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Volopa launches new contactless multi-currency prepaid cards designed to save money for consumers and businesses when spending abroad

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Volopa launches new contactless multi-currency prepaid cards designed to save money for consumers and businesses when spending abroad

The new multi-currency prepaid cards use the real market foreign exchange (interbank) rate to convert between 14 major currencies securely held on a single prepaid Mastercard® designed to help customers make the most of their money.

Volopa, a London-based payments and foreign exchange fintech, today announced the release of its new contactless multi-currency prepaid cards for consumers and businesses designed to make their money go further when converting currencies and spending abroad.

Volopa operates multi-currency prepaid card programmes using its proprietary platform and offers businesses the ability to provide their own branded card programmes which are powered by Volopa, as a way to increase brand awareness and customer loyalty.

Customers can hold and spend up to 14 local currencies on the cards. The cards automatically detect the local currency when making purchases at merchants or ATMs abroad and use the local currency for the transaction with no additional conversion or foreign transaction charges typically associated with using debit or credit cards abroad. Customers can also spend in any other currency as long as they have the base currency on the cards. The cards come with secure and intuitive mobile and web based applications enabling customers to seamlessly manage their cards, monitor and control their expenditure on the go.  This includes the ability to see transactions in real time, instantly top up and exchange currencies 24/7, block cards and transfer funds between cards.

Volopa’s transactions are processed using the GPS Apex issuer processing platform. When selecting its processor Volopa felt that GPS presented an ideal partner based on their considerable experience in the fintech sector combined with exceptional platform capabilities and expertise.

Neil Harris, Chief Commercial Officer at Global Processing Services, said: “Volopa has truly created an exceptional product driven by the needs of its members to convert and transact in multiple currencies while looking for the best possible rate. I think that we will see more brands jump on the opportunity to launch their own branded business cards as the solution to increasing customer loyalty, engagement and retention. It’s great to see that our GPS Apex platform is enabling such innovations”.

Graham Smith, Managing Director at Volopa said: “Volopa is excited to launch its new contactless multi-currency prepaid cards which are another step forward in the company’s focus to maximise delight and deliver exceptional products at lower cost for our customers. A key strength of Volopa is its ability to deliver client branded cards which presents a unique advantage for Volopa in the marketplace where we are seeing strong demand for this proposition. We are very pleased to have partnered with GPS, chosen for their exceptional capabilities and experience within the fintech sector, and we look forward to continue to grow our businesses together.“

Volopa’s multi-currency cards are currently available through Volopa’s mobile app available for Apple and Android as well as through the website (www.volopa.com).

Finance

Bitcoin slumps 6%, heads for worst week since March

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Bitcoin slumps 6%, heads for worst week since March 1

By Ritvik Carvalho

LONDON (Reuters) – Bitcoin fell over 6% on Friday to its lowest in two weeks as a rout in global bond markets sent yields flying and sparked a sell-off in riskier assets.

The world’s biggest cryptocurrency slumped as low as $44,451 before recovering most of its losses. It was last trading down 1.2% at $46,525, on course for a drop of almost 20% this week, which would be its heaviest weekly loss since March last year.

The sell-off echoed that in equity markets, where European stocks tumbled as much as 1.5%, with concerns over lofty valuations also hammering demand. Asian stocks fell by the most in nine months.

“When flight to safety mode is on, it is the riskier investments that get pulled first,” Denis Vinokourov of London-based cryptocurrency exchange BeQuant wrote in a note.

Bitcoin has risen about 60% from the start of the year, hitting an all-time high of $58,354 this month as mainstream companies such as Tesla Inc and Mastercard Inc embraced cryptocurrencies.

Its stunning gains in recent months have led to concerns from investment banks over sky-high valuations and calls from governments and financial regulators for tighter regulation.

(Reporting by Ritvik Carvalho; additional reporting by Tom Wilson; editing by Dhara Ranasinghe, Karin Strohecker, William Maclean)

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Britain sets out blueprint to keep fintech ‘crown’ after Brexit

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Britain sets out blueprint to keep fintech 'crown' after Brexit 2

By Huw Jones

LONDON (Reuters) – Brexit, COVID-19 and overseas competition are challenging fintech’s future, and Britain should act to stay competitive for the sector, a government-backed review said on Friday.

Britain’s departure from the European Union has cut the sector’s access to the world’s biggest single market, making the UK less attractive for fintechs wanting to expand cross-border.

The review headed by Ron Kalifa, former CEO of payments fintech Worldpay, sets out a “strategy and delivery model” that includes a new billion pound start-up fund and fast-tracking work visas for hiring the best talent globally.

“It’s about underpinning financial services and our place in the world, and bringing innovation into mainstream banking,” Kalifa told Reuters.

Britain has a 10% share of the global fintech market, generating 11 billion pounds ($15.6 billion) in revenue.

“This review will make an important contribution to our plan to retain the UK’s fintech crown,” finance minister Rishi Sunak said, adding the government will respond in due course.

The review said Brexit, heavy investment in fintech by Australia, Canada and Singapore, and the need to be nimbler as COVID-19 accelerates digitalisation of finance all mean the sector’s future in Britain is not assured.

Britain increasingly needs to represent itself as a strong fintech scale-up destination as well as one for start-ups, it added.

The review recommends more flexible listing rules for fintechs to catch up with New York.

“Leaving the EU and access to the single market going away is a big deal, so the UK has to do something significant to make fintechs stay here,” said Kay Swinburne, vice chair of financial services at consultants KPMG and a contributor to the review.

The review seeks to join the dots on fintech policy across government departments and regulators, and marshal private sector efforts under a new Centre for Finance, Innovation and Technology (CFIT).

“There is no framework but bits of individual policies, and nowhere does it come together,” said Rachel Kent, a lawyer at Hogan Lovells and contributor to the review.

Britain pioneered “sandboxes” to allow fintechs to test products on real consumers under supervision, and the review says regulators should move to the next stage and set up “scale-boxes” to help fintechs navigate red tape to grow.

“It’s a question of knowing who to call when there’s a problem,” Swinburne said.

($1 = 0.7064 pounds)

(Reporting by Huw Jones; editing by Hugh Lawson and Jason Neely)

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Finance

Enhancing efficiency in international trade – the time is now

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Enhancing efficiency in international trade – the time is now 3

By Carl Wegner, CEO of Contour

Despite significant advances in digital enterprise technology in recent years, international trade remains overwhelmingly manual and fraught with inefficiency.

Financial market participants spend millions of dollars to save fractions of seconds. Central banks are rushing to offer “fast” domestic payments in under three seconds. But cross-border trade relies on payments involving more than one country and bank, with no common central bank to provide cover and currency conversion. It takes at least a day or, in most cases, two – and that’s not even the most inefficient part of cross-border trade.

These processes are lightning quick compared to trade-related finance and risk mitigation products such as Letters of Credit (LCs), which can take over a week to settle. These involve more parties, more complexity, more paper and less trust.

In global trade finance, a bank will agree to pay an overseas seller after receiving proof that the seller has met their obligations. There is no common network for the seller to provide this proof, and no global database of shipments. Sellers rely on the gold standard of banking communication: wet ink-signed paper documents. Collecting, presenting and checking these documents can take days, if not weeks, stalling payments and leaving goods sitting on the dock rather than working through the economy.

The perceived credibility of “wet ink” signatures on documents is holding the industry back even as other areas are embracing new technologies. Unfortunately, it is all the industry has and the highest common denominator of communication. Bringing trade finance into the twenty-first century will need the development of a new gold standard – a common and trusted digital infrastructure. Luckily, the technology to ease this change and inject massive efficiency gains into the industry is now available.

More than a few small tweaks

Banks, buyers, sellers, shipping companies, ports, customs, and so on; the number of parties involved in international trade and the relative lack of trust among them makes any change a significant challenge.

Even before paper documents are involved for proof of shipment, there are trust challenges in communication for trade finance. While banks have a trusted form of communication among themselves, this does not extend to corporates or other parties. These groups are left with paper communication, email and fax – hardly efficient methods of communication. The industry needs a network,  a common identity, and a way to share data securely and privately with all participants. This is the first step and can lead to significant increases in efficiency, especially if communication between participants can be synced in real-time.

Building the network

The future of global trade communication is decentralised. With today’s technologies, it is no longer feasible to have the world’s sensitive trade data sitting in one place susceptible to attack or commercial manipulation.

Every bank and corporate must own their own data and share it only with their trading partners where necessary. Decentralised technologies go further than this, allowing data to be synchronised with trading partners, enabling a new level of trust between parties through the deceptively complicated concept of ”what I see, you see”.

The practicalities of title transfer

The problem of paper and wet-ink signatures seems simple to solve once the network is in place. Remove the couriers, upload PDFs of all that paper onto the decentralised and synchronised network built to authenticate the sender, and trade is digitised. However, while this process is easy in theory, the variety of documents involved in a single transaction complicates matters – especially when it comes to the transfer of title.

The bill of lading is a key example of this – issued in triplicate on original letterhead and signed by an authorised party on behalf of the ship’s captain. They represent title to the documents and can be used as a negotiable document much like a bank cheque.

Digitising these documents has come a long way in the last few years, with specialised platforms and digital registries created and new legal standards drafted to allow electronic bills of lading (eBLs) to be used instead. But adoption still lags behind, and for their efficiency to be realised across the majority of global trade, the concept of digital documents such as eBLs needs to be married to decentralised networks for trade finance.

The security issue

For documents not related to title transfer, the long-held argument that an original signed document is more secure than a digital version is extremely outdated. With the right protocols in place, a digital document can present a more private and secure option than its physical counterpart.

Even an uploaded PDF can be a “digital document” with the right controls in place. Using a decentralised network every member will have an immutable audit log for every transaction, with the uploading party taking responsibility for the documents they introduce to the network in the same way a sender can take responsibility through their signature. These security protocols will also enhance the time it takes to manage trade documents, allowing parties to track and match items to real-time data.

Scaling

There has already been phenomenal success in combining a decentralised network with electronic bill of lading solutions. Rather than seven days, the time from presentation to payment instruction can be reduced to 24 hours. However, for any of this to be achieved at scale, we need coordinated collaboration to ensure a new global digital standard can emerge, rather than a series of disconnected digital islands.

Fortunately, the industry is well on its way. The Asian Development Bank recently reported that 85% of banks are gearing up to serve the trade finance needs of more businesses through technology, addressing concerns such as inefficiencies and KYC, showing a clear demand for more efficient processes to be established in the sector.

While removing a few hours from overseas payments is a worthwhile goal, reducing a week from trade finance processes can have an even greater impact on businesses’ working capital efficiency and accelerating growth in the wider global economy.

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