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.
Black Friday payment data reveals rapid growth of ‘pay later’ methods like Klarna
Payment processor Mollie reveals the most popular payment methods for Black Friday
Mollie, one of the fastest-growing payment service providers, has revealed insights into the most popular payment methods used this Black Friday. The data, which provides a year-on-year comparison of 2019, shows that payment methods allowing customers to pay flexibly – like ‘pay later’ service Klarna – has more than doubled in 2020. The study spans 101,000 merchants across Europe, primarily from Germany, U.K., France, the Netherlands and Belgium.
Black Friday trends:
- In 2019, Mollie saw a 36% increase in the overall number of transactions on Black Friday versus the previous year. In 2020, this shot up to a growth of 56% on the 2019 numbers, representing a difference of 20%.
- And this year, even in the four days leading up to Black Friday, there was a 58% YoY growth in transactions.
- Use of ‘buy now, pay later’ services on Black Friday (such as Klarna or ClearPay) has more than doubled from 1% of all payments in 2019 to almost 2.5% in 2020.
- Use of mobile payment methods on Black Friday is consistent on the previous year – 0.20% in 2019 to 0.25% in 2020.
“There is a lot of pressure on consumers’ wallets at the moment, which is making people look to payment methods that offer them financial security,” said Ken Serdons, Chief Commercial Officer at Mollie. “It makes sense that fintechs like Klarna, who have performed phenomenally well this year, have been so popular this Black Friday. The increase is in-line with this growing trend towards more flexibility in how consumers pay for goods.”
Beyond Transactions: The Payment Revolution
By Marwan Forzley, CEO of Veem
The uninterrupted disruption brought on by the pandemic accelerated the need for robust, digital-first tools created to support remote teams and accelerate online commerce.
As offices across the US moved to work from home for indefinite periods, specialized back office departments handling sensitive information have had to go a layer deeper to find tailored solutions that support the transition of their in-person workflow. For finance teams, payment approvals, issuance, and general management became a challenge overnight. Particularly for those who — even in 2020 — continued to send and receive paper checks through the mail.
For years and even to this day, millions of small business owners around the world have relied on slow and confusing bank processes to manage their business finances. Every day, they spend valuable time using old, complex and expensive platforms to transact with domestic and international vendors — never knowing where their payment is or even when it arrives at its destination.
With ongoing economic and logistical uncertainty looming as we move into 2021, this old norm should not be expected for much longer. This year has seen small business owners wear more hats than ever before, and has influenced a mass adoption of online financial applications that offer heightened security, save more time, and provide more value as budgets tightened.
A study conducted by Mastercard earlier this year saw online business-to-business payments skyrocket in popularity with more than half (57%) of small business owners across North America turning to digital services since the start of the pandemic to improve cash flow and modernize their payment processes.
If this study is of any indication, the days of making an appointment with a banker or sending a wire transfer through an outdated web portal have passed. And the time for the payment revolution is here.
Putting the user in the driver’s seat
Major world events have always acted as a catalyst for innovation and change. As of a result of the growing pains we experienced this year, in 2021 businesses can finally say goodbye to huge transaction fees and bank-imposed gatekeeping when it comes to managing their financial processes.
The financial technology firms, in partnership card and local bank networks and sometimes even each other, have been building and iterating on products over the past decade that were created to work flawlessly from a desktop or smartphone.
For the first time, small businesses have access to needed, user-friendly financial tools packaged to make their lives easier. No longer reserved for major enterprises, those previously underserved by traditional banks can sign up for applications that consolidate billing, payments, working capital and more to one central dashboard.
With the owner in the driver’s seat, they can better communicate with vendors and customers and reallocate their time previously spent manually sending, receiving and reconciling payments toward growing their business — without ever stepping foot out of their home.
Genuinely seamless and automatic integrations with complimentary functions aligned to core financial activities mark a fundamental change in how businesses will choose to operate moving forward. Not only should experiences be integrated, but the entire lifecycle of the transaction should be digital.
Consider a freelance contractor that uses a time tracking and invoicing software to invoice a client. Through an integration between the time tracking tool and Veem (a complete online business payment tool) the client receives and captures the invoice within their Veem payment dashboard. Because Veem and Quickbooks are integrated partners, as soon as the invoice is received, a bill is automatically created, marked as paid, and reconciled on the client’s accounting software as soon as the funds are issued.
In this flow, the contractor only needs to send an invoice, and the client only has to approve the payment for everything else to move. Thoughtful integrations like these empower businesses to log-in to one application, but benefit from several, ultimately eliminating inefficiencies.
Understanding that old habits die hard, it’s expected that businesses of any size have questions when it comes to moving payments from a bank to an online provider.
Answering these questions with unprecedented product value and relentless transparency is the best way forward to bring more businesses onboard in 2021.
This means providing up front pricing, tracking, choice and flexibility to users. Before, during and after the pandemic, cash flow management remains the most critical part of running a small business. Digital payment providers enable the entrepreneur to have unparalleled insight, visibility, and control over their cash flow.
Through non-bank payment options, businesses can secure their information over a secure data network, watch their money move from origin to destination, and choose the speed at which they would like funds to move. By these tools working in harmony, the user can remove friction and spend more time focused on their business.
Separating the signal from the noise
2020 is a year that changed everything for the global small business community. In a report by Veem issued at the start of the pandemic, an overwhelming 80% of businesses shared that they anticipated COVID-19 to impact their business over the next 12-16 months. Problems surfaced that many didn’t even realize they had. And in finding those problems, businesses turned to technology to support them.
As enabling technology, it’s our job to listen and bring clarity and solutions to those contributing to and growing our local and global economies despite the hurdles and challenges they’ve faced.
Right now, small businesses deserve more. More access, more choice and more credit. In the road ahead we expect online payments and bundled user friendly financial services to play a pivotal role in the recovery of small businesses. The payment revolution will see the continuation of important and meaningful products that value the users time and enable businesses to launch, grow, and scale regardless of what’s to come in 2021.
The UK’s hidden payments crisis: why businesses should rethink their payments strategy
By Edwin Abl, Chief Marketing Officer at Modulr.
As the economic conditions imposed by the Coronavirus endure, businesses are facing a dilemma about how to reduce operational costs while meeting customer needs in as economical a way as possible. And all without compromising on their quality of service.
A recent survey of 200 payments decision makers across the UK, revealed there are hidden costs of payment processing which will have an exponentially greater impact on wider businesses if left untreated. It found, UK businesses are spending an average of £1.5m a year in costs attached to payments – money they simply cannot afford to lose to inefficient processes in these uncertain times.
Businesses need to plug any holes in their boat to avoid sinking. And for many this includes the examination and recalibration of their payments strategy.
The research reveals that the payments process now represents a huge 12% of a business’s total operational expenditure. With two-thirds (64%) of all businesses expecting the cost of payment processing to increase over the next two years.
Two thirds (67%) of payments decision makers surveyed believe the way they process, and service payments has had a direct impact on their customer experience. In fact, 62% of respondents believe the hidden costs of poor payments outweigh the hard costs. This indicates that a poor payments strategy is no longer something business leaders can ignore, as it now has a far greater and unseen impact on wider business mechanics.
The top three hidden costs attached to inefficient payment processes were ‘impact on customer experience/satisfaction’ (38%), ‘influence on relationships with other teams and departments (35%) and ‘impact on competitor differentiation’ (31%).
These findings suggest there is widespread consensus that getting payment operations right, directly creates performance boosts elsewhere in the business. When asked to estimate, as a percentage, the business performance boost received if hidden payment inefficiencies were resolved, the average margin for improvement was +14%, with traditional banking the sector most likely (31%) to predict a performance gain greater than +15%.
The 5 key steps UK businesses can take to drive payment efficiencies
There are five key areas payments decision makers and tech leaders should be looking to change, so that they can drive end-to-end payment process efficiencies:
1 – Locate hidden payment process inefficiencies
Visibility is a key issue. Respondents across large (46%) and small businesses (47%) say they have very clear metrics directly related to payment process costs. Only 8% say that they don’t understand the costs involved. Yet, businesses know they could do better with improved visibility of costs. Both large and smaller companies cite ‘lack of visibility for operational costs’ as the top challenge when it comes to achieving strategic goals around payment process and money services provision.
Digital banking companies, including lenders and FinTechs, identified ‘lack of visibility for operational cost’ as a challenge when it comes to increasing payment services revenue (37%). This is in comparison with all respondents mentioning other issues such as lack of skills (25%) and constrained resources (25%) as secondary and tertiary challenges respectively.
For many businesses, developing a cost model for current and projected payment process costs, both hard and hidden, is a top priority.
2 – Make payments key to stakeholder experience management
Customer, departmental and even supply chain partner experiences are increasingly intertwined. There is no doubt that customer experience is a top priority for payment services strategy. But enhancing the broader stakeholder experience is a close second, and certainly complements the former.
Employee experience affects customer experience. So, payment services innovation must extend beyond customer touchpoints. Happy employees who feel they are working with effective and efficient payments systems will be best placed to enhance the customer experience. And, employees in commercial roles who have bought into the benefits of efficient payments will naturally want to extoll those benefits to customers.
Companies with a sophisticated and integrated supply chain are likely to be the frontrunners in implementing the integrated payment services that benefit all stakeholders, due to their historic experience. As customer experience management evolves into a broader discipline of stakeholder experience management, including employees and supply chain partners, it will become more crucial than ever to include payment services experience
3 – Integrate and automate to support payment innovation
Payment innovation is driving a culture change, connecting previously siloed functions such as IT and finance. There is increasing integration of systems from customer relationship management (CRM) and enterprise resource planning (ERP), into accounts and payments. The research tells us that payment processes are impacting nearly every department, affecting areas including customer experience, brand, leadership, business agility and ultimately, revenue. Integration enables new business models for paying suppliers and customers.
Automation is key to driving efficiency, replacing manual error-prone and time-consuming processes with real-time and responsive, digital ones. This is particularly the case when it comes to operational and payment processes.
Indeed, 52% of large companies say that team hours spent on payment processes was their biggest hard cost attached to payments, compared with 26% of smaller companies who share that view. This suggests that automation could contribute more to cutting the cost of payment processes in large companies.
A host of payments-as-a-service providers (including Modulr) are supporting customers to do just this by enabling them to stream a whole unified product ecosystem of payments functionality directly into their own software.
4 – Bring business leaders together
Payments innovation is driving systems integration and creating a more collaborative stakeholder ecosystem. As all the C-level roles become increasingly focused on the customer experience, the finance remit now includes overall business operations and its associated risks and opportunities. The role is evolving beyond just accounting, tax liability and funding. Therefore, closer collaboration between senior leaders is key to driving efficiencies and enhancing customer experience.
5 – Innovate by adding finance and payments to vertical services
Companies with a vertical focus are well placed to innovate by offering new payment services. In many vertical sectors, especially employment services, software vendors are increasingly embedding financial services facilities, such as payments, into their technology platforms. Employment services SaaS providers, across payroll, accounting, bookkeeping and more are offering financial services to existing and new customers within their specific ecosystem.
This means they can develop hyper relevant, convenient and delightful financial products and services for their end users through highly flexible, ‘plumbed in’ payments. This creates an ecosystem of stickier products while boosting the lifetime value of each end user.
Moving forward – engaging technology to drive efficiencies
If the onset of the Coronavirus crisis has taught us anything, it is that there are many advantages to investing in technology and having a digital infrastructure as responsive as your customer-facing experience.
However, whilst digital technologies enable companies to provide customer service in new ways during lockdown. These same businesses are failing to transform their digital strategies, with the biggest priority still being cost reduction (41%).
By not shedding legacy technology and shoring up operational efficiency, UK businesses are following an increasingly risky strategy. And one which will have an exponentially greater impact on the wider business if left untreated. Particularly when this widespread failure to act concerns the customer experiences that sit at the very heart of a proposition – the payments.
To find out how you can drive payment efficiencies into 2021 and beyond, download the full report here for all the insight you need.
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