probably play a part in keeping financial institutions on their toes.
Nevertheless, there continues to be room for improvement. As it stands, the overall score of 76 is within the ‘moderate’ classification, falling a long way short of the desired 90-100 range. So, what needs fixing?
Towards Achieving Excellence
There is often the misconception that banks and financial institutions are well-versed in security-related information due to their extensive exposure to the cyber domain. However, as the cognition score demonstrates, this is not the case – dawdling in the low 70s. This illustrates an urgent need for improved security awareness programmes within the sector. More importantly, employees should be trained to understand how this knowledge is applied. This can be achieved through practical exercises such as simulated phishing, for example. In addition, training should be tailored to the learning styles as well as the needs of each individual. In other words, a bank clerk would need a completely different curriculum to IT staff working on the backend of servers.
By building on cognition, financial institutions can instigate a sense of responsibility among employees as they begin to recognise the impact that their behaviour might have on the company. In cybersecurity, success is achieved when breaches are avoided. In a way, this negative result removes the incentive that typically keeps employees engaged with an outcome. Training methods need to take this into consideration.
Then there are norms and behaviours, found to have strong correlations with one another. Norms are the compass from which individuals refer to when making decisions and negotiating everyday activities. The key is recognising that norms have two facets, one social and the other personal. The former is informed by social interactions, while the latter is grounded in the individual’s values. For instance, an accountant may connect to the VPN when working outside of the office to avoid disciplinary measures, as opposed to believing it is the right thing to do. Organisations should aim to internalise norms to generate consistent adherence to best practices irrespective of any immediate external pressures. When these norms improve, behavioural changes will reform in tandem.
Building a robust security culture is no easy task. However, the unrelenting efforts of cybercriminals to infiltrate our systems obliges us to press on. While financial institutions are leading the way for other industries, much still needs to be done. Fortunately, every step counts -every improvement made in one dimension has a domino effect in others.
Has lockdown marked the end of cash as we know it?
By James Booth, VP of Payment Partnerships EMEA, PPRO
Since the start of the pandemic, businesses around the world have drastically changed their operations to protect employees and customers. One significant shift has been the discouragement of the use of cash in favour of digital and contactless payment methods. On the surface, moving away from cash seems like the safe, obvious thing to do to curb the spread of the virus. But, the idea of being propelled towards an innovative, digital-first, cashless society is also compelling.
Has cashless gone viral?
Recent months have forced the world online, leading to a surge in e-commerce with UK online sales seeing a rise of 168% in May and steady growth ever since. In fact, PPRO’s transaction engine, has seen online purchases across the globe increase dramatically in 2020: purchases of women’s clothing are up 311%, food and beverage by 285%, and healthcare and cosmetics by 160%.
Alongside a shift to online shopping, a recent report revealed 7.4 million in the UK are now living an almost cashless life – claiming changing payment habits has left Britons better prepared for life in lockdown. In fact, according to recent research from PPRO, 45% of UK consumers think cash will be a thing of the past in just five years. And this UK figure reflects a global trend. For example, 46% of Americans have turned to cashless payments in the wake of COVID-19. And in Italy, the volume of cashless transactions has skyrocketed by more than 80%.
More choice than ever before
Whilst the pandemic and restrictions surrounding cash have certainly accelerated the UK towards a cashless society, the proliferation of local payment methods (LPMs) in the UK, such as PayPal, Klarna and digital wallets, have also been a key driver. Today, 31% of UK consumers report they are confident using mobile wallets, such as Apple Pay. Those in Generation Z are particularly keen, with 68% expressing confidence using them.
As LPM usage continues to accelerate, the use of credit and debit cards are likely to decline in the coming years. Whilst older generations show an affinity with plastic, younger consumers feel less secure around its usage. 96% of Baby Boomers and Generation X confirmed they feel confident using credit/debit cards, compared to just 75% of Generation Z.
Does social distancing mean financial exclusion?
As we hurtle into a digital age, leaving cash in the rearview, there are ramifications of going completely cashless to consider. We must take into consideration how removing cash could disenfranchise over a quarter of our society; 26% of the global population doesn’t have a traditional bank account. Across Latin America, 38% of shoppers are unbanked, and nearly 1 in 5 online transactions are completed with cash. While in Africa and the Middle East, only 50% of consumers are banked in the traditional sense, and 12% have access to a credit card. Even here in the UK, approximately 1.3 million UK adults are classed as unbanked, exposing the large number of consumers affected by any ban on cash.
Even when shopping online – many consumers rely on cash-based payments. At the checkout page, consumers are provided with a barcode for their order. They take this barcode (either printed or on their mobile device) to a local convenience store or bank and pay in cash. At that point, the goods are shipped.
There are also older generations to consider. Following the closure of one in eight banks and cashpoints during Coronavirus, the government faced calls to act swiftly to protect access to cash, as pensioners struggled to access their savings. Despite the direction society is headed, there are a significant number of older people that still rely on cash – they have grown up using it. With an estimated two million people in the UK relying on cash for day to day spending, it is important that it does not disappear in its entirety.
Supporting the transition away from cash
Cashless protocols not only restrict access to goods and services for consumers but also limit revenue opportunity for merchants. While 2020 has provided the global economy with one great reason to reduce the acceptance of cash, the payments industry has billions of reasons to offer multiple options that cater to the needs of every kind of shopper around the world.
Whilst it seems younger generations are driving LPM adoption, it is important that older generations aren’t forgotten. If online shops fail to offer a variety of preferred payment methods, consumers will not hesitate to shop elsewhere. With 44% of consumers reporting they would stop a purchase online if their favourite payment method wasn’t available – this is something merchants need to address to attract and retain loyal customers.
UnionPay increases online acceptance across Europe and worldwide with Online Travel Agencies
- UnionPay International today announces that two of Europe’s leading travel companies, Logitravel and Destinia, have started accepting UnionPay.
- This acceptance will enable users of the groups’ travel websites to make purchases using UnionPay payment methods.
The acceptance partnerships between the OTAs and UnionPay began in July 2020 for customers across 13 European countries and another 90 countries and regions worldwide. The European countries covered by the agreements include the UK, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Austria, Switzerland, Hungary and Ireland. The brands covered by these acceptances include Logitravel.com and Destinia.com which together deliver more than 8.5 million worldwide travel bookings each year covering flights, hotels, holidays, car hire and other experiences.
With over 8.4 billion cards issued in 61 countries and regions worldwide, UnionPay has the world’s largest cardholder base and is the preferred payment brand for many Chinese and Asian expatriates and students based in Europe, as well as an increasing number of global customers. These cardholders are also particularly attractive to the two OTAs. Despite the impact of Covid-19, Logitravel and Destinia expect to see the demand for travel across the European continent as well as that between Europe and Asia return to growth in the coming years. They are now placing significant focus on offering more payment options and smoother payment services to meet this demand.
The partnerships incorporate UnionPay’s ExpressPay and SecurePlus technology, which will ensure seamless transactions for the customers, contained within a single process through the relevant websites. UnionPay’s technology also provides for the requirement to authenticate transactions under the EU regulation Payment Services Directive 2 (PSD2) ensuring that sites will be compliant as soon as the relevant countries apply the requirements.
Wei Zhihong, UnionPay International’s Market Director, said: “This is a major partnership with two of Europe’s leading online travel companies. Logitravel and Destinia are brands which have been at the forefront of e-commerce for many years and we are very excited to be working with them to extend their reach to new audiences. This highlights the work that we have carried out in ensuring that our technology provides effective solutions for the biggest e-commerce sites both in Europe and around the world. We look forward to announcing many more similar agreements in the near future.”
Jesús Pons, Chief Financial Officer at Logitravel Group said: “UnionPay has always been on our radar, and since travel has become a crucial part of its development, Logitravel felt it important to develop this important partnership. It really was an obvious decision for Logitravel since both companies share a passion for e-commerce and emphasising the payment experience for their customers.”
Ricardo Fernández, Managing Director at Destinia Group said: “We believe that this is the beginning of a really strong relationship. Our discussions with UnionPay in reaching this partnership have demonstrated their understanding of the needs of major online merchants and their ability to deliver the highest quality systems. We look forward to working together on further partnership as we move forward.”
The importance of app-based commerce to hospitality in the new normal
By Jeremy Nicholds CEO, Judopay As society adapts to the rapidly changing “new normal” of working and socialising, many businesses...
The Psychology Behind a Strong Security Culture in the Financial Sector
By Javvad Malik, Security Awareness Advocate at KnowBe4 Banks and financial industries are quite literally where the money is, positioning...
How open banking can drive innovation and growth in a post-COVID world
By Billel Ridelle, CEO at Sweep Times are pretty tough for businesses right now. For SMEs in particular, a global financial...
How to use data to protect and power your business
By Dave Parker, Group Head of Data Governance, Arrow Global Employees need to access data to do their jobs. But...
How business leaders can find the right balance between human and bot when investing in AI
By Andrew White is the ANZ Country Manager of business transformation solutions provider, Signavio The digital world moves quickly. From...
Has lockdown marked the end of cash as we know it?
By James Booth, VP of Payment Partnerships EMEA, PPRO Since the start of the pandemic, businesses around the world have...
Lockdown 2.0 – Here’s how to be the best-looking person in the virtual room
By Jeff Carlson, author of The Photographer’s Guide to Luminar 4 and Take Control of Your Digital Photos suggests “the product you’re creating is...
Banks take note: Customers want to pay with points
By Len Covello, Chief Technology Officer of Engage People ‘Pay with Points’ – that is, integrating the ability to pay...
Are you a fighter or a freezer? The 4 “F’s” of Surviving Danger.
By Dr.Roger Firestien, Author of Create In a Flash. The fight, flight, freeze survival response – or FFF for short...
Why the FemTech sector might be the sustainability saviour we have been waiting for
By Kristy Chong, CEO & Founder Modibodi ® Taking single use plastics out of circulation is no easy feat, but...