FinTech Magazine - June 2021

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June 2021 |

Real-estate fintechs stirring up the market

An alternative to legacy lending Colin Goldstein, Commercial Growth Director of iwoca, helps us examine whether banks are meeting small businesses’ lending needs




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FINANCE NEEDS TO REEXAMINE ITS COMMITMENT TO SUSTAINABILITY A recent report from Greenpeace and WWF found that the UK banking industry contributed over 805 million tonnes of CO2 in 2019 through financing high emission ventures, a figure almost double the 455 million tonnes that the rest of the country produces annually.

“it is not unlikely that [customers] will migrate away from companies that do not share their own values”


Furthermore, it was found that if the UK’s financial services sector was a country it would be the ninth most polluting in the world, ahead of Germany (776 million tonnes) and Canada (763 million tonnes). This dilemma is underscored by the UK Government’s desire to show leadership in sustainability as it chairs the 2021 COP26 summit. Both the WWF and Greenpeace suggest the time for “voluntary pledges” has passed and that more stringent regulations are needed to meet the Paris Agreement’s target global average temperature rise of 1.5°C. With finance’s status reportedly comparable to the oil and gas, aviation, and transport sectors, this is certainly a defensible position. It should also be noted that digitally focused fintechs in the space have already made significant progress, one of the most notable being Finastra. Having recently partnered with Climate First Bank to help it provide eco-conscious investment programmes, the company is exemplifying a ‘finance for good’ mentality that encompasses ESG at every level. As customers become increasingly cognizant of finance’s role in tackling climate change, it is not unlikely that they will migrate away from companies that do not share their own values. This means an end to the practice of ‘greenwashing’ is imperative from both a business and environmental perspective. Now more than ever is the time to take action and lead the change.





Our Regular Upfront Section: 08 Big Picture 10 The Brief 12 Global News 14 People Moves 16 Timeline: The creation and evolution of credit card payments 18 Legend: James Goodfellow OBE 20 Five Mins With: Helene Panzarino



Using Tech to Deliver a World-class Pension Plan

Personalisation should be the CX of modern finance


Customer Experience



Small businesses need an alternative to legacy lending


CNA Insurance

Leveraging digital technology in the insurance industry



Shaping the future: Fintech’s lean and agile revolution



Universal Credit: The online lending revolution

Real-estate fintechs stirring up the market

Payment Solutions

Top 10



June 2021

Tesla stops accepting Bitcoin as payment California, US

Only a few months after announcing that Tesla would be accepting Bitcoin as a legitimate form of payment, Elon Musk has retracted this declaration. Citing the deleterious environmental effect of mining Bitcoin as the primary grievance, his words have had their characteristic effect on the popular crypto’s value, but not in a positive way... Courtesy of Tesla, Inc


THE BRIEF “Embedded finance is a huge opportunity ahead. Small businesses need to be able to access finance when and where they need it”

BY THE NUMBERS We asked 538 people from our LinkedIn community

Will the US have a Central Bank Digital Currency by 2023?

46% Yes

Colin Goldstein

Commercial Growth Director, iwoca  READ MORE

54% No

“There is an expectation that things should be done instantly and conveniently online” Uma Rajah

CEO, CapitalRise 


“Responding to change at pace and delivering incremental improvements is essential today”




Radius Payment Solutions is the slowest fintech to become a unicorn

Australian fintech Zip’s T&Cs contains 4,917 words and take 21 minutes to read, placing it among the industry’s most transparent BNPL companies

JP Morgan is currently the world’s largest bank by market cap

Eli Rosner

Chief Product and Technology Officer, Finastra  READ MORE


June 2021

DID YOU KNOW? In the US, approximately 56% of millennials have saved nothing for retirement. Surprisingly, 39% of both Baby Boomers and Gen-Xers are in a similar position.



CBDCs Aren’t you that overpriced stuff social media influencers are plugging? No, that’s CBD oil. I’m a Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC). That sounds like Bitcoin. Is this another get-rich-quick scheme? Not at all! I’m the future. They said that about ‘New Coke’. You don’t think that easier cross-border transactions, greater financial inclusion, and improved stability for payments systems are to our advantage? But I’ll need to create another type of account, right? Nope. CBDCs function just like ‘virtual cash’. Just as you don’t need a bank in order to possess cash, so it goes with me. Okay, okay. I’ll take US$100 worth. I’m afraid the US hasn’t developed one yet. So far, countries like China, Sweden, and the Bahamas are leading the way. The UK recently started to research me, too. So why are you bothering me now? Wake me up when you’re useful. I’m very lonely...

The US fintech managed to raise $425m in its Series D funding round. In one fell swoop, the company has doubled its total capital raised since it was founded in 2012

 CITI Citi simultaneously pledged US$1trn to sustainable finance and withdrew from 13 retail banking markets. It remains to be seen whether this is a consolidatory move as suggested

 PAYPAL In a bid to reclaim a share of the market from US companies, 30 banks and credit companies in the EU have proposed uniting. PayPal, as one of the world’s largest payment providers, is reportedly in the crosshairs

 CAIXABANK The Spanish FSI announced that it would be axing 8,000 jobs and closing down 1,534 branches. The shakeup came after its official merger with Bankia.


Starling not only gained a $50m investment from Goldman Sachs but also joined with Funding Options to support SMEs with fast loans






American Express enters European Open Banking with Tink LITHUANIA

Lithuanian fintech under investigation for Wirecard fraud Prosecutors suspect that UAB Finolita Unio may be linked to the notorious Wirecard scandal. When the $2.3bn of funds went missing in June 2020, the finserv platform declared insolvency. The accusations posit that UAB Finolita Unio stole $121.3m prior to its ultimate demise.



June 2021

Multinational financial services corporation American Express has formally entered the European Open Banking market in partnership with Tink. The former will incorporate the latter’s Open Banking tech into its application and risk analysis processes. The development will impact AmEx’s customers in France, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden, and others.






Central Bank of Iceland raises rates in post-COVID optimism

Singapore Government invites applications for green fintechs

Ahead of western Europe’s other central banking institutions, Iceland has raised its interest rates 0.25% to 1%. Driven by economic results at the end of 2020 and beginning of 2021 that surpassed expectations, the bank’s actions are a positive sign of post-COVID recovery.

Singapore’s government has opted to support the development of green fintechs in its latest industry event, the Global FinTech Hackcelerator. Supported by US consultancy firm Oliver Wyman, it will seek to unlock the fintech sector’s latent potential in advancing the development of green finance in Singapore and the wider region.


SoftBank Group announces annual net profit of US$45.8bn Boosted significantly by Coupang’s listing on the US market, tech giant SoftBank has reported the highest annual earnings of any Japanese company ever. The company is reportedly now investing billions into its technology platform. B2C services and products, and has become the leading e-commerce enterprise in South Korea.



A seasoned Silicon Valley entrepreneur and tech expert, BianRosa’s move to German neobank N26 will see him take leadership of product teams in Europe (Berlin, Barcelona, and Vienna) as well as the US (New York). Having established his product development credentials at companies like SoundCloud and Samsung, where he oversaw the latter’s Smart TVs globally, BianRosa is also a notable CEO. His ventures so far include the award-winning FanTV video streaming service and P2P entertainment distributor Vuze. Regarding his appointment, he commented, “After almost two decades in Silicon Valley, I’m very pleased to be joining one of the most dynamic product teams in fintech globally. I look forward to applying my experience from the world of online consumer services to help N26 continue to connect authentically with its customers.”

" I believe that N26 has a unique opportunity to touch more aspects of daily life with their simple, trusted, and delightful experience" 14

June 2021



After working at the BoE for more than three decades, Haldane’s planned departure in June is likely to trigger a significant change for the institution. His primary duties included leading financial stability and monetary analysis. Andrew Bailey, Governor of the BoE, commented on Haldane’s departure, “He has [...] been an imaginative and creative thinker on the wide range of issues the UK economy faces, as well as helping create and drive forward new ways for the Bank to engage with the public.”

WAS: VICE-CHAIRMAN OF GLOBAL WEALTH MANAGEMENT NOW: CHAIRMAN Previously also a board member at ING Bank, Leenaars took up his current position at UBS in 2015. His departure on 31 May to join Dutch fintech unicorn Mollie bodes well for its future prospects. Having already achieved a milestone by expanding to the UK market in February 2021, all eyes are on the payments provider’s next move. “Mollie enables merchants to grow faster and offers consumers seamless check-out experiences. I am proud to be on this team,” commented Leenaars.


TIMELINE THE CREATION AND EVOLUTION OF CREDIT CARD PAYMENTS The history of modern credit cards is a perfect example of a great idea that rapidly snowballed from its original conception. Barely 12 years after it started as the local experiment of a New York bank, the credit card had become an international success story. Approximately 50 years after that, it had transcended being a physical item entirely.




John Biggins invents the ‘Charg-It’ card

Introduction of the Diner’s Club Card

AmEx releases its first credit card

A Brooklyn-based banker named John Biggins laid the foundation for modern credit cards.

The next innovation came courtesy of Diner’s Club founder Frank McNamara.

Perhaps the first incarnation of the credit card as it is recognised today, American Express represented another leap forward by introducing consumer credit that was available internationally.

Available only to customers of Flatbush National Bank, the ‘Charg-It’ enabled the buyer to purchase items without paying for them immediately. Merchants would record sales and send deposit slips to the bank, which would then reimburse the merchant and bill the customer.


June 2021

The Diner’s Club would bill its members on a monthly basis and then reimburse restaurants that had received their patronage. McNamara’s card employed a similar idea to Biggins’, but with a crucial difference: it was usable on a national scale.

By the late 50s, people were increasingly on-the-move and AmEx pioneered a product that combined the security of traveller’s cheques with credit’s flexible payment terms.

1979 Visa debuts POS terminals Although credit was steadily becoming more accessible to consumers, processing times were still excessively long owing to pre-digital technology. Visa changed that with the invention of electronic POS terminals. Although large and unwieldy in construction, these devices instigated a revolution in transaction speed that is still accelerating today.

2007 Barclaycard issues contactless payment cards Bringing convenience a step into the future, Barclaycard’s contactless cards negated the need to input a PIN for each transaction. The implications of this innovation are still being explored today. From apps to wristwatches, contactless payments have rapidly become a consumer favourite. The technology particularly realised its potential during the COVID-19 pandemic, which made minimising physical contact a priority.






reviously in our ‘Legend’ section, we’ve examined the lives of prominent investors and financial minds. However, this time we’d like to pay tribute to an inventor who helped shape the modern world and yet arguably still isn’t quite a household name: James Goodfellow OBE, inventor of PINs and the ATM. Born in 1937 in the Scottish town of Paisley, Renfrewshire, Goodfellow completed an apprenticeship at Renfrew Electrical & Radio Engineers in 1958. Following the completion of his national service, he found work as a development engineer at Kelvin Hughes (now part of Smith’s Industries) in 1961. During this time, UK banks sought a convenient way to reduce Saturday working hours while also maximising service for customers. The concept of an automated cash dispensing machine had circulated for at least three decades prior, but no one had been able to develop it successfully. In 1965, Goodfellow was tasked with the project. It proved to be far from an easy one. Much like the tech projects of today, the proposed solution would need to incorporate convenience and functionality without sacrificing security. Interestingly, previous research had actually explored the use of sophisticated biometrics (voice recognition, fingerprints, retinal patterns,


June 2021

1937 born


Age at time of ATM patent

The inventor of PINs and the modern ATM etc.) to satisfy the latter. However, the feasibility of these methods exceeded both cost boundaries and contemporary tech maturity and were subsequently abandoned. Goodfellow’s key innovation was to combine a personal machine-readable card with a machine equipped with a numerical keypad. Used in tandem with a personal identification number (PIN), the two forms of encryption would be matched to an internal system for either acceptance or denial of service. Customers suddenly had a unique and safe way to withdraw their cash. His invention received its patent (UK No. 1,197,183) on 2 May 1966. Later, in 1967, John Shepherd-Barron at De La Rue designed an ATM capable of accepting cheques impregnated with a radioactive compound. This was made available to the public in London, and Shepherd-Barron was afterwards widely credited as having invented the modern ATM, despite Goodfellow’s design being registered first and operating in exactly the same way as the ATMs still in use today. In 2006, Goodfellow was given an Order of the British Empire (OBE) and was inducted into the Scottish Engineering Hall of Fame in 2016. Despite these honours, Goodfellow spoke of his regret to the BBC that wider recognition has eluded him for an invention that changed the world. It is in the spirit of setting the record straight that we honour him in this issue.





PANZARINO ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR FOR DIGITAL BANKING AND FINANCE, THE LONDON INSTITUTE OF BANKING AND FINANCE We all know the companies, but what about the people behind them? Here, we find out more about Panzarino’s background, why she’s an advocate for entrepreneurs, and her take on US community bank heroism. Q. WHO WAS YOUR CHILDHOOD HERO, AND WHY?

» My dad. It may seem a bit of a cliche, but for someone who left school aged nine, he instilled in me the value of education and self-belief. He also had enormous pride and confidence in me and my abilities. He was my biggest supporter and a wonderfully innocent and kind person who helped shape the person I am today.


June 2021


» ‘Mentors are great, but advocates are

better.’ I discovered that it's much harder for entrepreneurs to find true advocates, so this is something I try to do for other people.


» I can't wait to go to Terroni Brothers in

Clerkenwell, London, for some authentic Italian pastries and an espresso that I haven't had to make myself! I wrote most of my books in cafes, and I find a change of scenery also helps me think outside of the box on all my projects.


» I am most proud of having my second

book, Reinventing Banking and Finance: Frameworks to Navigate Global Fintech Innovation, published by Kogan. This book's schedule was very tight, and I was fortunate to have Alessandro Hatami, a good friend and industry peer, as co-author. We've received industry accolades, powerful endorsements and many compliments on the clarity of thought and content, so it made it even more worthwhile.


» I am hugely inspired by the way

community banks in the US have become the unexpected heroes of the pandemic, getting money into accounts quickly but also being there for their customers as trusted partners. Many community banks have been big enough to recognise that they could do more to support their customers, and it has been hugely inspiring to see them partner with the fintech community to drive operational and customer service improvement.



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Creating Digital Communities



Using Tech to Deliver a World-class Pension Plan 24

June 2021




Raif Murray, VP, Corporate Solutions Group, and Jennifer Williams, Senior Director of Information Security, provide an account of HOOPP’s cloud migration


very business strives to be among the best in its sector, but only a privileged few manage to attain that goal. The Healthcare of Ontario Pension Plan (HOOPP) is certainly one of them. Established in 1960, the organisation is one of Canada’s largest and most esteemed pension funds, delivering on the pension promise for more than 400,000 healthcare professionals at over 600 employers within the province of Ontario. Across those decades until the present day, the same spirit of innovation has permeated HOOPP’s approach; it is committed to the journey of continual improvement and strives to remain at the cutting edge of technologies that can make it happen. More than this, HOOPP’s five core values – accountability, collaboration, compassion, professionalism, and trustworthiness – emphasise a strong central message that it is a business ultimately driven by its members and their financial wellbeing. Reflecting at a time when the pandemic is reinforcing the value of healthcare workers on a daily basis, Jennifer Williams, Senior Director of Information Security, states that it was actually HOOPP’s enduring dedication to supporting them that drew her to join the company in 2018. “I really believe in the importance of our healthcare workers receiving one of the best pensions in Canada. I jumped at the chance to help deliver a security program that aligned with a very innovative digital transformation strategy.”


June 2021




“ I fell in love with the organisation's mission. Companies in the private sector are very financially motivated, but at HOOPP it's all about the members, all the time” RAIF MURRAY



June 2021

Raif Murray, VP Corporate Solutions Group, agrees with this sentiment; first and foremost, it is a pension delivery organisation and HOOPP’s activities are singularly focused on one goal: delivering on the pension promise, which is to provide a secure financial future for life. “I fell in love with the organisation's mission. Companies in the private sector are very financially motivated, but at HOOPP it's all about the members, all the time.” Coordinated between Williams’ and Murray’s departments, HOOPP has been engaged in a significant transformation of its enterprise digital technologies. This has been a journey consisting of four primary aspects: implementing Agile methodologies, shifting to a flat structure, migrating to the cloud, and incorporating a “work from anywhere” program. Never one for shying away from experimentation or prototyping, the company acknowledges that technology is becoming increasingly





Year founded


Finance/ Investments

Raif Murray is the VP of Corporate Solutions at the Healthcare of Ontario Pension Plan, where he leads the organisation’s Digital Transformation and Operational Teams within the IT & Facilities Services Division (IT&FS). Raif has 25 years’ experience in IT and has led many teams across multiple industries. Prior to joining HOOPP, he was Principal Consultant with ObjectSharp and, prior to that, was VP of Delivery at Navantis. Raif is a veteran of transformational programs and has a reputation for improving efficiency and quality within organisations. His work at HOOPP has included moving the IT&FS division to an Agile and clientcentric model.



vital at HOOPP to support the delivery of a world-class pension plan. “If you are not in the technology business in the 21st century, what business are you in?” asks Murray. “Technology plays a very critical role, particularly in keeping our investment teams competitive in an increasingly challenging market.” One of the most important changes that has taken place is HOOPP’s cloud migration program. However, unlike others who in the last 12 months have done so as a result of COVID-19, Murray says that the organisation had already planted the seed for cloud in 2016, planned its execution over the next few years, and then implemented it in 2019. Subsequently, by the time the pandemic struck Canada, HOOPP had already moved “out of the data center business.” In total, over 1,000 virtual machines comprising over 250 apps, 350 terabytes of data, and 19 racks of data centre computing, storage, and appliances were migrated. Other IT investments included Microsoft Teams and the Office 365 stack (rolled out across 2018 and 2019), which were developed with the intention of creating a “work from anywhere” program — a very


Number of Employees

Do More in the Cloud with Check Point CloudGuard and Microsoft Azure Check Point CloudGuard offers a full suite of security solutions targeted to critical cloud security use cases, such as protecting against advanced threats, achieving continuous compliance, and securing workloads— delivering unified security for Microsoft Azure.


Check Point: Securing the future of enterprise IT Erez Yarkoni, Global VP, explains how a three-way partnership between Check Point, HOOPP, and Microsoft is yielding optimum cloud security. Cybersecurity solutions provider Check Point was founded in 1993 with a mission to secure ‘everything,’ and that includes the cloud. Conscious that nothing remains static in the digital world, the company prides itself on an ability to integrate new technology with its solutions.

for this very reason when it was in the process of selecting Microsoft Azure as its cloud provider. “Let’s be clear: Azure is a secure cloud, but when you operate in a cloud you need several layers of security and governance to prevent mistakes from becoming risks,” Yarkoni clarifies.

“The pandemic has been somewhat of an accelerator in the evolution of cyber risk,” explains Erez Yarkoni, Global VP for Cloud Business. “We had remote workers and cloud adoption a long time beforehand, but now the volume and surface area is far greater.”

The partnership is a distinctly three-way split, with each bringing its own core expertise and competencies. That kind of focus is proving to be invaluable in the digital era, when the challenges and threats of tomorrow remain unpredictable. In this climate, only the best protected will survive and Check Point is standing by, ready to help.

In many ways, Check Point’s solutions’ capabilities have actually converged to meet the exact working requirements of contemporary enterprise IT. As more companies embark on their own digital transformation journeys in the wake of COVID-19, the inevitability of unforeseen threats increases, which also makes forming security-based partnerships essential. Healthcare of Ontario Pension Plan (HOOPP) sought out Check Point

“HOOPP is an amazing organisation,” concludes Yarkoni. “For us to be successful with a customer and be selected as a partner is actually a badge of honor. It says, ‘We passed a very intense and in-depth inspection by very smart people,’ and for me that’s the best thing about working with organisations like HOOPP.”

“The pandemic has been somewhat of an accelerator in the evolution of cyber risk” — Erez Yarkoni, Global VP for Cloud Business



prescient move given the subsequent operational restrictions imposed by the pandemic. This is not to say, however, that lockdown conditions were without challenges. “We had to switch from having an on-premises culture to remote practically overnight,” Murray adds. “But once everybody was set up it’s been business as usual for the most part.” In fact, the efficacy of the cloud migration was such that, when the plug was pulled at midday, nobody noticed the data centre was gone. Achieving a more agile operating model was HOOPP’s prize, and Williams is quick to highlight the security benefits it has brought, too. Providing advice and recommendations for action in a timely way, the security team works to expedite the delivery of technology. 32

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“The cloud migration that happened in 2019 set us up for success in 2020. Our security program can now pivot much quicker and has been well-equipped for the transition to remote working.” In total, the cloud migration took the combined efforts of up to 10 teams, a significant logistical challenge but one that HOOPP was able to carry off through teamwork and strong executive leadership. Once cloud was in place, Williams says that the security team began examining the best way to transition from ‘on-prem’ infrastructure to a multi-cloud environment. Her team’s goal was to make sense of the new operating paradigm and search for innovation opportunities. “You don't typically hear about security programs


“ You don't typically hear about security programs being innovative (because that implies a level of risk-taking), but in order to make a successful digital transformation you have to be comfortable trying new technologies”

JENNIFER WILLIAMS TITLE: SENIOR DIRECTOR OF INFORMATION SECURITY COMPANY: HOOPP Jennifer Williams is the Senior Director of Information Security at the Healthcare of Ontario Pension Plan. Jennifer brings close to 20 years of experience in information security for private and public sectors. She has held various roles, leveraging her knowledge in privacy, risk management, compliance and information security. Previous to HOOPP, Jennifer led the Information Security Program for a large healthcare system. Jennifer is a leader in the equity, diversity and inclusion space and an advocate for women entering and growing within the field of cyber security. Jennifer’s passion is to help organisations and people understand how best to protect their information and systems.


being innovative (because that implies a level of risk-taking), but in order to make a successful digital transformation you have to be comfortable trying new technologies, weighing the options with your team, and building a strong program with the right skill set.” The primary challenge, she notes, was how to monitor that security compliance standards were being met while operating remotely. Partnering with cybersecurity solutions provider Check Point helped resolve this by adding layers of governance to HOOPP’s Azure and AWS cloud environments. The partnership also created automation opportunities, which Williams notes could be used for detecting instances of non-compliance quickly and accurately. HOOPP would then be able to note any




HOOPP: A GTA TOP EMPLOYER HOOPP has been honoured as one of the Greater Toronto Area’s (GTA) top employers of 2021, which recognises it as providing a good social/work atmosphere and strong health/financial/ family benefits. “HOOPP is absolutely a top employer in my mind. I love working here, the atmosphere, and how we collaborate as a team. We really give our teams the autonomy they need to be successful; they take things on and run with them,” comments Williams. “Compassion is one of our key values and culture has always been the strength of HOOPP,” adds Murray. “We have a culture where it's safe to fail — obviously with safeguards, but with technology moving as fast as it is, you need to take some chances. I work with a great team of people across the organisation and we wouldn't have accomplished our goals without them. I’m very proud.”


June 2021

misconfigurations and effect fast changes to reduce risk. HOOPP’s strategy is truly ‘cloud first’, and Murray notes that many developments are happening within operations and security simultaneously. “At the end of the day, our members’ top priority is for HOOPP to pay their pensions, and they trust us to do that. A close second is trusting our ability to protect their data.” The organisation’s transformation has helped move all our content onto online platforms to make it easier for our employees to access our technology securely without the requirement for VPN.” All of this development also has a much


broader goal in mind: enhanced ease for end-users, leading to greater productivity among employees and therefore a better experience for members. This isn’t the only way HOOPP is seeking to improve the member experience - it has also invested in a new, more modern, fully integrated portal. “[Members’] feedback has been that, with the service we're providing through that technology, we have enhanced both our rating and the perception of our services,” says Murray. However, he adds, the need to balance technology with efficiency and members’ requirements is always present.

“We’re not a massive IT shop, so the real challenge for organisations like HOOPP is finding the perfect balance between adding and maintaining so many different technologies. We're always searching for refinement and rationalisation.” HOOPP has a tangible sense of purpose and direction, qualities that subsequently guide the organisation when choosing IT partners and vendors. While looking for the most long-lasting relationships possible, Williams pointedly asks, “Do they share our values, does their roadmap align with ours, do they have long-term vision and are they able to keep pace with us?”


Jennifer Williams and Raif Murray from HOOPP talks about digital transformation and cloud migration

To ensure commitment to this shared purpose and direction, both the IT and security departments have developed concurrent three-year plans based on four pillars: 1. Intelligent innovation: in partnership with others in the organisation, applying HOOPP IT’s acumen, thought leadership and expertise to address their challenges and help them transform their businesses. HOOPP investigates which areas to invest in by first reflecting on the potential business benefits it will bring, as opposed to merely selecting tech that is ‘fashionable’. 2. Drive data insights: enable timely and effective decision-making across the organisation to drive new data and insights, develop capabilities that make them efficient and easy to use and unlock new opportunities through improved decision making. 36

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3. Resilience and security: facilitating the evolution of security by enabling automation that can improve response. The ultimate goal being to maintain a resilient foundation for strengthening IT risk management and ensuring the technology infrastructure is robust, stable and capable of withstanding constant change. 4. Invest in talent: perhaps the most important of all. Murray: “we simply don't believe we can achieve the other three without [people/talent]” - HOOPP is striving to help its people acclimatise to the post-COVID new normal and all that it entails. As staff are the “first line of defense”, their significance cannot be overstated. HOOPP is fostering collaborative teams to bridge subjectmatter expertise, networks and technology solutions, and the business outcomes required for the organisation’s growth and innovation.


“If you are not in the technology business in the 21st century, what business are you in?” RAIF MURRAY




“ All of the things we've accomplished in the last two years have been the result of our very supportive and skilled teams” JENNIFER WILLIAMS



June 2021


The latter point reinforces what makes HOOPP special: success doesn’t belong to one person or department, but rather the organisation as a whole. “HOOPP is driven by our mission to deliver pensions to our members,” Murray declares. “We strive to be a world-class pension plan and want to make sure that everything we need to remain in that position is in place. In this way, we'll constantly reassess ourselves and strive for more.” And so the journey goes on; as the organisation continues to innovate in its characteristic way, it will use the experiences of its members and staff to produce a better solution for everyone. HOOPP’s skilled teams exhibit dedication, optimism, collaboration and perseverance at all times; they refuse to give in when confronted with a challenge and instead tackle it head on. “All of the things we've accomplished in the last two years have been the result of our very supportive and skilled teams,” Williams concludes. “Without those great people working together, I'm not sure how successful we could have been.”


PERSONALISATION SHOULD BE THE CX OF MODERN FINANCE Commentators from Appnovation and Zopa help us determine what the contemporary financial customer experience should be and why personalisation is key



igital transformation has changed how finance companies operate, but how is it altering the customer experience (CX)? Although the answer might not be straightforward, there has been a palpable shift away from ‘one-size-fits-all’ products and a renaissance in flexible, transparent, and engaging alternatives. This is because, instead of being product or service-centric, companies now have an added layer of agility that enables them to mould deliverables around the end user. As customers themselves become more technologically sophisticated, the necessity of accommodating unmet needs will become central to competitiveness. The business case for doing so is clear: banks, for example, can expect to gain a 27.5% growth rate via this relatively subtle cultural transformation. To help us determine the best path for optimising CX in modern financial services,


June 2021

we spoke with Clare Gambardella, Chief Customer Officer at Zopa, and Allison Humphries, VP of Strategy at Appnovation. Refocusing around the customer Recognising the shift towards more customercentric operations is an important step, but understanding why is essential. “As finance becomes generally more fragmented and physical money is replaced by digital transactions, automatic payments, and more; people are inherently craving more control over their individual finances,” explains Humphries. Herein lies the value: digital technology is handing power back to the consumer; FSIs are now the facilitators of that empowerment and their CX must reflect this. Yet, for many, legacy infrastructure and convoluted systems and processes impede progress. However, this must be remedied as soon as possible – for the modern customer, what Appnovation called the




“[Vaue-based experiences have] the potential to address the unique financial needs of each customer” ALLISON HUMPHRIES


‘digital consumer’ in a recent study, the digital experience is everything: • 84% hope that brands will adopt digital solutions and subsequently develop new products and services • 53% consider themselves already totally at ease with touchless tech, with a further 22% indicating that they will become likewise following longer exposure • 67% felt that a digital experience in banking and financial management was extremely or very important to them Humphries is of the opinion that “a willingness to lead with empathy” on the matter is what FSIs must demonstrate. Simply meeting expectations is conforming to the status quo; companies must push beyond towards a more “value-based experience that has the potential to address the unique financial needs of each customer.” Gambardella explains that this has always been Zopa’s approach to CX: “As our product set has grown, we have evolved our structure to ensure a customer-led approach which delivers greater ease and consistency. As a result, customers know what to expect from us, for example a rigorous approach to removing unnecessary fees. It also allows Zopa to reapply learnings and capabilities quickly across different areas and create greater efficiency versus a more siloed approach.”

Deloitte: CX is part of finance’s future In its article ‘A higher bottom line – The future of financial services’, Deloitte listed a new approach to CX as being among its six accelerating forces for change in the sector. “Delivering against an ‘average customer’ will not sustain profits, let alone boost them. New capabilities, including technology tools and systems and an augmented workforce, will empower financial services players {... ]in ways that are more direct, personalised, and socially responsible.”



Allison Humphries VICE PRESIDENT STRATEGY (AMERICAS), APPNOVATION Appnovation is a global full-service digital consultancy that helps clients navigate constant change by placing customers first and creating innovative digital experiences that are derived from human truth. “I am responsible for leading a team of strategic planning and insights professionals across North America who are committed to delivering positive outcomes for our clients’ businesses and their customers.”

Clare Gambardella CHIEF CUSTOMER OFFICER, ZOPA “I lead a number of teams all focused on providing the best customer experience, including our Operations team, Marketing and Communications, Product Design and our app and web offering. “Zopa wants to make customers feel good about their finances and this means delivering better value products, in a way that is simple to use and understand. We focus on products like loans, cards and savings which have a significant impact on customer’s financial wellbeing and where we believe the customer offering can be most dramatically improved.


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Eliminating silos To effectively replace silos, FSIs must recontextualise how the separate aspects of their business interact. Instead of just focusing on one specific part of the customer journey, such as POS, companies must re-evaluate how the end-to-end experience can be optimised for maximum customer engagement, retention and return. “When it comes to CX,” states Humphries, “it’s imperative to define a ‘north star’ strategy that leans to the future, yet anchors marketing, product, sales, and technology to a common path forward with shared goals.” In effect, the north star establishes how every aspect of a company is organised, which in practice grants greater levels of overall consistency and value for customers. As such, CX becomes an integrated and collaborative project consisting of separate but interconnected strands. “Personalisation, content, SEO, marcom, as well as the data and technology that enables the experience, should all be aligned to the same overarching plan,” she adds. Technology itself also has an important role to play in reducing CX friction. AI (artificial intelligence) and omnichannel communication are important new tools, but Gambardella opts to highlight another: Open Finance. Capable of forging a more direct relationship between customers and the FSIs serving them, the broader implications of Open Finance could be revolutionary. Regarding Zopa’s specific use of Open Banking, she said, “In some cases, it can be used to reduce complexity and friction, such as verifying a customer’s income. We can now do this in seconds when previously it would require bank statements and other documents to be submitted for review. In other cases, Open Banking helps us to improve customer’s access to credit by augmenting their credit record data.”


“Customers are more likely to shop around and future innovation will need to deliver CX that’s faster, in the channel of their choice, and in a way that integrates more intuitively into their lives” CLARE GAMBARDELLA




Empowerment and innovation A by-product of customer empowerment through this new approach to CX, Gambardella continues, is placing more onus on FSIs to prove their service’s superiority. That consumers in the digital age are homogenising their expectations based on experiences with other tech leaders (Amazon, Apple, Netflix, Uber, etc) across several industries is becoming an unassailable argument. “Customers are more likely to shop around and future innovation will need to deliver CX that’s faster, in the channel of their choice, and in a way that integrates more intuitively into their lives.” Zopa is embracing this way of thinking in several ways: 46

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• Enabling customers to apply for a loan or credit card in minutes, as well as providing eligibility checks that don’t affect one’s credit rating • An app that provides users with easy management tools, including spend breakdowns, credit limits, and payment methods • Convenient-to-contact customer service agents and product FAQs “We are always listening to our customers and turning those insights into better products,” states Gambardella. This, agrees Humphries, should be the finance industry’s approach to CX going forward. “FSIs who choose to focus on their customers will see increased


“FSIs who choose to focus on their customers will see increased customer satisfaction, increased customer retention, and will open the door for more personalised up-sell and cross-sell opportunities” ALLISON HUMPHRIES


customer satisfaction, increased customer retention, and will open the door for more personalised up-sell and cross-sell opportunities.” Furthermore, utilising customer insights won’t stymie a business’ creativity or be the proverbial ‘tail wagging the dog.’ On the contrary, bringing disparate data streams together will create a more complete and actionable profile from which FSIs can work. “With customer insight comes a much greater opportunity for innovative thinking and experimentation,” concludes Humphries. “To facilitate experimentation is an imperative foundation for any customercentric FSI experience.”




June 2021




June 2021


CNA’s VP of Transformation Carol Castelloni shares her insights on an approach that optimises workflow processes for the more than 120 year old organisation


Carol Castelloni VP Transformation, CNA Insurance

NA is one of the largest U.S. commercial property and casualty insurance companies. Founded in 1897, it is backed by more than 120 years of experience. Carol Castelloni, who leads the Transformation Office for CNA, talks about her role at the organization where she first started her career before rejoining them in 2019. “My career started with CNA, so it has been exciting to come back to where my insurance journey began.” In this role, Carol is responsible for driving enterprise-wide strategic initiatives. Her team delivers value through collaborative execution with crossfunctional stakeholders to optimize business performance, enhance operating models and lead CNA through modernization. Carol has served the P&C insurance industry in a variety of leadership and advisory roles for more than 20 years. At CNA, she is tasked with overseeing a wide range of initiatives, and no two days are alike, much to her preference. With driving the continuous evolution of CNA as her top objective, Carol operates as a multidimensional thought partner for senior



CNA Overview

“My career started with CNA, so it has been exciting to come back to where my insurance journey began” CAROL CASTELLONI



June 2021


business leaders across core functions like underwriting, operations and distribution. Describing herself as a collaborative, accountable and empowering leader, she says “My team and I function as a nucleus for shaping and driving large-scale programs that are focused on maximizing efficiency, modernization, and growth.” In collaboration with CNA’s business stakeholders, Carol and her team analyze opportunities for improvement to design solutions and shape future roadmaps that deliver measurable value. CNA’s strategic priorities influence transformations taking place across the organization. These include their commitment to deliver top quartile underwriting performance through industry specialization, technical excellence, optimized distribution, operational efficiency, and talent development. Carol and her team are constantly challenging the status quo by re-examining current ways of doing work across the spectrum of process, people, and technology to drive valuable impacts. Interestingly, transformation at CNA is not always a technology-first approach. Instead, it starts by looking through the lens of the customers and distributors to assess opportunities for optimizing efficiency and effectiveness. Since joining CNA, Carol and her team introduced a new ‘learn-bydoing’ approach to quickly pilot ideas and opportunities, referred to as the Model Office. When asked about this method of innovating and executing, she says “We start small and adjust based on insights from people, and supporting metrics, doing the work in a new way. Then, we scale fast to achieve a broad impact.” The Model Office framework applies business resources to new workflows while gathering qualitative and quantitative


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impacts, such as service, time and quality. Subsequently, Carol works with CNA’s Technology team to identify ways that digital enablers can expand and/or accelerate the desired outcomes. This has led CNA to embark on a digital transformation using artificial intelligence and machine learning to collect, organize, and analyze inbound documentations, such as submissions, loss runs, and supplemental forms, from agents and brokers. This significantly reduces timeconsuming manual workflows and improves the speed and accuracy of CNA’s processes. Looking downstream, the digitized data can be leveraged for analytics and modeling 56

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purposes. The Model Office has been successfully embraced at CNA as an accelerator to process design and execution for Underwriting, Operations, and Analytics. CNA is also employing a number of digital solutions to transform their processes and workflow. To respond to common challenges with information veracity (trusting the data) and velocity (speed of data), CNA deployed ThoughtSpot. This tool provides socially-enabled search capabilities and recognizes patterns that can also plug into AI/ML models. CNA’s business leaders and underwriters leverage this tool so they can quickly ask and answer questions pertaining


“ At CNA, we are not afraid to take transformation to the heart of our business processes. We do not believe in innovation on the fringes, but the best way to achieve our outcomes is to go right to the core and make a difference”

CAROL CASTELLONI TITLE: VP TRANSFORMATION COMPANY: CNA INSURANCE LOCATION: CHICAGO Carol Castelloni leads the Transformation Office for CNA. In this role, she is responsible for driving enterprise-wide, strategic initiatives and change programs. Carol and her team deliver value through collaborative execution with crossfunctional stakeholders to optimize business performance, enhance operating models, and lead CNA into a modernized organization. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a Master’s degree in Applied Technology from DePaul University. Carol is an active mentor in the Women Impacting Leadership (WIL) group at CNA and volunteers with the College & Career Center for Illinois School District 203.


to revenue, profits, and quality of business. Harnessing the power of the Cloud in realtime is a big advantage to support digital transformation at CNA, so they’ve selected Google Cloud as its primary platform. When it comes to fostering the culture at CNA, Carol believes that people are CNA’s greatest asset and they should be empowered to think creatively and problem-solve. “I actively seek out perspectives from my team and our business stakeholders because I believe their holistic input drives better outcomes, performance, and energy.” Carol is a naturally charismatic and motivational leader, with a keen focus on collaborative accountability. To this point, she goes above and beyond to articulate shared goals, support action-oriented progress, and recognize accomplishments. Given her industry and leadership acumen, Carol also invests time to coach her team and mentor other resources as a way to




continually cultivate talent at CNA. “For me, mentorship is a two-way learning opportunity because I gain so much from the wide range of lively conversations,” she says. One of her biggest mantras for a positive culture within her team is to keep it fun, as Carol believes that it is important to laugh and learn through shared experiences. CNA is actively involved in the industry, serving on the Board of The Institutes and as an active member of RiskStream Collaborative, which is an industry-led consortium collaborating to unlock the 58

June 2021

potential of blockchain across the insurance industry. The company also supports IICF, APCIA, ACORD, Big I and PLUS, to name a few. It is important for CNA to be involved in these associations, as they bring together leaders to discuss and help solve some of the challenges facing the insurance industry today as well as plan for the future. CNA relies on a combination of its own thought leadership as well as the latest technology from industry experts to help solve its clients’ challenges. CNA values companies with a strong understanding

“My team and I function as a nucleus for shaping and driving large-scale programs that are focused on maximising efficiency, modernisation, and growth” MICHAEL COSTONIS


of the P&C insurance industry as it relates to the company’s overall strategic objectives and functional capabilities. This synergy is important because it provides an ‘outside-in’ perspective on how CNA thinks about leveraging innovation. These experts also need to pivot quickly based on evolving business priorities, which enables CNA to accelerate momentum, increase capacity, and deliver value faster. Lastly, joint accountability towards outcomes as well as working with a company to define what success looks like up front and track

progress over time are equally important. CNA has a very successful connection with SLK to provide high-quality automation solutions that support technology and business objectives. Carol adds, “SLK’s Avo Discover tool accelerates how we can document workflow processes, measure impacts on enhancements, and identifies future automation opportunities.” This allows CNA resources more time to focus on creative problem-solving for future designs. Accenture is a long-standing relationship with a multi-functional, deep understanding



“ We start small and adjust based on insights from people, and supporting metrics, doing work in a new way. Then, we scale fast to achieve a broad impact” MICHAEL COSTONIS



of CNA’s business and technology environment. They provide thought leadership to support the company’s strategic needs and drive execution for specific priorities. Accenture has a proven track record for helping CNA address complex problems with innovative solutions that drive change across the organization. Carol keeps a close pulse on market news and trends as a seasoned leader and shares her thoughts on the insurance industry’s approach to transformation, saying “The insurance industry is undergoing remarkable demands to enhance digital capabilities required to support the changing nature of risk, new product lines, and different distribution channels. It’s a critical time for insurers to focus on foundational priorities and build a dynamic path that can flex to address emerging needs.” When asked if she has any words of advice for her peers, she said “Transformation does not need to be over-engineered and feel overwhelming. It can start with rapid experimentation and scale over time with incremental learning. When you run into challenges, embrace them as learning moments and continually get better over time. Harness the power of change management and communication strategies to navigate organizational impacts along the way.” As a closing note, CNA's Chief Operations Officer Michael Costonis shares Carol’s enthusiasm, “At CNA we are not afraid to take transformation to the heart of our business processes. We do not believe in innovation on the fringes, but the best way to achieve our outcomes is to go right to the core and make a difference.”



SMALL BUSINESSES NEED AN ALTERNATIVE TO LEGACY LENDING Guided by alternative lender iwoca, as well as others, we examine whether banks are meeting small businesses’ lending needs and how things could improve



June 2021

There has never been an ‘easy’ time to run a small business. From struggling to carve out a niche in the market to maintaining a solid pricing strategy and ensuring exceptional customer service, it is no surprise that only 50% of small-medium enterprises (SMEs) survive past the five-year mark. However, the arduous conditions brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic have only served to accentuate one struggle in particular: securing adequate funds to stay afloat. As world economies seek to recover from a year’s worth of stagnation, bolstering SMEs’ success will be an important factor in their restabilization. Yet, with 80% of their loan applications rejected by high street banks, can it be said that SMEs’ needs are being adequately met? As well as addressing the cultural shortcomings that allow this problem to persist, finding an answer to this question requires careful consideration of what alternative lenders and fintechs are doing to plug the gaps. To gain a frontline perspective on this issue, we spoke with Colin Goldstein (CG), Commercial Growth Director at iwoca, one of Europe’s leading alternative business financiers. His comments steer the conversation and are then supplemented with further analysis.


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Q. WHAT IS THE APPETITE FOR SMALL BUSINESS LENDING AMONG BANKS? ARE SMALL BUSINESSES BEING PUSHED TO EXPLORE ALTERNATIVE LENDING PROPOSITIONS? CG: Recent research from Marqueta suggests that small businesses are losing confidence in the big banks, with 84% of UK SMEs frustrated with their current banking experience and 67% prepared to find a new provider if their current bank is unable to provide better digital capabilities. Elsewhere, there are stories of high street banks declining small business owners despite their eligibility for funding. A substantial flow of customers come to iwoca, having been rejected by big banks. Katrin Herrling – CEO of one of our most trusted introducers, Funding Xchange – gave her insight on this recently: “...banks built

their credit models in the 1970s when the typical company was eight years old and had a pretty steady trading record [...], but that is not the profile of the typical company that makes today's economy.” Yet this isn’t to say that high street banks have lost their relevance entirely; on the

“ Banks built their credit models in the 1970s when the typical company was eight years old and had a pretty steady trading record” KATRIN HERRLING





contrary, their superior lending power makes them an invaluable asset in the lending space, if only the availability of funds could be broadened for SMEs. Venkatesh Varadarajan, Partner in Financial Services at Infosys Consulting, is confident that, by 2030, enhanced data sharing capabilities might harmonise the divide between banks and alternative lenders. “Banks will be actively pulling in data from customers’ other bank accounts and profiles, collaborating on products and services, and working in tandem to give consumers the full visibility they demand. This will allow them to slice and dice the benefits of each bank as they please, in line with their individual lifestyles.” Fulfilling this vision across the board will be important; Herrling also notes the worrying statistic that 35 to 40% of businesses are currently at risk of falling outside what banks consider ‘fundable’ because of outdated standards. Clearly, what’s needed is a new paradigm for SME loan processing that takes modern capabilities into account. 66

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Q. IS THERE A ROBUST SYSTEM IN PLACE FOR MEASURING SMALL BUSINESS RISK? HOW CAN DATA BE MANAGED MORE EFFECTIVELY? CG: It’s incredibly difficult to assess the credit risk of small businesses, which is why at iwoca, we’ve developed a leading proprietary risk model using technology and data to assess credit risk accurately and at record speed. Built to allow streamlined end-to-end processing and risk analysis specific to the micro and small business segment, our platform can assess businesses based on realtime performance data obtained from tech integrations with third parties. This allows us to go well beyond conventional credit scoring. Our ability to blend human expertise with machine learning allows iwoca to efficiently analyse and assess the financial health of SMEs. iwoca isn’t alone in seeking out new alternatives to cumbersome and legacy


“ It’s incredibly difficult to assess the credit risk of small businesses” COLIN GOLDSTEIN


tech-inflected loan applications. In the US, Lendio created an online process backed up by a proprietary algorithm, which matches applicants with appropriate loan options via a network of high-profile finance leaders like AmEx, PayPal and Kabbage. The company claims that online applications can be completed in as little as 15 minutes, a substantially expedited process compared to banks’, which can take days. Elsewhere, Atom Bank and Plaid have partnered to streamline the former’s Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS). “When Open Banking first took shape, SMEs were largely ignored. Now three years in, we’re finally seeing innovative services emerge, like Atom’s, that solve their unique financial needs, and in an economic climate where they face bigger obstacles than ever before,” stated Keith Grose, Head of International at Plaid. Open Finance, says Goldstein, is also an important focus for iwoca: CG: Around half of our SME customers use [Open Banking] to link their bank accounts. This means we can provide continuous underwriting on data feeds they have. As we navigate through the crisis, we’re constantly updating our risk models and underwriting to understand the underlying risk in the SME segment.

Colin Goldstein COMMERCIAL GROWTH DIRECTOR, IWOCA iwoca is one of Europe’s leading small business lenders, providing an alternative to traditional business finance. It was recently named as the top small business lender and highest-ranking fintech firm in The Sunday Times HSBC International Track 200. Throughout the pandemic, iwoca has lent over £300m through the governmentbacked Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS). Goldstein is responsible for growing the company’s loan book through partnerships and overseeing its collaborations with the likes of Xero, Tide, Funding Options and Funding Xchange.



“ Embedded finance is a huge opportunity ahead. Small businesses need to be able to access finance when and where they need it” COLIN GOLDSTEIN


How to use Open Data to move beyond banking Kam Chana, Product Innovation Director at Temenos, weighs in on the potential for Open Finance to transform the SME-bank relationship: “There is clear evidence to suggest SMEs want their banks to be more holistic advisors. Research from Accenture found that 31% of SMEs are looking for close engagement from banks, seeking help to optimise their business.


June 2021

“By embracing Open Data, banks can bring in data from other industries to provide new products and services for their customers, from recommending better utility providers to reduce costs, or linking with accounting software providers to develop additional services with broader data sets. This enables banks to take a more holistic view of their customers’ financial welfare and position themselves as a trusted advisor and guardian of data.”


Q. WHAT DO YOU THINK WILL BE THE TRAJECTORY OF SMES’ RECOVERY, AND WHAT CHALLENGES OR OPPORTUNITIES EXIST FOR FINTECH LENDERS? CG: Different sectors will experience different paces of recovery, but many small business owners have built up resilience throughout the pandemic. Access to finance will be key for their recovery. When iwoca conducted a survey of accountants in March 2021, they advised that the top priority for businesses should be to ensure they’re well funded (49%). Embedded finance is a huge opportunity ahead. Small businesses need to be able to access finance when and where they need

it. Services they can use day-to-day like bookkeeping apps, payment processors or invoice management systems accommodate this requirement. The ability for the industry to offer this flexibility to their customers will create a powerful support tool for small businesses, enabling them to stay agile and get what they need quickly as they recover from the pandemic. Like other aspects of finance, it seems that the future of small business lending will be centred on digital technology that can provide a more personalised experience to customers. Fundamentally, banks must try to close this culture gap if they wish to compete with the fintechs that embrace alternative approaches to lending. Indeed, with SMEs burdened by heavy amounts of debt from the pandemic, doing so could be essential to global economies’ broader recovery plans.






June 2021


Borrowing from a digital lender has never been so quick or simple. But is the new lending and BNPL revolution without consequence?


ack in early 2005, the concept of online lending was an anathema. If you needed a loan, you made an appointment to see a personal banker, donned a suit and then prayed that your finances and business idea were enough in line with the bank’s borrowing requirements to get the loan approved. But later on that year, a disruptive UK fintech company called Zopa threw a spanner in the works and became the very first online P2P lender in the marketplace. Incumbent suspicions were raised. Zopa was viewed as niche and even shady by the establishment. “It’ll never catch on,” they said. Fast-forward 15 years and online lending has taken the marketplace by storm. Indeed, these days, the incumbents are the ones lining up to form collaborations with their shiny fintech counterparts. The game has well and truly changed as billions of dollars in lending transactions occur daily across the globe. Lending frenzy? Although there are obvious benefits to more accessible loans, which have helped numerous businesses develop and grow, not everyone is happy about this financial revolution. Indeed, some experts are concerned that such easily accessed loans on a consumer level could potentially be damaging.


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Elin Helander is a neuroscientist and the Chief Scientific Officer at Dreams, a leader in behavioural banking solutions that helps users set saving goals, invest and pay off debt. Not one to mince her words, Helander says the trend towards buy-now-pay-later (BNPL) schemes, which have exploded in recent years, could lead to serious problems as they target younger generation spenders and propagate a culture of debt.

“A concerning by-product of the online lending revolution has been the emergence of buy now pay later schemes (BNPL) over the past couple of years which are marketed almost entirely to millennials, brainwashing them with the idea that debt is a good thing,” she says. “There’s something inherently and morally wrong about that, and if the online lending revolution doesn’t slow down any time soon, we risk a significant consumer financial crisis.” Helander goes on to say that with the introduction of new regulations like Open Banking and PSD2, the number of fintechs has skyrocketed, and the level of competitive intensity within the online lending market is now the highest it has ever been. “The online lending revolution does not look like it will slow down any time soon,” she points out, stressing that this level of competition has motivated fintechs to use “aggressive marketing tactics to catch the eye of consumers, luring people into making loans they might not necessarily need, and reaping profits from desperate borrowers.”




“This concept of loss aversion explains why when you buy something and have to remove money from your account, a moment of mental pain arises. Marketers use this concept to entice young consumers by removing the pain associated with the buying process and giving people the false sense that they have bought something for ‘free’”

Expanding on her statement, she explains, “In behavioural economics, people are often defined as being ‘loss averse’, meaning that they have a tendency to prefer avoiding losses rather than acquiring gains.

Loaned opportunities However, Helander’s dissenting voice is not echoed by the majority of fintech experts, who support the new online lending revolution and see it as a positive force. Many dismiss the idea that easier



June 2021


Online lending revolution drivers

Sankar Krishnan, Executive Vice President at Capgemini, Industry Head, Banking & Capital Markets, says;

access to loans results in a culture of debt and borrowing. Sankar Krishnan, Executive Vice President at Capgemini, Industry Head, Banking & Capital Markets, agrees that the majority of online borrowers are in the younger generation but says easy access to credit is essential for innovation and growth. “Millennials and digitallysavvy consumers are increasingly borrowing from smart fintechs. The Digital Lending Market is expected to grow by approximately 11.9% CAGR between 2020-2025,” he says, adding that lessons have been learned from previous market crashes.

• COVID-19: COVID-19 has been the greatest enabler of digital spending, with 80% of all transactions now digital, compared to the pre-covid era. • Price: Fintechs are able to price loans much cheaper compared to traditional banks as they don’t have the “legacy effect of costs”. • Innovative Products: Online lenders have become innovative, with significantly reduced cycle times for a loan product at attractive repayment terms. This innovation includes the very popular BNPL deals announced by several fintechs, which have taken a dominant share of the market. • Digital Savviness: The overall growth of millennials as the largest segment of the economy, who prefer to be served digitally, has resulted in fintechs appealing to their needs on a personalised and customised basis with better UI/UX and better customer satisfaction. • Growth of Data and Cloud: Thanks largely to AWS and Microsoft and the growth of Open finance, smart online lenders have found it easy to launch their better business models with friendly PEs supporting this industry like no time before in global history.



“It is very good for small businesses and individuals to have access to ready credit. At no stage should a bad credit be pushed forward as good credit, as we still have to

remember the lessons from the subprime mortgage crisis of 2007. Availability of credit is a factor of production, which propels the engine of the economy.” Krishnan goes on to say that far from providing a counterweight to the online lending trend, incumbent banks are swiftly adopting the same technologies to help them stay ahead of the curve. Krishnan believes banks need to be more digitised and change their attitude to lending. He points out that those operating via customer-centricity will “thrive” because they will realise “the needs of customers at the lowest cost point, and reconfigure their business model to be agile and nimble” accordingly. He adds, “ Let us not forget that we need large banks for big-ticket lending to Fortune 500 companies, and we need them as a “utility” to serve the global lending market. But for small loans, fintechs present a better alternative.” Patrick Meisberger, Managing Partner at CommerzVentures, a return-driven, non-strategic venture capital investment company founded in 2014, says the amount of regulation applied to lending is strict enough to protect customers as well as lenders. “There is a lot of regulation involved with lending overall, but this applies equally to banks, and it is right that consumers should be protected.”

FOUR ways to achieve financial sustainability • Spend less, save more. Increase monthly savings and cut budgets where possible. Weigh up the pros and cons of new investments – and only opt for them if they are an absolute necessity. • Only make affordable borrowing decisions. Avoid spending for an outward show or status symbol. Consider the loss to long-range goals in the ‘spend now’ mindset.


June 2021

• Get financially agile. Work with business advisors to restructure investments, finances and streamline working practices to cut down on wasteful spending. • Protect what you have. Take out insurance for financials. Having cover that protects your business interests in the event of a crisis could be a make or break decision.




Meisberger explains that alternative lenders sprang up because incumbent banks were not sufficiently servicing the market demand. This revolution was driven by the incumbent bank’s lack of a digital offering. “Their reliance upon lengthy processes that were paper-based or requiring ‘in person’ applications at local branches, meant that lending challengers could reach consumers – especially the unbanked – by taking advantage of advances in Big Data and AI.” A welcome disruption Uma Rajah, CEO of Prime property lending platform CapitalRise, believes the legacy systems were ripe for an overhaul because they were old fashioned, cumbersome and time-consuming. It was this situation that launched the fintech revolution, which, she says, now better serves both customers and lenders. Since the start of the pandemic, she points out that online lenders have provided an essential service to businesses and consumers alike. “It should make no difference whether a business is offering consumer loans via an online platform or offline, as they are subject to the same rules which are designed to protect customers. As long as all platforms are compliant, the online lending market will

increase access to credit for people who need it, which, in a COVID-impacted world, is more important than ever.” Rajah says the opportunity to use technology to streamline processes in order to deliver fast, convenient, flexible finance to all types of borrowers has been instrumental in driving fintech's online lending revolution. She adds that fintech has thrived in the customer-centric environment that delivers according to user needs. Banks must adapt and digitise or be left behind. “We live in a tech-driven world, and there is no going back. There is an expectation that things should be done instantly and conveniently – online.” Lending and COVID-19 According to some experts, the pandemicdriven demand for online lending is equally split between consumers and commerce. Ian Johnson, SVP, Managing Director, Europe for Marqeta, explains, “Many consumers faced interruptions to their income, and needed access to funds quickly to make ends meet. Businesses were hit by closures



and disruption too, needing access to capital so they could keep their doors open.” With so many businesses applying for Coronavirus Business Interruption Loans (CBILs), traditional lenders couldn’t keep up. Alternative lenders stepped up to meet demand and turned the industry on its head, points out Johnson. “By offering businesses smart loans based on real-time data and seamless online experiences, credit provided by alternative lenders has skyrocketed, kickstarting the lending revolution,” he says. On the consumer side, the uncertainty of COVID-19 drew customers to digitalfirst credit options. BNPL firms like Klarna have boomed, offering instant credit for purchases at the point of sale. Responsible credit card providers like Tymit offer flexible lending options, letting customers choose which purchases carry interest and select their own instalment-based payment plans. “By doing away with revolving balances and minimum payments, online lending providers are giving consumers better transparency over what they owe, which is vital in these uncertain times,” says Johnson. However, the growing popularity of online lenders is also forcing incumbents to address the shortfall in their services. A recent study found that, as banks ramp up their innovation plans, 91% say they need to improve their use of data analytics to gain insights into customers that will allow them to make lending decisions in real-time. Furthermore, says Johnson, 90% of banks believe they need to implement technology and processes that enable them to control what loans are spent on. With greater visibility and control, lenders can offer personalised lending options that will meet customer expectations, assess loan applications accurately, and 78

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reduce delinquency rates through bespoke spending restrictions. He adds that in order to keep up with the swiftly evolving space, incumbents must embrace new technology and innovations fast. “To succeed, banks need to be supported with modern core banking and payment platforms, using an API-driven approach to help them develop and launch new digital products and services at pace. Time is of the essence, as those who can move quickly and double down on digital may be well placed to take advantage in a confusing, complex market.” Financial well-being Helander takes a different approach. She believes more than ever that incumbent banks must set the tone and focus on their customers’ financial well-being. To put



it bluntly, she argues, investing in digital lending technologies is not the answer. “At a time when people are experiencing a great deal of financial anxiety due to the pandemic, banks have a duty to look after their customers’ well-being. They must focus on helping their users save money, invest it, and encourage them to be more mindful of their financial futures rather than providing more avenues into debt. And they need to act now, not in five years’ time.” Helander acknowledges that this requires changing the mindset of an entire generation, “debunking the myth that borrowing money is a normal thing to do, and instead highlighting the importance of saving for long-term goals.” She continues, “By placing financial well-being at the core of their strategy and implementing a customer-centric approach,

which prioritises emotional engagement, banks will be able to develop financial tools that suit their customers’ needs, and crucially, that help them rather than hinder them.” Helander isn’t against lending but says the manner in which it is done should be responsible and mindful of the dangers unhealthy debts and “the pitfalls of BNPL schemes” pose to borrowers. She adds, “Crucially if customers recognise that banks genuinely care for their well-being, they will be more likely to prolong their loyalty to that bank. The number of young people that are encountering debt problems continues to grow daily, and one of the biggest contributing factors is the online lending revolution. If we do not act now, the impact on our economy could be detrimental.”




June 2021

SHAPING THE FUTURE: FINTECH’S LEAN AND AGILE REVOLUTION The latest fintech business models are built on lean and agile technologies that are influencing the wider business community and ousting legacy systems WRITTEN BY: JOANNA ENGLAND


ean and Agile, or Agile and Lean? In truth, it's often difficult to separate these two distinct principles because they have a symbiotic relationship. The concept of Lean and Agile thinking, applied to business and software models, started back in 2000, when a group of 17 leading software developers met up in Oregon, USA, to brainstorm how they could speed up development times to bring new software to market faster. Though the meeting did not result in the Agile methodology we are familiar with today, it was a critical milestone in the development of Agile principles. This is because it explored speed to market, rapid feedback and continuous improvement as a new working model. Lean technologies concentrate on stripping down processes to their most

streamlined and efficient states. Agile principles, on the other hand, concentrate on continuous iteration – or flexibility and development of a product in an environment that nurtures teamwork and speed. Both can be applied separately but perform most efficiently in business models together, which in the shiny and new ecosystem of the fintech space, has proved remarkably successful. Sustainable development Reducing bloated practices and creating mobile teams are principles central to successful fintechs, says Eli Rosner, Chief Product and Technology Officer at Finastra. “Cutting down waste in the software development lifecycle and reorganising teams, focusing on agility and


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cross-functional capabilities, has led to an acceleration of innovation and time-tomarket,” he asserts. Rosner believes that delivering solutions that meet requirements, even as minimum viable products (MVPs), building on them and iterating fast, often in line with customer feedback, is increasingly an expectation rather than a USP. He points out, “Agile firms are also able to release beta products or features to test with key customers, allowing potential issues to be identified before they are released to the customer environment. Responding to change at pace and delivering incremental improvements is essential today, and is not possible under traditional software development methodologies, such as waterfall.” Some experts believe that without lean and agile technology, fintech would not even exist. Scott Jones, MD of the WordPress fintech specialist developers, Illustrate Digital, says, “Modern fintech exists as a result of Agile, Lean and DevOps principles. The ability to innovate and iterate in any financial services business is what has made

“ I would suggest that most organisations see the primary suppliers as key infrastructure rather than the innovation themselves” ANDREW BARNETT


Outsourcing vs inhouse

Andrew Barnett, Global Head of Product Strategy, RIMES, advises on collaborations 1. Understand the task: Firms will only benefit from outsourcing after a couple of activities. Nothing should be outsourced that you don’t understand to ensure that oversight is suitable (for the company and the regulator). 2. Set a strategy: A corporate strategy should be in place which outlines where the boundaries of the business lie. The operations and technology are foundational but not core to the business. This is where business boundaries could be redrawn and where a commitment to outsourcing can be made to make space for a fintech partner. 3. Partnership: Outsourcing has to be treated as a strategic partnership and that partner as an extension of the business. It should not be viewed as ‘throwing a task over the fence.’



Fintech and the future of finance | Prof. Arman Eshraghi | TEDxCardiffUniversity

fintech as stable and critical to our digital society as it is today.” In Jones’ opinion, the ability to learn what users really need, paired with agility, is exactly how fintech brands are rising and dominating above traditional financial service businesses. “If you need some proof of this, just look at how modern digital practices improved our adaptability through the downturn of a global pandemic versus the financial crisis in 2008,” he says. Convenience-driven technology The financial services industry has been hit by a demand for digital convenience, which in turn puts pressure on companies to invest in the latest technologies to ensure they offer the fastest services. Paula Costea, VP of Business Solutions and Innovations at FintechOS, says the issues in meeting this demand effectively means that 84

June 2021

financial services players have been held back by siloed systems and data. Teaming up with fintechs is currently the most logical solution. She explains, “By partnering with fintechs, they've been able to run customer-centric products and services that integrate seamlessly with their legacy tech enabling them to be Lean and Agile – shaping today’s industry as a collaborative one.” These principles, says Costea, have helped financial institutions to focus on customer needs, demands, build datadriven products and personalised customer experiences faster than ever. “Using cuttingedge technology or integrating with fintech partners, they can prototype new types of offerings and launch them in the market, test them and only if the market receives it well, invest to expand it to a full-blown product,” she explains.


Outsourcing to the cloud But the vast majority of Lean and Agile technology benefits would not be possible without the switch to cloud and all the advantages it offers businesses. Cloud adoption has offered fintechs the possibility to speed up innovation and launch faster business applications without taking up a large investment on the required underlying infrastructure. “They can leverage cloud computing and run their business efficiently scaling the infrastructure and associated costs alongside their business,” points out Costea. “This ensures that they can focus on delivering value to the end customers and offer better products and services at lower operating costs.” She believes banks and fintechs have gained much more flexibility and agility by taking advantage of the cloud embedded services on infrastructure, data management, security, scalability, automation, fast computing and analysis, AI-enabled cognitive services and machine learning. “Using cloud service providers, banks and fintechs can scale their business to respond to a higher user demand much faster and easier,” she says.

“ Some of these systems have become so large, so fundamental, that they’re incredibly hard for the brand to shift away from” STEVE STRICKLAND-WRIGHT CTO, FLUENT MONEY GROUP

Andrew Barnett, Global Head of Product Strategy, RIMES, agrees. Although, he says that cloud is just one of the technologies companies can use to innovate and become agile. However, he believes that out-of-the-box commercial solutions may not always be the best offering for a scaling company. Rather, having a say in tailoring a product is important. “I would suggest that most organisations see the primary suppliers as key infrastructure rather than the innovation themselves. The cloud infrastructure and their portfolio of growing tools offer rapid access to ideation, prototyping and iteration – but be wary of their commercial model and identify how you scale the innovation into a commercial and serviceable product.” The benefits to using cloud solutions are undeniable, however. Most financial service companies use cloud-based software in the form of SaaS for non-core processes, such as customer relationship management (CRM) and accounting. “Look for consumer payments, credit scoring, and even



statements and billings to be taken up on the cloud in the coming years as public, private and “hybrid” cloud services become more trusted and cost-effective,” says Anatoily Lytovchenko, lead software architect at Eleks Software.

AI and lean and agile operations

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The next-generation technology is central to the new working revolution, says Mark Haywood, VP EMEA, AppZen “Autonomy is the future of finance operations. Currently, finance functions like invoice processing can take weeks, even with some degree of automated processing, because of the need for human monitoring and intervention. “But the application of AI to such tasks has meant businesses are increasingly able to uplevel their finance automation, not only processing data based on predefined rules but also extracting, validating, classifying and reviewing information, as well as making decisions with confidence. “In the not-too-distant future, autonomous finance will be commonplace, leveraging best-inclass technology to create leaner, more agile teams that can manage finance operations with zero manual touch needed, freeing up time for more strategic responsibilities.”


June 2021

Cloud culture Technology has caused a transformation of the work culture and environment, which is leading us ever closer to the hybrid workfrom-home-and-office model. Alex Foster, Director of Insurance, Wealth Management and Financial Services at BT, says the public cloud and collaboration tools are allowing firms to observe projects end to end and have a Lean and Agile approach, despite working remotely. She explains, “These tools create an environment that enables effective communication and decision-making


“ Responding to change at pace and delivering incremental improvements is essential today” ELI ROSNER


between teams, allowing businesses to work in a way that is flexible, dynamic and scalable. The conversation has now moved from whether firms should use cloud and collaboration technology to how rapidly the move can be made and whether a multicloud solution is required.”

Foster believes the pivot to a hybrid workfrom-home and office model since the pandemic will only cement this trend as the increasing use of cloud and collaboration tools enables teams to create new products, collaborate with co-workers and communicate with clients regardless of whether they’re located in the physical or home office.” Trends in lean and agile technology As the fintech market evolves, so does its reliance on the latest technology offerings. In line with efficiency and streamlining, many of these solutions are being developed to integrate and work with legacy systems rather than ousting them completely. The idea is that the two can function together, improving productivity and delivery to market, without the large financial outlay involved with a complete system ‘rip out and replace’ strategy.



“ The conversation has now moved from whether firms should use cloud and collaboration technology to how rapidly the move can be made” ALEX FOSTER



June 2021

Barnett says that despite this flexible approach to legacy systems, challenges are inevitable. “The main challenges clients come to me about are executive sponsorship, training (external), organisational-wide objectives and key results (OKRs) and key performance indicators to measure outcomes associated with successful implementations.” He continues, “A common mistake is to create a highly or over-governed programme to effect this change, highly visible, highly communicated, highly


funded, and straight away it breaches all the Lean and Agile principles.” While a complete remodel of business systems might be the only way to become truly agile, Barnett says caution should be exercised. “Decommissioning tech is extremely expensive,” he explains. “Show me a business case with a net present value (NPV) that is in the black, and I will tell you the financial model is wrong. There are some useful tools like virtualisation that enable you to create an abstraction layer from your customers so you can minimise the impact

of change, but there is a risk that it becomes a sticky plaster solution.” Demise of legacy systems Despite the speed at which the digital transformation has occurred, most experts agree that legacy systems will be in place for quite some time. Expense in replacing and restructuring business systems, it seems, needs to be carried out gradually – and ironically, in an agile and flexible manner. “I can’t speak for every other fintech business in the land as I don’t know where they are on their journey,” says Steve Strickland-Wright, CTO of Fluent Money Group, a mortgage loan brokerage based in the UK. “But there is a real challenge around decommissioning legacy systems versus reaching strategic goals. There are also still FTSE businesses running on 1990s mainframe computers, and there is a risk associated with updating those systems. They can’t break away as the businesses are built on them.” It beggars the question, how much risk is involved in removing traditional platforms and does the risk of change stand in the way of growth? Jones believes this could certainly be the case, but the pressure to remain competitive will eventually see Lean and Agile solutions fully implemented. “Some of these systems have become so large, so fundamental, that they’re incredibly hard for the brand to shift away from. However, if those brands don’t work hard to replace their legacy systems, then they too will become a legacy. Harsh? Maybe, but it's true.” Lytovchenko agrees, adding that it will be decades before traditional business platforms are ousted completely.“It [traditional platform technology] could be that some are around for another 15 years.”



June 2021

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REAL-ESTATE FINTECHS STIRRING UP THE MARKET Fintechs are disrupting the financial real estate market with their user-friendly, customer supportive services WRITTEN BY: JOANNA ENGLAND


he traditional process of buying a house is a traumatic business. From the mortgage applications and search for a property to the signing of contracts and everything in between, the entire process costs thousands and takes six months to a year out of every buyer and seller’s life. The time for streamlining the property market has never been so ripe with estate agents unable to arrange property viewings and financial technology providing increasingly agile solutions to a cumbersome, expensive and timeconsuming process.


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Emoov Established: 2010 Emoov was one of the first established hybrid estate agents to enable buyers and sellers to complete their sales through an online process. The London-based company provides all the services customers need to get their house on the market – or buy a property online. In 2018 things looked bleak for the company after its umbrella organisation went into administration. However, Emoov was then acquired by Mashroom Mortgages – who relaunched the business.


Yourkeys Established: 2018 The idea behind Yourkeys was conceived by the company’s founder, Riccardo Dawson, after spending time working in the property sector. Dawson realised how slow and painful the house buying process was, finding the system “antiquated, outdated and broken”. The Yourkeys platform allows buyers and sellers to speed up time to exchange and track the purchase process in real-time. The company says it offers greater transparency, cost-cutting, and consistency when compared to traditional house buying services.

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Roofstock Established: 2015 Roofstock brings an unusual offering to the market. The company offers to buy and sell properties to investors with sitting tenants to maximise profits and income stability. The digital marketplace launched in 2015 and now buys, sells, and rents properties in 25 US states. Reportedly, the company has received US$133m in funding to date, and according to its most recent valuation, is worth $550m. Roofstock One, a new branch of Roofstock, launched in 2019 and brokers stakes in professionally managed homes for as little as $5,000 a share.


LendInvest Established: 2012 Launched in 2008 as a non-bank fintech mortgage lender, LendInvest is one of the leading alternative mortgage lenders in the United Kingdom. This company provides fast finance to property professionals as well as small and medium-sized businesses across the UK. Unlike Generation Home, it focuses on commercial properties rather than the domestic market. To date, LendInvest has facilitated more than £3bn in mortgage loans to UK businesses.







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Generation Home Established: 2019 Generation Home helps first-time buyers get on the property ladder through its mortgage assessment solution that lets customers know how much they can afford to buy for without compromising their credit rating. The company’s main premise is to help buyers get on the property ladder and start investing in their future, so its platform does not support interest only or buy-to-let mortgages and instead only offers owner-occupied deals.

05 Opendoor Established: 2014 Need to sell quickly? This dynamic fintech streamlines the homebuying process by enabling sellers to offer their property to cash buyers. The all-cash offers are made within a 24-hour window, and the sale can be completed within two weeks. The Opendoor app launched last year and enables interested buyers to take virtual tours of the featured properties. Openbank has received US$1.3bn in funding from SoftBank, Khosla Ventures, and General Atlantic.


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Divvy Homes Established: 2018 A new swing on the rent to buy model, Divvy Homes, was founded by Adena Hefets. Hefets was inspired to launch the company after her parents had to buy their home with seller financing because they couldn’t qualify for a mortgage. So far, Divvy Homes has received US$66m in funding. In 2020, the company bought 900 homes and reportedly received 10,000 applications monthly. The company helps serial renters realise their dream by allowing them to save for a deposit while renting.


June 2021

Fiserv Established: 1984 Fiserv facilitates real estate loans through its range of solutions and provides services that enable banks, credit unions and mortgage brokers to underwrite loans more quickly. The service has proved exceptionally popular with commercial buyers, for which traditional loan approvals can take time and stress to arrange. The fintech, founded in 1984, also provides property management services that speed up and automate payment collection and processing, another popular range of products for its commercial clients. Fiserv reported US$10.19bn in earnings in 2019 – up from $5.82bn in 2018.


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Cadre Established: 2009

The New York-based financial technology company provides individuals and institutions direct access to large commercial real estate properties. Cadre’s CEO, Ryan Williams, 31, started buying distressed properties in Atlanta in 2009 when he was still an undergraduate at Harvard and later teamed up with high profile businessmen brothers Jared Kushner and Joshua Kushner to form Cadre. The fintech’s cutting-edge deal sourcing processes enabled it to undercut the typical fees and stress that high investment clients endure when buying into commercial property partnerships. Cadre’s offering provides a wide spectrum of services from investments and transactions and process management. Investors can also trade their interest on the secondary marketplace – introducing additional liquidity into the industry.


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Why Zillow is the Future of Real Estate | Zillow Stock Analysis


June 2021

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Zillow Group Established: 2006 Zillow Group is an American online real estate marketplace company founded in 2006 by former Microsoft executives Rich Barton and Lloyd Frink. It has transformed from a platform that initially sold advertising space to a real estate solution for buyers and sellers. Zillow began offering estate agents and financial services in 2018, and the move put it in indirect competition with its customers. The popular real estate company, which maintains an online database of 110 million homes, now markets itself as a solution that offers a faster, cheaper house buying and selling experience. Zillow has enjoyed great success through its financial services in real estate, with a revenue of US$2.74bn in 2019, up from $1.33bn in 2018.


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