Category Archives: Fintech

Certify launches procurement tool to improve spend management

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Certify, a leading provider of financial management software, has launched Certify Purchasing, a new solution for finance professionals.

It’s the first move into the procure-to-pay market for the software company, and another development in Certify’s rapid growth.

Certify Purchasing is a SaaS-based solution that automates key purchasing-related tasks such as requisitions and vendor payments, reducing human error and improving spend oversight. One key feature of the solution is its sophisticated routing capabilities. Line-of-business managers can define purchase-approval thresholds, tolerances, escalations and proxy configurations, streamlining the procure-to-pay process throughout the organization. Certify Purchasing users can also access the platform from their desktop or mobile phone, replacing paper-based and manual processes with automated workflows and budgetary controls.

Once purchases are approved in the Certify Purchasing system, invoices are two- or three-way digitally matched to purchase orders and packing slips depending on company preferences. This lowers an organization’s administrative costs and its cost of goods, shortens fulfillment cycle times, unleashes data visibility across the business, and improves relationships with vendors. More information about Certify Purchasing can be found here.

“We’ve led the market for several years with the usability of our software for travel and expense, and Certify Purchasing provides us the opportunity to bring the proven business processes and intuitive interface of our T&E products to the wider procure-to-pay function,” explains Robert Neveu, CEO of Certify. “We want to continue to empower AP teams by giving them the tools they need to automate key processes and enjoy increasingly strategic roles within their organizations.” 

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FX-Ignoble: MFSA Slaps FxNobels on to its Warning List

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Proving once again that as long as there are humans capable of surviving on earth that there will also be scammers amongst them, the Malta Financial Services Authority announced on Thursday evening that it has added FxNobels to its warnings list.

According to the MFSA, the broker has been trying to solicit customers in Malta without having the regulatory authorisation to do so.

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The site that the MFSA linked to on its warnings page is not actually active – or at least this author was unable to access it.

That’s probably a good thing because the stories that those who were able to access it have told on various brokerage review websites indicate that the firm is not to be trusted.

One user said that their money had simply disappeared and they were unable to access their account. When they contacted the broker’s customer support office, they were told that $1 million had been transferred to them by accident and that the mistake had to be fixed.

After that user did get access to their account back, they found that their money was gone and that someone had been making trades on their account without their permission.

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FxNobels – Bulgarian origins

Based on prior reviews, it seems that the people behind FxNobels were, at one point, operating out of a call centre in Bulgaria.

Now the broker lists its address as being somewhere in Malta but the MFSA’s warning would suggest that the address is a bogus one.

Otherwise FxNobels has all the trappings of a run-of-the-mill, boring scam broker. There is no indication as to who is running anything, no indication as to where the company is really based and no indication that you will get your money back if you deposit it with the firm.

So, as you would with any other firm that you come across which displays these traits, stay well away from FxNobles.

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Alternative lender Capify scores $95m Goldman Sachs credit facility

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Capify, a leading alternative small business finance provider in the UK and Australia, has secured a £75 million (approx. $95 million USD) credit facility from Goldman Sachs Private Capital (“Goldman Sachs”) to support its future growth plans and provide working capital to thousands of Australian and British small businesses over the coming years.

The Greater Manchester, England and Sydney, Australia -based fintech company will use the new facility to accelerate the growth of its lending business to Australian and UK small businesses through its merchant cash advance (MCA) and business loan products.

Capify has been active in the UK and Australia since 2008, executing over 16,500 transactions for Australia and UK small businesses seeking business financing.

“This is a landmark achievement for Capify and we are very pleased that we have secured this financing with Goldman Sachs, one of the premiere capital providers in the world,” said David Goldin, Founder and CEO of Capify.

“This new multi-year credit facility allows us to deliver on our own growth plans, whilst providing much needed access to capital for British and Australian small businesses to help them to grow, to boost the economy and to create jobs.”

“The credit facility validates our company as a leader in the marketplace and underlines the strength of our business model to provide simple, affordable and smart financial options to UK and Australian small businesses.”

Pankaj Soni, Executive Director at Goldman Sachs Private Capital, said: “Capify is one of the leading small business finance providers in the UK and Australia. We have been impressed with the management team, business model and innovative finance solutions for small businesses. We look forward to supporting their growth in the years ahead.”

“We are extremely excited about our future relationship with Goldman Sachs,” added John Rozenbroek, Chief Financial Officer at Capify. “The credit facility will enable us to continue on our growth trajectory while offering even more attractive and innovative solutions to thousands of small businesses in need of capital.” 

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This content is contributed or sourced from third parties but has been subject to Finextra editorial review.

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Supporting Fintechs in engaging with financial institutions

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Towards the end of 2018, the British Standards Institution (BSI) published a set of guidelines, advising Fintechs how best to engage with financial institutions with the goal of delivering a successful outcome for all: banks, Fintechs and end customers. The report includes recommendations and common pitfalls to avoid. It’s a useful reference guide for Fintechs starting on their journey. Here I’m calling out some of the key recommendations and advice in relation to presenting the Fintech’s proposition and its positioning in the market. 

Articulating the proposition

It’s essential to get the basics right. This includes clearly articulating and communicating your proposition. What problem does it help to solve? How does it assist the end customer or the financial institution? Does it complement or alter an existing business process? What are the key benefits of implementing the solution? Be prepared to also address any concerns that banks might raise with you regarding risk and how this would be mitigated. 

When it comes to pitching the solution to a financial institution – it’s important to understand who will attend the meeting and prepare accordingly. Are you speaking to individuals who are focused on tech innovation, or to experts representing a specific line of business? Is it a mixture of both audiences?

Any deck or presentation should focus on the core value proposition for the target audience: setting out what the solution does clearly and concisely, together with some sample use cases that demonstrate the benefits. The initial meeting could be just the first of many. Engagement and sales cycles in financial institutions can be lengthy, so it’s important to be able to build your business case over time with all stakeholders.

The financial institution is a potential partner and collaborator. Building a relationship can take time, but it’s essential to be open and honest and ensure trust. For example, be clear about what is part of your solution today and what is part of your roadmap going forward.  

Addressing pain points and sharing insight

Financial institutions recognize the importance of innovation in meeting customer expectations and addressing their pain points. Fintechs that can demonstrate a firm understanding of a customer need and can articulate how they can help the bank to better serve customers, or solve internal problems, are best placed to succeed. 

It’s essential to demonstrate that you understand the bank’s target markets – and exactly which segments of those markets and customer pain points you’re addressing. Be as specific as possible and demonstrate your knowledge to build credibility. Don’t try to address a wider group of audiences and then fail to show a strong understanding of all areas. It’s much better to be realistic about your expertise and stay focused.

Competitive positioning

Understand the competitive landscape and where your solution fits. Be able to highlight exactly how your solution differs to others in the space and highlight anything that’s unique about your approach or functionality. Do your research thoroughly – it’s very unusual to be able to claim you have ‘no competitors’. Even if you feel your approach is completely different, call out the existing solutions used in that business area, and from there articulate what’s unique about your proposition and the added value it will bring. If the return on investment isn’t immediately clear banks might decide to stick with the status quo, so you need to put together a strong business case. Ideally, this should be backed up by good quality data and analysis, together with details of any customer references, showing traction already gained in the market.

Collaborating to succeed

Open banking, PSD2 and the pace of change in today’s digital economy are heralding new opportunities for Fintechs. Banks are keener than ever before to collaborate with the right partners. Fintechs need to create a compelling proposition – but how they go about marketing that offering is just as crucial to success.  Don’t rush in before you’re fully prepared. It’s essential to be meticulous in setting out your value proposition and articulating the benefits so that you project the company as a serious player from the outset. 

When it comes to collaboration, don’t limit your horizons only to working directly with financial institutions – consider how other partners such as technology vendors can help support you on your journey, and help you get a foot in the door with target institutions.

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This content is provided by an external author without editing by Finextra. It expresses the views and opinions of the author.

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BitMEX Research Shows Firms Made $24 Billion from ICOs

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Cryptocurrency research firm BitMEX released a report today which offer some interesting insights into the initial coin offering (ICO) craze that has swept across the globe over the past 18 months.

According to BitMEX, approximately $24.2 billion-worth of cryptocurrency ended up in the hands of individuals and companies that issued tokens in the first place.

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Assessing the value of the tokens isn’t easy. For one thing, there is the anonymity of transactions and the fact that there are so many different tokens to track.

On top of this, the cryptocurrency market has crashed in the past few months, meaning that, though the ICO tokens may have peaked in value at $24.2 billion, they are now probably worth around $5 billion.

According to BitMEX, around $1.5 billion worth of cryptocurrency was transferred away from firms that launched ICOs – implying that they may have cashed out.

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All bad?

Now, this may make firms look bad but that isn’t necessarily the case. After all, an ICO is designed to raise fiat cash that can then be used to fund and building a company.

Having said that, BitMEX’s report does highlight the total lack of transparency surrounding the ICO market.

Along with selling tokens, firms have been to able to issue themselves tokens and then go to exchanges and sell them.

Without any sort of legal oversight, this could mean that you could, as many crooks did, set up a company, launch your ICO and then run off with a load of cash.

As long as there is no legal oversight it seems likely that this will remain the case – though regulators are certainly much more cognisant of the problems ICOs pose than they were a year ago.

In the meantime, anyone considering investing in an ICO would be best served to do their own due diligence. Otherwise they may as well go throw their cash off a bridge.

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FXFINPRO Capital Loses Cypriot CIF License, Says CySEC

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The Cyprus Financial regulator CySEC today said it has wholly withdrawn the Cyprus Investment Firm (CIF) License of ‘PFX Financial Professionals Ltd’, which operates the brand FXFINPRO Capital, according to a decision made at its meeting on October 22, 2018.

According to the regulatory manifest, FXFINPRO, which holds registration number 193/13, had its licence lapsed after CySEC raised concerns over practices by the company and its executives that the watchdog deemed potentially not compliant with its regulatory obligations.

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In particular, the broker was initially flagged for non-compliance with section 28(1) of the Law which concerns persons who effectively lead its business, as well as an alleged violation of section 36(1) of the Law (Conduct of business obligations when providing investment services to clients). Further, FXFINPRO didn’t comply with the section 114 with regards to submitting its financial accounts, as well as the section 139(1) which requires regulated firms to provide the CySEC with correct, complete and accurate information.

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No longer licensed by CySEC

A visit to the broker’s website reveals that FXFINPRO has already proceeded with changes in its website to remove any references regarding authorization and supervision of the company by CySEC. The company is also required to cease the provision of its services through the Russian domain http://www.finproinvest.ru.

The regulator will give the broker three months from that date to settle its obligations arising from the investment services that will be lapsed, during which time it remains under the Cypriot watchdog’s supervision.

Under the Cypriot regulatory framework, the company must return all outstanding balances to its clients and handle all of their complaints. In addition, FXFINPRO must provide a confirmation from its external auditor that it does not have any pending obligations and must include details of each of the company’s clients.

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Mobile Checkout, Resetting Store Experiences And Fairway Market’s Fight To Stay Relevant In NYC

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While innovative grocery has been in the news heavily over the last several years — with seemingly every name in the game trying to keep pace with each other in terms of online ordering, delivery services, friction-free checkout and a whole host of other digital upgrades and advancements made possible by the mobile era — New York City’s Fairway Market believes that innovation has always been the heartbeat of grocery.

A Fairway representative told PYMNTS that Fairway’s goal has been to “embrace the future as it happens” since it first made the jump from being “a small, corner, fruit and veggie stand on the Upper West Side of Manhattan” to being a full-service chain of grocery stores for the people of Manhattan.  Today Fairway operates 15 stores in the New York, New Jersey, Connecticut tri-state area, as well as four liquor stores.

But from its early days with sawdust-covered floors, items on milk crates and a single cash register, Fairway today is now a fairly beloved local institution in the city known for its selection of small-batch goods and exotic and varied food offerings.

“We were always first to offer unique, different, imported, things-you-didn’t-know-existed foodstuffs,” Fairway notes.

Today, Fairway Markets reports, it is a very much the same store as the one that first opened its doors to the public over 85 years ago, retaining its dedication to unique selection, small vendors and exclusivity in its offerings. But it is also aiming to develop into newer and more frictionless version of that brand.

And while the firm is avidly embracing reinvention as what it has always done, it is worth noting that reinvention is something that Fairway Market has needed in recent years. Fairway never posted a profitable quarter after going public in 2013, and interest payments on its $280 million in debt has diminished its cash resources. The firm briefly entered bankruptcy in 2016 — though it was able to exit after reaching an agreement with its  lenders to cut Fairway’s borrowings in half in exchange for equity.

Fairway’s new CEO, Abel Porter, has repeatedly affirmed that the dark days of two years ago have passed, and the firm is ready to compete.

“We’ve moved dramatically quickly to be able to compete,” Porter said in an interview on Nov. 16. “We’re not burning cash, we’re accumulating cash.”

But Fairway, with its small scale, is increasingly standing toe-to-toe with rivals like Amazon-owned Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s that both sell similarly unique goods for discerning and high income “foodie” customers — meaning many have their doubts about whether a small “David” like grocery can compete in with not just one Goliath, but a slew of them setting up camp in its hometown.

In his brief tenure as CEO, however, Porter has focused on upgrading the shopping experience and promoting variety at Fairway.

Porter also told Bloomberg in late 2018  that Fairway is no longer looking to expand so much as it to better optimize the square footage it has — adding things like like noodle stations and poke bars, and experiences like a cooking school in Manhattan at its flagship Broadway and 74th street location. A wider selection in the produce department, which amounts to 20 percent of Fairway’s business, has generated about 7 percent more revenue in same-store sales, Porter said.

Fairway has also of late embraced delivery through partnering with grocery delivery services Instacart, Shipt and Google Express — a move that has pushed eCommerce growth to a 50 percent annual rate.

And as of this week, Fairway Market has officially launched mobile self-scanning checkout in all of its stores. According to Fairway Market, the move is a first of its kind for grocers in the region.

Via FutureProof Retail to introduce the grocery technology, Fairway now lets shoppers use the Fairway-branded mobile checkout app to scan products with their phone cameras. Weighted items, such as produce and products from the olive bar or hot bar, can be weighed at digital scales.

Checkout is handled through a QR code that appears when all products have been scanned and purchased. Instead of going to the cash register, the consumer can just walk out the door.

“We’re thrilled to launch our new mobile shopping experience, providing Fairway Market customers with a cutting-edge shopping convenience,” said Mike Penner, director of retail applications and technology at Fairway Market. “This continues Fairway’s tradition of offering the best food for our customers in the way that’s most convenient to them. The response from mobile shoppers has been incredibly positive.”

Fairway is a small fish in a great big pond that in recent years has been filling up with sharks.  It will not be an easy swim for the small market. But it is clearly serious about upping the level of its game, from a variety of angles — and for New Yorkers the market’s iconic status combined with its willingness to embrace the new might just keep its doors open for another 85 years.

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Our data and analytics team has developed a number of creative methodologies and frameworks that measure and benchmark the innovation that’s reshaping the payments and commerce ecosystem. Check out the latest PYMNTS Digital Drive Report 

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Today In Data: New Solutions For Old Problems

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Some problems are as old as time itself: managing cash flow as an SMB or consumer, or finding better ways to fight off fraudsters. Some problems, on the other hand, are newer: wanting a wearable, but not on your wrist, or buying something online when it is mostly an in-store only type of good. But old or new, the solution builders are out there – bringing biometrics, better imaging and the wonders of the connected commerce ecosystem to bear on the problem.

Data:

260 billion: The approximate value of the home furnishings marketplace annually.

125.3 million: The number of global shipments of wearable devices in 2018.

40 percent: Share of consumers who have difficulty managing short-term cash flow.

8.1 percent: Estimated CAGR of the global medical image software market by 2024.

15 percent: Estimated CAGR of the global biometrics market between 2019 and 2023.

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How Shopgoodwill.com Authenticates Luxury Goods With AI Tech

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Traditional eCommerce and brick-and-mortar merchants aren’t the only organizations that market luxury goods like handbags. ShopGoodwill.com, an eCommerce auction platform that was created by Goodwill of Orange County and is still operated by the organization, offers the same kinds of items on its site. Over 120 Goodwill organizations nationwide put items on the site. Revenue from the sales help Goodwill’s programs for people with disabilities and other barriers.

Luxury goods are among the items that come in through donation streams across the country. As Senior Director of Online Operations Ryan Smith told PYMNTS in an interview, “it’s not uncommon to see Gucci bags, Coach bags, Louis Vuitton bags.” (As of this writing, handbags from brands like Louis Vuitton, Gucci and Burberry were listed on the site.)

With that class of product, however, comes the possibility that items that seem like they are made by name brands might not, in fact, be authentic, which eCommerce auction websites are looking to mitigate. “We want our customers to know that we’re selling them authentic merchandise,” Smith said. To help achieve that goal, the organization is tapping into solutions from product authentication technology company Entrupy.

Goodwill uses a device that includes a high-powered magnification lens, which can be used on an iOS device to take a picture of a handbag’s material. That photo is sent to the company’s service, which does an analysis of the material using machine learning technology and gives an opinion of whether the product is authentic or not. “The whole process in general takes about a minute or so,” Smith said, adding that the technology is “exceptionally easy” to use.

The Authentication Technology

Smith said the organization did a training session that lasted a half-hour to 45 minutes, and that it’s easy to pass on that training internally. He compared the process to using an iPhone to take a picture and post it on Facebook. Entrupy said in a press release that its computer vision technology uses algorithms that can verify items with an accuracy rate of 99.1 percent, which Smith noted is in line with what Goodwill has seen so far.

When an item is deemed authentic, a certificate from the company is created. Shopgoodwill.com, in turn, includes the certificate in a picture of the item on its platform, with the aim of increasing consumer confidence. As a result, Smith noted that consumers might be willing to bid more for an item, leading to higher sales prices. If consumers are looking at an item and are not sure it is authentic, “they’re not going to be super invested in that item.”

That idea was echoed by Entrupy Co-founder and CEO Vidyuth Srinivasan. “When shoppers know they’re fully protected, they’re much more likely to value an item at its real worth,” he said in the press release. “We’re thrilled that our technology will enable shopgoodwill.com to sell against that worth, so they continue supporting those in need.”

At the same time, the company noted that it is able to pull upon product information for many different brands. Its database is said to encompass “millions of data points from real and fake goods for 100 years of styles.” Those labels include Coach, Dior, Fendi, Hermès, Goyard and Gucci, among others. In addition, the company said it plans to add the ability to authenticate more categories or other products in early 2019. Entrupy’s authentication solution will be deployed to 125 Goodwill agencies across the country.

Will other eCommerce sites leverage artificial intelligence and machine learning to authenticate goods? For now, the deployment at Goodwill suggests that these technologies may be part of the toolbox to help sell authentic products, one picture at a time.

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Our data and analytics team has developed a number of creative methodologies and frameworks that measure and benchmark the innovation that’s reshaping the payments and commerce ecosystem. Check out the latest PYMNTS Digital Drive Report 

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Why L’Occitane Bought Up Elemis

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Earlier this week, Hong Kong-listed luxury cosmetics firm L’Occitane International SA announced its intended $900 million acquisition of British beauty and skincare brand Elemis. The deal is the latest in a spate of acquisitions of high-end skincare brands. In 2017 Natura Cosmeticos SA’s bought the Body Shop from L’Oreal for about 1 billion euros ($1.13 billion), while Unilever snapped up Carver Korea Co. — South Korea’s biggest maker of beauty products — for 2.27 billion euros ($2.5 billion).

L’Occitane said the acquisition of the Elemis brand — which is popular with millennials and Generation X consumers — is intended to strengthen its global growth as it expands its market, particularly in Asia where high-end skincare is a rapidly growing area of interest and spend for consumers. According to a Bloomberg Intelligence note, the Elemis deal positions L’Occitane to reach its 1.7 billion-euro ($1.95 billion) sales target within two years — a particularly powerful hedge against slowing sales in Europe.

“It is a major step forward for L’Occitane in building a leading portfolio of premium beauty brands,” Chief Executive Officer Reinold Geiger said in a statement. “Elemis is well positioned for continued global growth.”

Sean Harrington, co-founder and chief executive officer of Elemis, said the firm is “thrilled” with the agreement with L’Occitane, which “will strengthen the continued growth and momentum behind our timeless brand and remarkably transformative products.”

L’Occitane originated in the French region of Provence — though today it is headquartered in Luxembourg and Switzerland — and currently  operates locations in 90 countries with 3,285 retail outlets. The firm reported 1.3 billion euros in net sales ($148 billion) and 142 million euros ($161 billion) in operating profit last fiscal year. The firm went public in 2010 with a listing on the Hong Kong stock exchange in anticipation of its expansion into Asia.

That expansion plan was well founded, given the explosion in the beauty and skincare business visible in the last few years has been driven largely by exploding demand in Asia. In 2018 global beauty product sales were up 5 percent, and most analysts are forecasting an even more aggressive growth rate of 7 percent to 8 percent in the coming year. It’s a trend that has boosted L’Occitane’s brand: in Q3 2018 it saw same-store sales in mainland China increase 7.4 percent in the three months ended in September 2018 — vastly outstripping the sub-5 percent growth it saw in all other regions.

The acquisition comes as L’Occitane is apparently readying itself to compete in a field that is getting crowded with an awful lot of big name players. There is Ulta, LVMH-owned Sephora, L’Oreal on one end with the large, vast and well-established international footprint. There are also the efforts of mass market retailers. Macy’s bought up Bluemercury in 2015, while retailers like Target, Walmart and CVS have all in recent years given their beauty departments major makeover with improved lighting, expanded selection and more expert guidance on application.

To meet that growing challenge, L’Occitane is doing more than adding brands to its stable — it has also been upgrading its stores, and the experience therein. The New York not only store sells its signature beauty items, but also offers a but a live video feed of its U.S. Instagram account, stationary bikes against a view of Provence, and a virtual 360-degree hot air balloon ride customers can experience while getting a hand massage.

“It’s a space that is meant to be ever-changing around product, campaign and philanthropy stories,” Paul Blackburn, vice president of concept design, construction and merchandising at L’Occitane North America told PYMNTS shortly after the new shop launched in August.

And, with its new acquisition, its seems L’Occitane is committed to keeping more than its stores ever-changing — it is also ready to make sure its product line stays that way as well.

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Our data and analytics team has developed a number of creative methodologies and frameworks that measure and benchmark the innovation that’s reshaping the payments and commerce ecosystem. Check out the latest PYMNTS Digital Drive Report 

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