Globcoin GLX StableCoin to power payments for the Daily Fintech SmartExpert service.

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The Daily Fintech SmartExpert Service is an easy engagement model for our advisory services. Now you can start working with us by simply choosing your expert, paying for the hour and scheduling your call with the Expert.

In this post we unpick that simple phrase “paying for the hour” and explain why we decided to innovate on that front by partnering with one of the next generation of StableCoins for payments rather than simply using the credit card rails and what we learned from that experience. We like to write about payments innovation. With this partnership we are testing our theories in the laboratory of the real world and making that experience available to our readers.

In this post we will describe:

  • Why we are using a cryptocurrency for payments, rather than relying on the legacy credit card rails.
  • Why we use a StableCoin rather than Bitcoin or any other Tokenomics funded cryptocurrency.
  • Why we chose the GLX StableCoin
  • What we learned during this project.

For our big picture view on why StableCoins are so important (but also so hard to get right), please read this update to The Blockchain Economy digital book that was published on Saturday.

Why we are using a cryptocurrency for payments, rather than relying on the legacy credit card rails.

First, we do offer legacy credit card rails as an option. If you are not comfortable using cryptocurrency, just use Paypal.

Second, we like to test our theories in the laboratory of the real world. Back in April 2017 Daily Fintech articulated the thesis that Bitcoin Will Move From Darknet Early Adopter Niche To Clearnet Mainstream:

“This will happen first among free agent, knowledge workers who offer digital products/services cross border.“

“Free agent, knowledge workers who offer digital products/services cross border“ describes the Daily Fintech SmartExpert service. Now it is time to test that theory in the laboratory of the real world.

Third, it just makes practical sense in a borderless world for DailyFintech’s global subscribers and Experts. Once you really look at how cross border payments work using legacy bank and credit card rails, you see three big practical problems:

  • Problem 1 =  FX costs. Including spread, real FX costs are often over 10%. Consumers can see the fees quite easily, but the spread is pretty hidden. You don’t see the spread unless you look up the interbank rate at that precise moment in time that you get money from an ATM or pay via a credit card in a foreign currency. It is now possible to do this using mobile phones, Google and currency pairs. It is possible to stand in front of an ATM, Google a currency pair such as CHF GBP (if arriving in UK from Switzerland or vice versa) and compare the Interbank rate with what the machine gives you. I have done this, but unless you geek out on obscure Fintech subjects you probably won’t do this.  Bank and credit card networks have been very good at isolating consumers from the problem, but if merchants have to pay they will pass on those costs to the consumer; it is a real albeit hidden cost.
  • Problem 2 = Fraud is an existential threat for Merchants getting paid by Credit Card. Fraud can destroy a small-business owner with a momentary lack of attention. If Merchants accept payment from a stolen credit card, they will a) not get paid for the product they sold b) banks may look for additional reimbursement for permitting the transaction and c) payment processors may terminate their account and put them on a blacklist; the latter can be the death knell of a small business. In contrast, cryptocurrencies enable a simple irrevocable payment or can be done using smart contracts and the equivalent of an Escrow service; either way, it is not an existential threat to the merchant.
  • Problem 3 = Returns. That is why our thesis is that change will come first from digital products/services where there is no physical product to deliver/return.

Our theory is that change will be driven by Merchants not Consumers, because Merchants have the motivation. We decided to test this theory by offering payment for the Daily Fintech SmartExpert Service using a StableCoin.

Why use a StableCoin rather than Bitcoin or any other Tokenomics funded cryptocurrency.

in a word – volatility. When we first started thinking about how to do this, we planned to use Bitcoin and we created a clever (but, in hindsight,  overly complex) way to deal with the volatility problem. When we discovered  StableCoins, we saw that we did not need a complex way to deal with the volatility problem. The complexity of explaining how we dealt with Bitcoin volatility would have created friction that would have impeded the chances of success for the Daily Fintech Expert Service.

So much for Bitcoin. What about all the Altcoins that offer quick, low cost payments? They solve the speed and fees problem very well, but they do NOT solve the volatility problem. Any cryptocurrency that is funded through Tokenomics has an inherent volatility problem. The venture and their early investors want the price of the coin to rise and some traders bet against it rising; the push and pull of these bulls and bears creates volatility.

What is needed is something that is a) a cryptocurrency b) non-volatile by design. In short we need a StableCoin. For more on Stablecoins, please see this chapter of The Blockchain Economy Book

The next question was – which StableCoin?

Why we chose the GLX StableCoin

GLX is a StableCoin issued by a company called Globcoin.

We chose the GLX StableCoin for 5 reasons:

  • Basket not single Fiat. In the chapter on Stablecoins in The Blockchain Economy Book we describe the difference between Single Fiat and Basket. Single Fiat typically means US Dollar (but could be EUR or any relatively stable Fiat currency) but many big corporates and investors prefer a basket that is less volatile than a single currency. GLX is a basket of 15 currencies plus Gold that together account for more than 80% of the World Economy; this is less volatile than even the famously stable Swiss Franc.
  • Fiat Collateralized The book also describes three forms of collateralization (ie what proves that the StableCoin really is worth what the promoters say it is). Those three forms are Fiat, Crypto and Issuer Collateralised. The book describes why Fiat Collateralised (sometimes called the tech lite/audit heavy model) is the most secure. GLX is Fiat Collateralised.
  • Experienced team. A StableCoin that is a) Basket b) Fiat Collateralised is easy to say. It is much harder to achieve in practice. The team behind GLX Globcoin, led by Helie d’Hautefort, has decades of sophisticated currency management experience before the Blockchain era. Helie started his career as a currency option trader in New York. He joined the Peugeot Citroën group in Geneva, where he was in charge of currency hedging. In 1998 Helie founded Overlay Asset Management, the first european currency management business offering currency overlay services, managed accounts and pooled fund programmes. By 2012, in partnership with BNP Paribas, the business had grown to over USD 23b of assets under management, with a client base from 16 different countries. Since 2010 Helie has focused his research on the creation and management of the Global Reserve Currency Index, an innovative systematic virtual currency that mirrors the world global economy. In 2014 he created Globcoin to extend the scope of client users thanks to Blockchain technology. Helie has built an experienced team based in Switzerland and London that can manage a StableCoin that is a) Basket b) Fiat Collateralised.
  • Globcoin card. If you get paid in a cryptocurrency, you want to be able to spend the money. You may decide to save some, but it is unlikely that you want to save 100%. If cryptocurrency remains in it’s pre-chasm phase, you might get paid 10% of your income in cryptocurrency and save it because a) 10% is a good saving rate b) you are a long term bull on cryptocurrency. On the other hand if cryptocurrency crosses the chasm to the mainstream and you get paid say 80% of your income in cryptocurrency you might choose to save 10% and spend 90%. One simple way to spend is via a PrePaid Debit Card and that is one of the services offered by Globcoin. For more on prepaid debit cards please see this post.
  • Regulatory Framework in Switzerland. StableCoins attract the attention of regulators because a) they are sometimes deposit takers and b) they can facilitate the on/off ramps from/to Fiat/Crypto. The question  is – which regulator in which jurisdiction? GLX is based in Switzerland which is interesting for two reasons:
    • FINMA (the Swiss financial regulator), regulates Tokens depending on their use case and has a specific regulatory framework for payments.
    • Switzerland is legally a multi-currency country. What? We all know Switzerland is multi-language, but we also know the famous Swiss Franc. It turns out that there is an alternative currency called WIR that was set up in 1934 that is quite legal. The WIR was set up by people wanting to create an alternative to a financial system that had failed so dramatically in 1929. This has echoes from 2008 and the Satoshi Nakamoto White Paper. WIR accounts for a tiny % of Swiss GDP but it is real and it is legal. So the idea of adding another legal currency was not too big a stretch. That is why you can pay taxes in Bitcoin in Switzerland and buy Bitcoin at any railway ticket machine. It is also why a StableCoin that plays by the rules can be a legal currency in Switzerland.

In fact, in full disclosure, I like Globcoin so much that I agreed to join their Board and help make things happen for them.

What we learned during this project.

  • Don’t make it hard to do business with us. That is why we also offer a Paypal option if you are uncomfortable with cryptocurrencies. We think that many Daily Fintech readers will want to learn from the experience of using a StableCoin for payments, but not everybody.
  • There is still friction in the on-ramp and off ramp due to regulators and AML/KYC. We filled in more forms than we wanted to, but that is life in crypto land today.
  • The crypto world really is easier, once you get started. Gen Z and later will use cryptocurrencies and tokens without thinking, as easily as how we now use email. For those of us who grew up with Legacy Finance, we have a transition to go through.  It is a bit like learning to ride a bike – a) easier to learn when you are young b) a lot more efficient once you are past the learning curve. Part of our mission at Daily Fintech is taking big complex subjects and making them understandable. Our written materials are always free, but if you want a more personal trainer type of service (where we explain just what you want to know in your context) please book an hour of our time using the Expert Service – and pay using a StableCoin.

Bernard Lunn is a Fintech deal-maker, investor, entrepreneur and advisor. He is the author of The Blockchain Economy and CEO of Daily Fintech.

Subscribe by email to join the other Fintech leaders who read our research daily to stay ahead of the curve. Check out our advisory services (how we pay for this free original research).

Insurers love NPS- can the IoT help show why it remains an important measure?

 

 

TLDR  What to do, what to do, in the InsurTech, innovation insurance world?  Insurance remains a ‘sold, not bought’, product.  Virtual service is not only becoming a demand of customers, but carriers are embracing the concept based on expectations of efficiency and economy.  Will there be a disconnect between service efforts and how customers perceive it?  As customers change their habits, can insurance change theirs?  What is the common thread?

How an insurance carrier performs is typically known only when an adverse situation occurs, i.e., a claim, and service is triggered for the customer, a customer who doesn’t really know what to expect during a claim experience.  So of course the industry knows this and has devised many ways of gauging service performance: from internal surveys, JD Power ratings (Customer Service Index), and most recently, by asking claim customers how they would rate the service they received in terms of one question,

How likely is it that you would recommend this company to a friend or colleague?”  

 The answers to that clever question are the basis of the calculations for a ‘Net Promoter Score’ (NPS), a service (loyalty) measure devised by Fred Reichheld and other clever minds at Bain and Co.  How does this tie in with InsurTech principles?  Seemingly through another three-letter acronym, IoT (Internet of Things).

 

What are you talking about, you say- NPS is a survey administered measure made available to but a fraction of insurance customers, is but one question, and disregards the experience of the majority of the customers.  IoT speaks to connected devices, ostensibly meant (to many in the insurance world) to detect adverse conditions, track adverse conditions, determine behaviors that might predict adverse circumstances, and by extension reduce carriers’ exposure to claims. One measures experience, and one works to predict experience.

Well, I’m here to say that the two concepts couldn’t be more intertwined, and as innovation within the insurance industry becomes more practical, and as IoT becomes more ubiquitous, the interplay of NPS and IoT will become clearer.

At its root NPS was developed as a means to measure what the folks at Bain found as the key driver of business growth and success- customer loyalty.  Loyalty has been a proven factor in business growth and businesses who foster customer loyalty not only retain those customers’ business, but those same customers are motivated to bring other business along.  Enhancing customer loyalty, adding value to the customers’ lives, and refuting the contention that “loyalty is dead” (see Mr. Reichheld discussing that here ) is the foundation of NPS.  And everyone touts their NPS results, don’t they?

So along comes IoT principles as part of the InsurTech wave, and its primary advocate in the InsurTech world, Matteo Carbone. (In an odd coincidence as with Mr. Reichheld, Mr. Carbone is also a Bain alumnus.)  Mr. Carbone has espoused the concept that “all insurers will be InsurTech”, but in addition to that his IoT Observatory has become a central authority regarding insurance effects of connected devices in autos, houses, and to some extent, wearables.  And a main principle he covers within his recent article, “Smart Home Insurance Strategy 101”, is loyalty :

This way of enhancing proximity and interaction frequency with policyholders (connected devices and value addition) – while creating new customer experience and expanding relationships – is one of the reasons for adopting IoT in home insurance. These interactions with customers are one proven way to earn higher loyalty and allow the differentiation from competitors.”

There’s that word- loyalty.  In an insurance world where virtual service is becoming the holy grail for carriers, how will loyalty remain a factor that can be influenced by carrier service?  Even the InsurTech poster child, Lemonade, has to have concerns that as long as NPS remains an important measure of customer service (Clearsurance may have ideas about that), interactions with insureds must remain focused on maintaining or building loyalty.  Can a bot do that?

IoT programs have that opportunity to integrate technology, virtual service, and value addition that can build customer loyalty, for example, value-added services as noted by Mr. Carbone.  “But the real opportunity is to solve customer problems by delivering enlarged value propositions for their homes. (Some) services enabled by home IoT are:

  • Safety/Security: remote monitoring and emergency services to provide peace-of-mind to the homeowner;
  • Efficiency: tracking and optimization tools to contain the expenditures (energy and water) at home;
  • Property services: concierge with a platform of certified service providers (such as plumbers, metal workers, carpenters, construction workers or electricians) for home administration;

Seems any or all of those points would serve to build customer loyalty in the absence of direct service from claim staff.  And what of agents?  Insurance sales and servicing of policies remain a predominantly agency-driven proposition in the US and Europe- agents/brokers are beginning to recognize the need for provision of more to customers than just quotes.  In markets where ecosystems and smart device access are the primary entry for customers to insurance, loyalty may be even more fragile as ecosystem change is simply an app away.  In all matters the focus must remain on enriching customers’ lives, on #innovatingfromthecustomerbackwards.

NPS and IoT- the concepts can’t make insurance a more ‘bought, not sold’ proposition, but effectively focusing on IoT in an increasingly virtual insurance world can help maintain or build loyalty, and as the architects of NPS found, that is the foundation of an effective growth strategy.  The two principles have previously marked different paths but are now on intersecting courses.

 

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Patrick Kelahan is a CX, engineering & insurance professional, working with Insurers, Attorneys & Owners. He also serves the insurance and Fintech world as the ‘Insurance Elephant’.

I have no positions or commercial relationships with the companies or people mentioned. I am not receiving compensation for this post.

Subscribe by email to join the 25,000 other Fintech leaders who read our research daily to stay ahead of the curve. Check out our advisory services (how we pay for this free original research).

 

Announcing Daily Fintech working with Triumvirate Content Consultants

FINAL-ANGLED High-ResTLDR. Daily Fintech has engaged the services of a firm called Triumvirate Content Consultants (TCC) to to help monetize our content assets through new distribution channels and new markets.

Today’s post is not about Fintech. It is a peek behind the curtain of the business of creating the free original research that you see here every day. It is nearly 5 years since our first post on 29 June 2014 (for the record, here it is). It is still relevant like many of the over 1,000 posts in our archives.

We recently decided to bring on more professionals to help us grow. We started with Paul Conley, because what defines Daily Fintech is the quality of our writing, how we are able to make big complex subjects accessible and interesting to busy senior people. Paul shares that passion. He has made a career out of helping media companies do that well. Here is the post announcing Paul joining us as Content Adviser. Paul introduced us to the folks at Triumvirate Content Consultants (TCC), which goes to show that quality attracts quality. Paul Gerbino and his colleagues at TCC live and breathe the intricacies of content licensing in the same way we live and breathe the intricacies of the reinvention of financial services through technology. The media business is going through wrenching change. Our simple belief is well-written research will always have value. By working with the experts at TCC we turn that into simple belief into new revenue streams so that we can continue to do what we do but better and on a bigger scale.

As Triumvirate Content Consultant’s President Paul Gerbino put it: “We’re passionate about helping companies with unique content tap into new revenue. Daily Fintech is known for its quality content, market insights and expert perspective. There are lots of other organizations whose customers want access to their research. Our job is to make that happen.”

TCC will be representing us to the many firms that have expressed interest in licensing our content. If you are interested in doing so please send an email to Julia Spiegel (our Chief Commercial Officer; her email is julia at dailyfintech dot com).

‘Something’-as-a-service, the new fintech paradigm

Something-as-a-service lights up the eyes of most VCs and investors.

Mainly because it sounds far easier and simpler than going after the juggernaut of core-anything. The thesis behind SaaS in fintech is premised around letting the banks and existing incumbents get on with what they are good at – financial plumbing – and enabling the fintechs and flashy experience layers and product teams to build cool stuff.

One excellent example of this in action is German business Raisin, a deposits-as-a-service play. They’re not dissimilar to Cashwerkz, a local player in Australia. Both operate a model that allows consumers to access a marketplace of deposit and saving products from multiple brands, in one place.

In February this year, Raisin announced it had closed a Series D round with Index Ventures, PayPal, Ribbit Capital and Thrive Capital injecting $114 million into the business. To date the business has brokered $11 billion worth of deposits to 62 partner banks, and generated savers $90 million in interest earnings.

Fintech SaaS businesses, like Raisin, are often free to the user. Raisin charges no fees for opening accounts with one of its partner banks, and provides a single online interface from which to manage all your accounts.

While SaaS is lower risk and investment from an infrastructure perspective, it can also be lower margin, and under threat from regulatory pressure regarding conflicted commission structures and independence. Raisin receives a commission from partner banks, essentially establishing itself as a very good lead generation tool for banks, and a great commercial model, until the taps turn off.

Which of course, they very well may not. With marketing budgets under pressure, and lead generation from traditional media hard, to near impossible to measure, outsourcing marketing to fintech-as-a-service is probably a smart investment, from a bank or financial incumbent’s perspective.

The only thing that could stop these businesses in their tracks is tightened regulation and an increasingly risk-averse regulator that has had to deal with too many human financial advisors and brokers willing to push financial products onto consumers that come with conflicted commissions (i.e. I sell you this because it pays me the most, rather than it being the best product for you). In theory, technology should make this transparent to all involved, including the regulator, and put the shine back on commission led structures.

For marketplace businesses in fintech to achieve longevity, it must be unequivocal that the marketplace is designed for fairness and puts the customer at the centre. It’s an inherently conflicted idea, because both parties are in a sense driven by opposite goals – one to sell high and the other to buy low. But it is not impossible, if there are other value-added features beyond the pure vanilla transaction. In my view, this is still unchartered space, and lots of scope for innovation and ideas. My guess is Raisin will be one of the early ones to deliver it.

Daily Fintech Advisers provides strategic consulting to organizations with business and investment interests in Fintech. Jessica Ellerm is a thought leader specializing in Small Business and the Gig Economy and is the CEO and Co-Founder of Zuper, a new superannuation startup in Australia.

I have no commercial relationship with the companies or people mentioned. I am not receiving compensation for this post.

Subscribe by email to join the 25,000 other Fintech leaders who read our research daily to stay ahead of the curve. Check out our advisory services (how we pay for this free original research)

Amazon`s `Other` revenues grow 34%

We have to fly high to see what is happening in the world. We are all trapped in the convenience trap. And as David Siegel says in his recent video

We are pawns

Flying high and using the revenue lens for public companies like Amazon, is where I want to take you today. I took a glance at the 2018 revenues of Amazon. The three main businesses lines are e-commerce, cloud computing, and ad revenues. What struck me was that growth came from ad revenues which are `lumped` into a generic category labeled `Other`.

Remember 2015 was the first year that Amazon reported cloud revenues separately, revealing specifics about its AWS business. Today, four years later, Amazon reports advertising revenues in a category that is named `Other`. According to the GeekWire for 2018, Amazon reported $10.1 billion for the “Other” category. According to Amazon`s financial statements this category “primarily includes sales of advertising services, as well as sales related to our other service offerings”. Fortune reported that in Q1 2019,

Sales in Amazon’s “other” segment, which is mostly advertising, increased 34%, to 2.72 billion. The company’s digital advertising franchise has grown into the third largest in the U.S., trailing only Alphabet’s Google and Facebook, researcher EMarketer estimates.

Let me spell this out loud: Amazon`s advertising business is getting ready to be publicly disclosed as one of the main businesses competing openly with Facebook and Google`s Alphabet. This is important because the top marketplaces are Ad driven and don’t seem to intend to switch from that business model. Actually, it isn’t easy for them to switch to another marketplace business model.

Are you aware that merchants that want to sell on the Amazon marketplace have to compete amongst themselves to reach end customers? That means, paying to advertise on Amazon in order to move algorithmically up the ranking on the Amazon marketplace. This is the game that each and every Western Bigtech uses in its closed ecosystem. You have to understand the algorithm and pay to play based on the rules of the algorithm; be it Amazon marketplace, Facebook, Alphabet.


This realization makes me think that maybe, I only say maybe, merchants borrow from the SME lending arm of Amazon, to finance their advertising campaigns on Amazon. So, Amazon wins twice. I don’t have data on this, so it is only a conjecture.

We know that the technology is there to launch an e-commerce marketplace that vendors can reach end customers (B2C or B2B) without having to pay high advertising fees and incur costs to play on the platform whether they sell or not. Who can execute on this? We just need one success story of such disintermediation. Will it be in selling books or music or baby formula or online education? Will it happen in the West or the East? Will Amazon dare to cannibalize its e-commerce business at least in one area?

What we do know, is that it won’t happen from Facebook whose business is 98.5% based on advertising and their plans for a Facecoin won’t change that business model. It won’t come from Alphabet either, who earns 15% of revenues from non-google ads but 70% from advertising of the Google family (Youtube, Gmail, etc). Both are Titanics in advertising and can`t disrupt themselves.

Efi Pylarinou is the founder of Efi Pylarinou Advisory and a Fintech/Blockchain influencer.

 I have no positions or commercial relationships with the companies or people mentioned. I am not receiving compensation for this post.

Subscribe by email to join the 25,000 other Fintech leaders who read our research daily to stay ahead of the curve. Check out our advisory services (how we pay for this free original research).

Is it time to buy Bitcoin? Google’s data on Bitcoin searches

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Last week our theme was “Top 7 Crypto Exchanges for IEOs“. Our theme for this week is “”

TLDR. Search data is a great way to track the growth of active Bitcoin and cryptocurrency users. Search is a great indicator of what people are interested in. Engagement levels are red hot, with crypto investors checking the daily price of of their precious coin. Data from Google Trends shows search interest for Bitcoin hit a 14-month high. This data confirms studies that suggest there’s a correlation between Bitcoin’s price movements and search interest for it. For Bitcoin, cryptocurrencies and blockchain looking at the search data for different geographies, we can examine the entire ecosystem in new and interesting ways.

Bitcoin has been hovering around $8,000. The CBS 60 Minutes segment, “Bitcoin’s Wild Ride,” which aired last week was very positive for Bitcoin.

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Bitcoin’s price movement has been getting more and more people to search for it. There seems to be a real connection between people searching Bitcoin on Google and actual investment in the cryptocurrency. Bitcoin’s price can be predicted based on the number of Google searches for it, because the latter precedes the former, making Google search a key indicator for Bitcoin trading.

Back in  2017, search engine marketing firm SEMRush found that Bitcoin’s price had a 91% correlation with Google searches for it.

Google trends also shows us the geographic origin of Bitcoin searches, with countries in Africa and Europe ranking in the top 10:

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  1. Nigeria
  2. South Africa
  3. Ghana
  4. St. Helena
  5. Netherlands
  6. Austria
  7. Switzerland
  8. Singapore
  9. Slovenia
  10. Australia
  1. Germany
  2. Venezuela
  3. Canada
  4. Malaysia
  5. Ireland
  6. United Arab Emirates
  7. Pakistan
  8. United States
  9. United Kingdom
  10. New Zealand

Beyond prices, Google searches also indicate the pulse of an entire geographic region for crypto. Using Google Trends we have tried to uncover the interest for the top two cryptocurrencies, Bitcoin and Ethereum, overall for Cryptocurrencies and for Blockchain technology, performing searches for “Bitcoin”, “Ethereum”, “Blockchain” and “Cryptocurrency”.

Its no surprise that countries like Japan, South Korea, China and Russia lead the world in interest for “Blockchain”. They are building solutions to harness the power of decentralization and stand at the forefront of developing blockchain technologies.

russia-google.png  japan-google.pngkorea-google.png  china-google.png

In most western countries like the United States, the European Union, Canada, the United Kingdom and Australia, Bitcoin dominates user searches.

usa-google-search.png  canada-google-search.pngeu-google-search.png  uk-google.pngaustralia-google.png

In South America, Venezuela presents an interesting case. With its unstable political situation and economy, “Bitcoin” is the top query with 75% of the results.

southamerica-google.png  mena-google.png

There is an incredible amount of information one can obtain from Google’s Trends. But Google search data is not the only source. There have been studies showing  the correlation between Twitter posts and Wikipedia article views to Bitcoin’s price.

No matter how you look at it, the relationship between public interest and price is undeniable. It indicates that people are interested in buying Bitcoin. It is FOMO materialized in numbers and coincides with Bitcoin’s famous, or perhaps infamously wild market cycles.

Image Source

Ilias Louis Hatzis is the Founder & CEO at Mercato Blockchain Corporation AG.

He writes the Blockchain Weekly Front Page each Monday.I have no positions or commercial relationships with the companies or people mentioned. I am not receiving compensation for this post.

Subscribe by email to join the 25,000 other Fintech leaders who read our research daily to stay ahead of the curve. 

Check out our advisory services (how we pay for this free original research)

Why StableCoins are so important (but also so hard to get right)

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TLDR. When Vitalik Buterin and Balaji Srinavasan were asked whether certain trends were either underrated or overrated, they both said that StableCoins were underrated. This post is my explanation of why I think they are right. Yet we have already seen some high profile StableCoins fail, which is why the headline also refers to why StableCoins are also so hard to get right.

In the image above you see the usual path to a currency – from Store of Value to Medium Of Exchange to Unit Of Account. Bitcoin could be all three but today faces a volatility chasm, with wild bull and bear markets. A StableCoin is designed from the start to be all three.

Today Bitcoin is a speculative Store of Value (the digital gold thesis). I am on the record saying that Bitcoin has more upside than downside and have been a buyer, but it is certainly a speculative bet. Even though it is speculative, Bitcoin has some credibility as a Store of Value.  However Bitcoin is weak as a Medium Of Exchange (there is not much you can buy directly in Bitcoin) and Bitcoin is not credible at all as a Unit Of Account. You will know when Bitcoin becomes a Unit Of Account – we stop referring to how much something costs in Fiat currency and only refer to the cost in Bitcoin or Satoshi units.

Watch Vitalik Buterin (Ethereum) and Balaji Srinavasan (Coinbase and A16V) talk about StableCoins around minute 38

This update to The Blockchain Economy digital book covers:

  • Mixing SpeculativeCoin and StableCoin in one venture does not work
  • StableCoin for JP Morgan, Facebook & Samsung is just the tip of the iceberg
  • Why a StableCoin has to be multi-currency basket
  • Don’t bet against Government backed CBDC.
  • Low volatility is essential for Cross Border payment rails
  • Bitcoin as a Medium Of Exchange faces hurdles that will take a long time to overcome
  • You cannot manufacture a stable result out of unstable/volatile base
  • Audit heavy/ tech lite is simple key to trust in redemption
  • StableCoin can be a currency for passionate global communities
  • StableCoin can be bridge into crypto for conservative adopters
  • Context & References

Mixing SpeculativeCoin and StableCoin in one venture does not work

We call them StableCoin to differentiate from coins/cryptocurrencies that are speculative. So I coined (sic) the word SpeculativeCoin.

SpeculativeCoins have benefited from a great business model, defined as Tokenomics (funding via coins that you sell into a rising price). The idea got discredited in the ICO hype and got nailed by the SEC (details here).

Ripple has been masterful at using Tokenomics to boost XRP. Whether that means XRP has value is more debatable, but there is no question that Ripple has done well with this model. It is debatable how many Altcoins will do well, but what is absolutely certain is that you cannot mix SpeculativeCoin and StableCoin in one venture.

Speculative Coin/Tokenomics might work. StableCoin might work. An investor might mix SpeculativeCoins and StableCoins into a portfolio just like you might have Facebook and Exxon Mobil in the same portfolio. However, the two models are totally different. It would be like combining Facebook and Exxon Mobil in the same operating business.

StableCoin for JP Morgan, Facebook & Samsung is just the tip of the iceberg

It is hard to keep up with the flurry of PR from big companies offering their own branded StableCoins. Without trying too hard to stretch the memory banks, we have seen StableCoins launched by JP Morgan, Facebook & Samsung. Other big banks, social media networks and consumer electronics companies will soon have to issue one to compete. Soon we will have a StableCoin for each Global 2000 corporate and then it may move to SME.

When every company has their own StableCoin, it will add about as much competitive advantage as having your own .com address.

Why a StableCoin has to be multi-currency basket

A single Fiat currency StableCoin, whether USD or EUR or CHF or any other reasonably stable Fiat currency is not good enough for two reasons, one of which is critical:

a multi-currency basket is more stable than any single Fiat currency. Even if a Fiat currency has been stable for a long time, smart investors don’t like betting that politicians won’t do something stupid in future. Printing money is a pretty big temptation!

a single Fiat currency could be seen as a threat by the nation state that issued that currency. Although governments cannot shut down Bitcoin or Ethereum (for more, read this chapter in The Blockchain Economy), they have more  control when it comes to a single Fiat currency StableCoin. This is an existential threat to a StableCoin venture pegged to a single Fiat currency. As the news of Basis shutting down shows, this is not just a theoretical risk. Basis shut down, despite raising over $100m from top tier investors, because of regulatory pressure.

Don’t bet against Government backed CBDC.

CBDC = Central Bank Digital Currency. A CBDC cuts out the FX Interbank market but not the Central Bank. It is a more efficient Fiat currency; still Fiat but faster and more efficient. Governments that are frustrated by their ability to shut down Bitcoin (because it is decentralised and there is no Bitcoin company) will not hesitate to shut down any threats that are easy to shut down.

That is why a single Fiat currency, which could be seen as a threat by the nation state that issued that currency,  faces existential risk from Governments.

Low volatility is essential for Cross Border payment rails

Daily Fintech wrote about this back in October 2015:

“Use case # 3 is using Bitcoin as an invisible interim store of value. Neither sender nor receiver cares about Bitcoin. If you wanted an interim store of value for this purpose, the last thing you would invent is Bitcoin. You would create something that was almost a mirror image of Bitcoin:

  • Had the lowest possible volatility against the major Fiat Currencies.
  • Was not perceived as a threat by the Governments that issue those Fiat Currencies.”

Look at the 10×3 problem. Imagine getting paid for a product with a 10% margin and in the 10 minutes to settle on-chain, the price declines by 10%. You just lost money on that sale, even if fees are zero.

Bitcoin as a global Medium Of Exchange faces hurdles that will take a long time to overcome

We may pay for most our purchases with Bitcoin at some point in the future. The problem is that may be so far in the future that we a get our space flight to Mars before Bitcoin becomes a global Medium Of Exchange.

Our theory is that it will happen first via the excluded in countries suffering a currency crisis (for more, read this chapter in The Blockchain Economy). So we may see local networks where Bitcoin crosses the chasm to become a Medium Of Exchange (for example in Venezuela). Then it may replicate in other failed states who lost control of their currency.

For Bitcoin as a Medium Of Exchange to cross the chasm in the developed world, we will need a wave of startups to create services to meet needs that consumers are not even aware of yet.

Both will take time.   

You cannot manufacture a stable result out of unstable/volatile base

The idea that clever math/code means you can create a StableCoin automagically from unstable/volatile cryptocurrencies sounds like creating Triple A mortgage bonds out of junk loans – and we know how well that ended in 2008!

Audit heavy/ tech lite is simple key to trust in redemption

As there is no magic tech solution, the best solution is the audit heavy/ tech lite approach that we define in this chapter of The Blockchain Economy book:

“Fiat collateralised (Fiat deposits held in custody). This is the most popular and easy to understand and used by most StableCoins. For example, Tether/USDT pegs to the US Dollar via reserves held in custody. So if you buy $1 of USDT, you are told that it is backed by $1 of US Dollar held in a bank. This obviously requires some confidence that the StableCoin operator really does have the assets properly custodized; there has been serious concern whether Tether/USDT was doing this. Confidence measures include an audit by a reputable firm. StableCoins will increasingly fall under regulatory scrutiny as they are deposit taking and need at least AML/KYC processes. This model has been described as “audit heavy/tech light”. It is operationally complex, because you need all the Legacy Finance relationships; bridging the worlds of Crypto and Regulated Banks is not easy.”

StableCoin can be a currency for passionate global communities

We live in a world where more people are members of Facebook than are citizens of even huge population countries and where we often have as much in common with “tribes” across the globe than we do with our physically close neighbours. People who are passionate about something (diet, fashion, religion, whatever) want to find others like them when they travel and when they want to give cash to that person, a multi fiat StableCoin can be trusted by both parties.    

StableCoin can be bridge into crypto for conservative adopters

On a panel at a conference, I told the panelist next to me (a senior banker) that I was a Blockchain and Bitcoin bull. The banker asked me if that meant that I was an anarchist. I laughed and said “look at me, I have grey hair and wear a suit, how can I possibly be an anarchist?” The point is that when you leave the cryptosphere and talk to mainstream business people and investors, they look for something that feels more normal and less mind bending than Bitcoin – like StableCoins.

Context & References

Investing In Payment Tokens And StableCoins AKA New Currencies.

Mega Waves In The-blockchain Economy And The Dams Holding Them Back

Is Bitcoin suitable as an interim store of value for a payment rail?

Bernard Lunn is a Fintech deal-maker, investor, entrepreneur and advisor. He is CEO of Daily Fintech and author of The Blockchain Economy.

I have no positions or commercial relationships with the companies or people mentioned. I am not receiving compensation for this post.

Subscribe by email to join the 25,000 other Fintech leaders who read our research daily to stay ahead of the curve. Check out our advisory services (how we pay for this free original research).

$41 Trillion in Mobile payments – China tech target digital banking

Image Source

$41 Trillion was the size of China’s mobile payments market in 2018. It is perhaps counter-intuitive when the payments market is more than three times the size of China’s GDP ($12 Trillion). That’s because GDP is based on value creation, not on transaction volumes.

Let me explain it with a crude example. A couple of weeks back, two of my friends and I went into a sports shop in Chislehurst, and bought a cricket bat for £240 for the summer. We knew we were going to share the costs at £80 each. I paid the shopkeeper £240, and then my friends paid me £80 each.

While the value created/exchanged in this case was for £240, payments happened for £240+£80+£80 = £400. GDP is calculated based on the £240, and payment volumes would account for £400.

In the initial days of my discussions about China Fintech, I would often praise China’s Fintech businesses as perhaps the largest in the world. China is doing Trillions in mobile payments, and the US is still groping its way towards $200 Billion. Purely from a size perspective China is light years ahead, but the business models there are different.

Fintech is used as a business model by lifestyle firms in China and broadly Asia. Fintech is not their core value proposition, at least it is not until they onboard a few million customers. Their core lifestyle business is then augmented by Fintech services for their customers, and that makes their life style business stickier.

I have touched upon this in detail in one of my previous posts on how lifestyle businesses have evolved into Fintech heavy hitters in Asia. And payments is the lowest common factor between ecommerce/lifestyle businesses and financial services. Therefor, firms like Alibaba, Tencent, Grab and Bykea have integrated payments to their core service offering.

However, the Chinese tech giants have identified that it was time to upgrade from payments into banking. Earlier this month Alibaba, Tencent, ZhongAn and Xioami were granted a virtual banking license in Hong Kong.

Alibaba applied for a banking license for its Ant SME services, which is a subsidiary of Ant Financial. Tencent and Xiaomi did a Joint venture to go for the banking license. Xiaomi is the fourth largest mobile phone manufacturer in the world with over 120 Million smart phones in 2018.

When Amazon began offering lending to its SME base, there were headlines that they would soon go for their banking license. However, the trend these days is that the East would lead and the West and the rest would follow. Now that China tech giants have upped the ante with a banking license, would the US peers respond? Watch this space.

Arunkumar Krishnakumar is a Venture Capital investor at Green Shores Capital focusing on Inclusion and a podcast host.

I have no positions or commercial relationships with the companies or people mentioned. I am not receiving compensation for this post.

Subscribe by email to join the 25,000 other Fintech leaders who read our research daily to stay ahead of the curve. Check out our advisory services (how we pay for this free original research).

Pondering the cool discussion of InsurTech carrier Lemonade- is it as sweet as presented?

TLDR As discussed in the prior post Lemonade is many things, per CEO and co-founder, Daniel Schreiber– revolutionary tech platform, charitable giver, P2P service provider (no, strike that), but at its core it is a property insurance company.  The hows and whys matter not when the application for license goes before the respective jurisdiction’s regulators.  The company must be organized and operated in a manner that is recognized as secure for its policyholders and adequately financed as such, must comply with the same accounting standards as other insurance carriers, and must be ready and able to comply with the agreements, provisions, and conditions its policies include.

Why belabor these points?  Because the company leads with its innovation chin, its behavioral economics, and its promises to act as a totally different insurance company than what those crabby octogenarians (who) think we are making too much noise companies do.

One of the foundational points the firm makes at its outset is that there is a recognition by Lemonade’s founders that, “There’s an inherent conflict of interest in the very structure of the insurance industry.”  (Chief Behavioral Officer, Prof. Dan Ariely, see around 0:54 of the video).  He continues, “Every dollar your insurer pays you is a dollar less for their profits.  So when something bad happens to you, their interests are directly conflicted with yours.”  

Of course there is conflict between payment of premiums and indemnification- absent the ‘tension’ insurance would not exist, or perhaps would be free! It might be said that Professor Ariely’s perspective has an inherent flaw in not acknowledging that an insurance policy is a contract for risk sharing between an insured and carrier, that a respective policy premium and deductible are the insured’s agreed cost of sharing the risk covered by the policy, and that the carrier promises to indemnify the insured for damages due to causes of loss the policy covers.  It’s not a pure quid pro quo financial agreement because the cost of underwriting, selling and administering the policy falls upon the carrier, and the deductible and premium cost falls upon the insured.  The use or equality of the costs are only considered upon inception of a claim.  In addition, the insured is not involved in devising the terms of the policy, as a contract of adhesion a prospective insured’s sole power is accepting the contract in its entirety or not.  Absent optional inclusion of additional contract scope or details (endorsements and/or coverage limits), the insured is powerless in respect to a contract that ostensibly is in equilibrium between the parties- premium on one side, equivalent policy benefits afforded by the other side.

The price of the risk is determined by the carrier and approved by regulators based on volumes of data, actuarial smarts and with an eye to profitability balanced with service.  The frequency of CWPs (closed without payment) and paid claims is part of the actuarial machinations (regulators are comforted by carriers whose data are in concert with the industry at large), as such denials of coverage are, if absent, a concern for regulators. Is there an undue conflict of interest for incumbent carriers where policy provisions apply, or is Lemonade leveraging a message based on clever marketing?

Consider the typical property insurance claim pool:

Not every policyholder has a claim each premium period; in fact less than 20% of a typical insurance carrier’s homeowner’s customers experience a claim during a policy year.  Of that pool of claims the  frequency of denial is on average less than 30% of the total claims closed.  Extending the thought process, a carrier with 500,000 policyholders experiences on average 100,000 claims during a year, and of those 100K customers 30,000 may be denied coverage, so one can say approximately 6% of the subject carrier’s customers’ insurance services end in coverage disappointment.  Compare that with the carrier’s YOY customer retention rate and it may be clear that denials of coverage are not the only factor in customers’ renewal algorithms.  Is that the basis upon which differentiation can reside?

There may be a stronger position for the firm to take that the inherent issue may be in pricing losses, confirming losses at FNOL, or sorting out the spurious (read as fraudulent) claims.  Per the firm 90% of FNOL reports are through Maya or similar service bots, and since that service entry is tied to the entire suite of AI it can be said that FNOL may be the best vehicle to mitigate the effect of any ‘inherent conflict.’ 

Why that?  The firm (through marketing and per discussion) relies on the position that a ‘Ulysses Contract’ is in place for the firm- a figurative ‘tying of hands’  for Lemonade in focusing on denials of claims since any excess of earned premium over the firm’s flat fee is donated to the policyholders’ charities of choice.  No path to the bottom line, no incentive for capricious denials.  Is there legitimacy to this position?  Insurance is a contract, 90% of Lemonade’s claims are being handled by bots, pricing is established by regulated filings, and claim denial ‘touches’ affect only a small percentage of customers.  It’s probable that most denials of coverage are due to contractual reasons, i.e., policy provision reasons including the cause of loss not being a named peril.  At this juncture the carrier has primarily renters’ policies as its portfolio, and claims are comprised of unscheduled personal property that has relatively concrete pricing.  In addition, claim customers have limited knowledge of what comprises effective claim handling- other than prompt receipt of proceeds into one’s account.  If there’s a Nash Equilibrium in place, customers seem to be unaware, and can a bot be adversely subject to the vagaries of Game Theory?   

Lemonade must be respected for its InsurTech effect on the property insurance industry- everyone knows of the Lemonade entry and journey.  The growth of the firm (while overall PIF is small) continues to engage the attention of all.  As Daniel Schreiber said in our discussion and in his recent blog entry Two Years of Lemonade: A Super Transparency Chronicle, “ the fact that our reinsurance agreements protect us from too many claims can’t hide the fact that, since launch, we’ve paid out more in claims than we’ve collected in premiums. Clearly, that can’t continue indefinitely.”

As the carrier evolves into a multi line policy organization (renters’, condos, homeowners) the bot approach to claim handling will be tested.  Renters’ claims are personal property tasks- named peril, concrete loss description, concrete valuations.  A house claim may involve multiple parties- the insured, emergency services vendors, public adjusters, field adjusters, third party administers, and so on.  The Nash Equilibrium will be complicated to affect in that multi-player game, and a Ulysses Contract will be toothless to address the covered damage, partial denials, additional living expense wranglings, and other unknown factors. 

Regardless of the company’s cover portfolio, the need to become viable within the framework of insurance accounting looms over the discussion of social good. To quote from a October, 2018, article posted by Coverager, “Lemonade’s Cards“,

“And while Lemonade ‘solved’ this conflict by only taking a flat fee and giving unclaimed money to charity, are they really a conflict-free company? Do they not have a strong desire to improve their loss ratio? Isn’t the loss ratio an important part of their business? Will they be able to attract investors or potential buyers with a high loss ratio?”

The firm will find its data aggregation, analysis, and predictive capabilities invaluable from underwriting to claim settlement, and may find the expected diversity of its claim portfolio meaningful in building its flow of ‘excess’ to charitable organizations. There’s a cadre of claim staff developing their service skills- in other words they are learning to be insurance pros.  And at a minimum Lemonade has been patient with the industry placing them under a magnifying glass, watching every step being made- that’s not a bad thing and has added to the collective knowledge of insurance innovation. However, at this juncture having a Ulysses Contract as a mainstay of its business model appears to serve Lemonade’s marketing more than it does its loss ratio.

image
source

Patrick Kelahan is
a CX, engineering & insurance professional, working with Insurers,
Attorneys & Owners. He also serves the insurance and Fintech world as the
‘Insurance Elephant’.

I have no positions or commercial relationships with the companies or people
mentioned. I am not receiving compensation for this post.

Subscribe by email to join the 25,000 other Fintech leaders who read our
research daily to stay ahead of the curve. Check out our advisory
services
 (how we pay for this free original research).

The billion dollar opportunity for fintechs who serve global citizens

Australia
is sometimes colloquially labelled as the world’s biggest island. While some
might view this from a geographical stand point, it can often be meant more in
the intellectual sense. It’s no secret Australia is generally more interested
in what’s going on in Australia, than what’s happening in the rest of the
world.

The big
news out of Australia, if you haven’t already heard, is that voters went to the
polls last weekend. In true Trumpian and Brexit fashion, Australia was
delivered its own ‘surprise’ political upset. The right leaning conservative
government, led by Scott Morrison, was re-elected, much to the surprise of the
pollsters and betting agencies.

I wasn’t
terribly surprised, having had enough nous to place a bet on the coalition
government as returning to power. The odds of 5 to 1 coalition to labour seemed
out of whack with the actual closeness of the polling in marginal seats, and
the impact of potential preference votes. They weren’t out of whack with the
media commentary however, which from left to right leaning publications, was
more or less backing, or accepting a labour win. Seems like the media these
days, gets it wrong with alarming consistency.

You’re
probably wondering what any of this has to do with fintech.

Well,
governments can play a crucial role in driving the fintech ecosystem forward.
Labour had already made murmurs it would deprioritise open banking, which is
already overdue in Australia.

On the flipside,
the coalition government hardly painted an exciting picture for fintech, with
innovation absolutely not on the agenda. It’s anyone’s guess what will fill the
policy void now, but for those interested in where it may land, Business
Insider
spoke to several leading voices on what they think will happen
next. A good read for those of you who have investments downunder, or who are
looking to invest.

As a Kiwi – who can’t vote in Australia, but who’s taxes are certainly welcomed by the powers that be – what I find is interesting, is how the voices of people like me, Australia’s immigrant community, can be impacted by government policy around money. While I am afforded many more protections and rights given the close nature of New Zealand and Australia countries, many others from the immigrant community are not. And this can result in a serious financial impact.

Working Holiday Super Tax

Australia
has long been a number 1 destination for working holiday makers. It’s estimated
that during their approximate 2 year stay, they contribute $1.3 billion to the
economy, with $770M being spent in rural communities alone.

While these
visa holders come from all over the world, one of the main working corridors is
the UK, which only looks set to grow post Brexit, should the trade
representatives get their way. Around 40K land each year as part of the working
holiday visa program, with many going on to sponsored employment.

Working
holiday makers are expected to abide by Australia’s laws, including
contributing 9.5% of their earnings into Australia’s compulsory pension system,
superannuation.

When they
leave Australia, while they can freely take their take-home pay earnings, they cannot transfer the thousands of dollars
of super they are likely to have accumulated to an equivalent pension plan in
their country.

Instead a shocking 65% of their wealth is taken off them, with the
remainder cashed out. Their Kiwi counterparts can take the full balance home,
thanks to a Trans-Tasman portability scheme.

This is a tax rort, front left and centre. It also disproportionately
affects young people, who need all the help they can get these days, building wealth.

But it is also an opportunity to reinvent what pensions mean, how we distribute
and manage them, and how a fintech that thinks globally but locally can make
all of this easier, simpler, and hassle free.

Look at Transferwise, which is now the most valuable European fintech. It
is part of a growing group of global first fintechs that are willing to tackle
cross border money frictions that have no reason to exist other than through
archaic government policy.

Fintech’s that tackle these problems have a unique opportunity to represent the new global citizen. Despite the noise around protectionism, I believe it is fairly inevitable that the movement of workers and migration will continue, if not escalate. Which is why we need more companies willing to tackle some of these policy inequities head on.

We are doing this at my pension startup fintech, Zuper. After all, why does
it matter where your pension is managed from, so long as you can easily
contribute into it? If you have multiple pots here and elsewhere, there is no
reason why this should be hard to manage.

We launched a petition today that calls
on the UK and Australian government to allow for cross-border, full super
payment transfers
. There is no reason someone should lose 65% of their
wealth in one hit. If you ever worked here and had to hand you cash over, this
petition is for you.

Whether we get somewhere or we don’t, the challenge and opportunity is clear. Solve the problems that matter, and be a champion for your customers. Fintech, when done right, should address inequities, not further them. If you can prosecute that case well, then you’ve earned the right to build a billion dollar business.

Daily Fintech Advisers provides strategic consulting to organizations with business and investment interests in Fintech. Jessica Ellerm is a thought leader specializing in Small Business and the Gig Economy and is the CEO and Co-Founder of Zuper, a new superannuation startup in Australia.

I have a commercial relationship with the companies or people mentioned as CEO and co-founder of Zuper. I am not receiving compensation for this post.

Subscribe by email to join the 25,000 other Fintech leaders who read our research daily to stay ahead of the curve. Check out our advisory services (how we pay for this free original research)