Insurtech Front Page Weekly CXO Briefing – Online Insurance Marketplace

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The Theme last week was about InsurTech accelerators.

The Theme this week, is about online insurance marketplace. This has been a popular sector since InsurTech Day 1. Starting with a marketplace, both incumbents and startups can build an ecosystem out of it.

For more about the Front Page Weekly CXO Briefing, please click here.

Incumbents embracing InsurTech is a common theme in our posts. This time, it’s about customer engagement.

Story 1: ZhongAn, Grab Form JV to create digital insurance marketplace in SEA

Extract, read more on Digital News Asia:

“ZHONGAN Online P&C Insurance Co, Ltd (ZhongAn or ZA Insurance), the first Internet-based insurer in China, announced on Jan 16 that its subsidiary ZhongAn Technologies International Group Limited (ZA International), and Grab Holdings Inc, Southeast Asia’s leading online-to-offline mobile platform, will establish a joint venture company (JV) to enter the digital insurance distribution business in Southeast Asia.

The JV will create a digital insurance marketplace that offers insurance products in a range of categories with fractionalised premiums, directly to users through the Grab mobile app.”

ZhongAn has delivered a great performance in 2018 with a 11.22 billion RMB (1.65 billion USD) premium income and an 88.4% growth. Now Zhong An is trying to build its influence in SEA, and an insurance marketplace built on a popular local platform with huge internet traffic is a perfect choice.

 

Story 2: Policygenius Adds Auto and Home Insurance to Online Marketplace

Extract, read more on Insurance Innovation Reporter:

“Policygenius, a New York-based national direct-to-consumer insurance broker, has announced that it is expanding its online insurance marketplace to offer home insurance and auto insurance with a personalized shopping experience that aims to be unique in the market.

“Our customers have repeatedly told us they love how easy we’ve made comparing and buying life and disability insurance,” comments Jennifer Fitzgerald, CEO and co-founder, Policygenius. “They wanted to know when we’d be expanding to help them with other types of insurance as well. Today, we’re happy to announce that we’ve added home and auto to our marketplace.””

Founded in 2014, Policygenius is a veteran in the online insurance marketplace sector. The offer expansion could bring its customers with a more comprehensive insurance shopping experience.

 

Story 3: Wellthie Launches Health Insurance Marketplace

Extract, read more on Coverager:

“Wellthie, the company that’s “modernizing the insurance shopping experience,” has launched a new health insurance marketplace for small businesses to search and compare health insurance costs and options.”

While most of the online marketplace is designed for individual consumers, Wellthie aims at small business owners. A relatively small market with less competition.

Online insurance marketplace is, in a sense, the alpha version of InsurTech. It could be as simple as e-commercialized insurance store. But behind the curtain, you also need to figure out a way to recommend policies which suit customers’ best interests. That would involve technologies and thinking in customers’ position.

 

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Zarc Gin is an analyst for Warp Speed Fintech, a Fintech, especially InsurTech-focused Venture Capital based in China.

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

To schedule an hour of Zarc’s time for CHF380 please click here to send an email.

Flyt acquisition example of opportunities in platform integration space

 

When it comes to user experience, and engaging with the brands we love, we’ve all mostly moved on from downloading individual business apps. Nowhere is this more obvious than in the food ordering world, where aggregation platforms like Uber Eats are fast becoming the Amazon of eateries.

But what powers those systems? What makes your order travel seamlessly between your iPhone and the kitchen, then all the way back to your door?

Platforms like Flyt, who was acquired this week by global food marketplace Just Eat for £22 million.

A middleware service, Flyt allows hospitality retailers to connect orders from services like Uber Eats, directly with their POS, bypassing double keying and extra data entry by staff onsite and updating the kitchen instantly, who can begin prepping the food, shortening the kitchen to door estimated time. And you and I both know that is a big determinant about who we choose to order from.

While a technology like Flyt might not seem like a game changer to you, for small businesses, who live and breathe on efficiency and reduced headcount, these services are basically pre-requisites for survival in the cut throat world of digital food. Mom and Pop processes and clunky systems will now see you out of business in the time it takes to heat a pot of pasta.

Flyt may not be a household name, like Uber Eats, but it powers a good number under the hood, and it’s another example of how integration layers and platform connectors are embracing the huge opportunity that comes with the expansion of the digital food market. It’s an opportunity that can be realised without the added complexity of having to build a consumer facing brand, like Uber Eats.

Services like Flyt haven’t forgotten payments.

The platform has partnered up with global fintech Adyen to enable restaurants to create a customised chatbot for Facebook Messenger, that can take payment within the app. From a user experience perspective, it’s very straight forward. Open the app, select the restaurant location and enter your table number. Hey presto, your order appears, straight from the Point of Sale, and you can pay with your stored and verified payment option then and there. I’d go back to that restaurant, and hospitality venues know it. User experience on steroids.

Plug and play logistics, ordering, payments and infrastructure makes starting a business all the easier these days. Perhaps soon it will be as easy to open a physical store as it is an online one, as the worlds merge closer and closer together.

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.

Are Stock exchanges fast and efficient?

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The Austrian school of economics view is that

Stock Exchanges are the fastest and most efficient data-processing large scale system that we humans have designed so far.

Stock exchanges need roughly 15minutes of trade to determine the effect of a piece of news – political, scientific, ecological, societal etc – on the prices of shares.

Whether this will change with DLT technology and when is up in the air. For now, we have old and powerful institutions running these data-processing systems and it won’t be easy to take steal their Cheese.

The Frankfurt Stock Exchange is over 400 yrs old with a market cap putting it in the 10th position globally[1]. The London Stock Exchange (LSE) and the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) are both over 200yrs old and are in the 3rd and 1st respectively by market cap. Just a few blocks away from the front runner, there is NASDAQ only 45yrs old and with a 2nd ranking in market cap.

The 29yr old Australian Securities Xchange (ASX) ranking 14th in size, is actually the bravest in that they were the first to explore DLT technology for their settlement and post-trade activities. Digital Asset has been their partner, with whom they have been designing a replacement of their Clearing system CHESS since 2015, which they actually own (not the case for other stock exchanges). The full launch has been pushed out again from 2020 to 2021.

The architecture of this system maintains the messaging-based interaction with its participants and does not require them to have to run a node on the network in order to participate.

“We are often told by many, including other market infrastructures, ‘You’re so brave that you’re going first, you’re using DLT’ — we actually genuinely consider it brave to embark upon a large transformation program and not adopt this technology,” said Cliff Richards[2] ASX`s executive general manager of Equity Post-Trade Services.

NASDAQ is the most active stock exchange by being involved in several different DLT initiatives that are, however, recent.  In Spring 2016, in a post about Fintech in action on Western stock exchanges, I had mentioned Linq, a private blockchain company focused on private securities issuance. Linq allowed unlisted private companies to represent their share ownership digitally and securely. Later, Linq and Chain[3], a blockchain services provider, used DLT to register digitally ownership of private shares.

In May 2017, Nasdaq partnered with CitiConnect for Blockchain and took Linq to the next level. They went through a seamless end-to-end transactional process for private company securities.  Payment and reconciliation magic via DLT.

In October 2018, NASDAQ also partnered with the Azure blockchain service of Microsoft[4]. The aim is to integrate it in order to improve buyer-seller matching, management of delivery and payment. The key advantage they present is that this deployment will allow for interoperability with customers using various blockchains.

What really caught my attention is the Nasdaq`s use of DLT technology in their newswire services. They are starting to use smart contracts for time-sensitive data like corporate announcements, press releases, regulatory filings, etc and the associated valuable meta-data. Nasdaq seems to have filed for a patent around this  – Nasdaq Gets Patent for Blockchain Newswire to Solve Gaps in Audit Trail Gaps and Errors[5]!

For me, this latest use case can be big. Distributing meta-data through smart contracts and giving access to it on a pay-as-you-go basis, will be a huge business in financial markets and Nasdaq can dominate in this. If this then gets integrated into their market analytics business, then bingo.

[1] Data source from the Visual Capitalist as of April 2017 – Comparing the largest Stock exchanges

[2]Here’s what to expect from ASX’s blockchain-based CHESS replacement

[3] Chain was acquired by Stellar in Sep 2018

[4] Microsoft to Integrate Blockchain Offering Into Nasdaq Services Following New Partnership

[5] Nasdaq Wins Patent for Blockchain-Based Newswire Service

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

Get fresh daily insights from an amazing team of Fintech thought leaders around the world. Ride the Fintech wave by reading us daily in your email.

 

 

Blockchain Front Page: Anonymous transactions in Bitcoin

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Last week our theme was “Bitcoin Whales, Bulls & Bears Heading to zero? Or heading to $1 million? Your call”

Our theme for this week is “Anonymous transactions in Bitcoin

Are transactions made through Bitcoin really anonymous?

When one person sends Bitcoin to another person, their identities are not needed to complete the transaction. They do not need to share with each other, their names, addresses or phone numbers.

It sounds pretty anonymous, right?

A cryptocurrency transaction has three parts: the sender’s address, the receiver’s address, and the amount being sent. For Bitcoin, all three are public. For any transaction, we can see address of the sender, receiver and value of the transaction. Now, since every Bitcoin transaction is recorded on Bitcoin’s public ledger, anyone can view any Bitcoin wallet and transaction.

Bitcoin is neither confidential or anonymous.

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Bitcoin is pseudonymous, because each user has a public address that can be traced back to an IP address or exchange account.

There are many ways to link a wallet address, someone’s identity. Some people share their wallet address online. If an address is used on an exchange, that implements KYC (“Know Your Customer”), the address can be linked to a person’s real-world identity. Merchants you pay can make the connection.

As usage grows and more transactions are recorded on blockchain, a massive public map is being stored, which is accessible by anyone. With the right tools, transactions can be placed under a microscope to give us a very clear picture of how Bitcoins are moving. This poses a huge privacy concern.

Companies like Chainalysis and Elliptic have developed software to analyze blockchain transactions. To link transactions to real identities, they use online and public information. Chainalysis’s most famous work was helping the FBI identify two agents, that were stealing Bitcoins from the wallet of Silk Road, an online drug marketplace.

Blockchain analysis software, goes far beyond just catching criminals. As more investors enter the market, blockchain analysis software can help banks and other financial institutions comply with KYC/AML, or monitor market trends. Increased Bitcoin trading in countries around the world, could mean pressure on national fiat currencies. This kind of information could provide insights to investors, long before official statements are public.

While, Bitcoin does not offer anonymous transactions, concerns about privacy have increased and so have the prices for some cryptocurrencies that offer anonymous transactions. Monero started last year at $12, reaching $136 in August. Zcash in  January was at $10, and in June it reached $376.

Currently, there are several efforts (TumbleBit, Chaumian CoinJoin and ZeroLink, Schnorr Signatures for CoinJoin, STONEWALL etc.) underway to increase Bitcoin’s privacy, the most prominent being “Confidential Transactions”.

Confidential Transactions (CT) provide a way to protect transaction values, so they are only visible to the people involved in the transaction. Everyone else only sees that Bitcoins are transacted, but not know how many. While, CT improves privacy by preventing others from viewing your account balance and transaction amounts, it not a silver bullet for privacy. Confidential Transactions masks amounts, but you can still see who is paying who.

Is it possible to be anonymous?

There are number services that let you buy Bitcoin with KYC.

BitQuick acts as an escrow for Bitcoin transactions via cash deposits at thousands of banks across the US. The seller deposits the Bitcoins at BitQuick. Once the buyer deposits the cash into the seller’s account the coins are released. A mobile phone number is needed for this process but no id verification is required. Unlike an photo ID a mobile phone number can be easily purchased with an anonymous email via Skype for example. You could also use Bisq to buy and sell Bitcoin, without AML/KYC. Bisq is a decentralized peer to peer Bitcoin exchange that lets you buy/sell Bitcoin with a variety of payment methods.

There are ways to stay anonymous. Bitcoin used together with the TOR network, allows anyone to pay anonymously for digital goods. In combination with Tor, anyone can get additional protection and encryption, using Tails, Bitcoin tumblers, and mixers. Also, technologies like Dark Wallet go even further. It uses a technique called CoinJoin: Every time a user spends Bitcoins, the transaction is combined with that of another user, chosen at random, who’s making a payment around the same time.

If I had to make some suggestions, here four rules of thumb:

1. Always try to use cash: If you’re want to buy and sell Bitcoins anonymously, the most private way would is in cash and in person. You can use services like LocalBitcoins to find someone who is willing to sell Bitcoins for cash close to your location. Another way to buy Bitcoins anonymously with cash, is to go to your nearest Bitcoin ATM and buy Bitcoins from the ATM using cash.

2. Never reuse Bitcoin addresses: Use a new Bitcoin address for every single payment you receive, and never send money twice to the same exact Bitcoin address. Re-using a Bitcoin address is a massive privacy and security risk. Fortunately, many of the newer wallets can generate an unlimited number of public addresses, from a single seed.

3. Never use SPV and hosted Wallets: Almost all SPV wallets (also known as thin clients) leak which addresses you own to whatever SPV server they connect to. SPV wallets do not store the blockchain locally. Instead, they query a single SPV server for the transactions that involve the addresses in your wallet. While this functionality is far more efficient and fast than parsing the blockchain locally, the trade-off is that every Bitcoin address you own is submitted to the SPV server.

4. Use an anonymity network or VPN like Torguard: Always connect to the internet through a privacy network like those listed above or a VPN and use a privacy optimized version of Firefox, or the Tor browser.

A lack of privacy is a problem. Bitcoin anonymity is an uphill battle. All transactions are permanently etched in a transparent ledger. Being anonymous requires expertise and effort. For most users hiding their financial records from the government, will be impossible, but the vast majority of users might not necessarily want the world to know where they spend their money, what they earn or how much they own. For now its our responsibility to adopt good practices in order to protect our privacy.

For more about the Front Page Weekly CXO Briefing, please click here.

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Ilias Louis Hatzis is the Founder & CEO at Mercato Blockchain Corporation AG. He writes the Blockchain Weekly Front Page each Monday.

DX Exchange Security token model could democratise Wall street

2019 is the year of the Security tokens. We have had several ebbs and flows in the Blockchain industry over the last few years. Events of the past 18 months especially have shaken the industry into some serious introspection.

Revelations around the lack of controls and regulations around capital raising models have brought the industry into serious disrepute – in such a fashion that the merits of the Blockchain framework have been challenged. Being a passionate student and a commentator of the industry, I still believe, the model is intact, its the controls around it that have failed to stop human greed from causing havoc.

On the brighter side though, security tokens were seen as the bail out for the industry in many ways. Towards the end of 2018, there were a lot of talks that the model has merits, and as soon as the year opened, we have had the news of DX Exchange platform launch.

The DX Exchange platform allows bluechip stocks traded in NASDAQ on Blockchain using security tokens – this would cut out the middlemen, and when rolled out across markets, would save Billions. The disintermediation that the model brings to the table, will also put several business models dependent on Wall street at risk.

Why is this a better model than an ICO? Is this just another hype? Is this a perfect model that will create the new inclusive Capital markets?

I believe, ICO was the wrong start to the right journey. Being an early stage Venture Capital investor, I understand that valuing a startup is more of an art than science. There are very few data points. So when a business that has no way to value itself goes on Blockchain, the intrinsic value behind the tokens will be challenged by the traditional financial services industry.

Blockchain purists will argue that the new capital markets driven by Blockchain wouldn’t need traditional financial services principles AS-IS. However, what we are trying to do with Blockchain is a massive change in the way we exchange value, and that can only happen by collaborating with the incumbents.

If value has to move from traditional markets to the Neo Market, it can’t happen without key stakeholders in the traditional markets understanding the value of the Neo Market and embracing it. Security tokens can make that happen.

DX stressed that its digital stocks are classed as derivatives — with the underlying asset being equity of 10 Nasdaq-listed firms — and that its platform is regulated under the European Union’s Mifid II directive

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With Security tokens, the problem of intrinsic value is resolved. When you have a token that’s valued based on an underlying stock – most people who understand derivatives will get it. Of course, the tokenisation process, the exchange, its participants, operational details of managing transactions will have to be regulated and audited regularly to ensure that the security token industry gains credibility.

In doing so, we would have created a disintermediated Neo market on the Blockchain, but still largely within a traditional financial ecosystem. That is the first step, and I believe the right step for Blockchain in Finance.

Will there be scams? There will be – for sure. But I believe the worst of these scams are behind us, and with controlled progress, the Blockchain industry should see the adoption that it was meant to.

I am really hopeful that there will be a day when Mangoes from my farm in India and Buckingham palace will both go on Blockchain, and I will be able to trade some equity in the palace with Mangoes.


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

Get fresh daily insights from an amazing team of Fintech thought leaders around the world. Ride the Fintech wave by reading us daily in your email


Insurtech Front Page Weekly CXO Briefing – Accelerators

The Theme last week was about cars and auto insurance.

The Theme this week, is about InsurTech acceleration programs. At the beginning of the year, new InsurTech programs are ready for a robust launch, so are the startups.

For more about the Front Page Weekly CXO Briefing, please click here.

Incumbents embracing InsurTech is a common theme in our posts. This time, it’s about customer engagement.

Story 1: Global Insurance Accelerator kicks off 2019 with 10 insurtechs

Extract, read more on Digital Insurance:

“The Des Moines, Iowa, Global Insurance Accelerator is starting up its next cohort on January 15. The fifth iteration of the insurtech development program features 10 early-stage companies that will participate in the 100-day program. Over the course of that time, startups will work with insurance company mentors from a range of sponsors to move their product to the demonstration stage, which will take place April 24 at the Global Insurance Symposium, also in Des Moines.”

I checked the cohort and found zero familiar names. Looking forward to their performance and what they can deliver to attract incumbents.

Story 2: 10 startups in second Hartford Insurtech Hub cohort

Extract, read more on Digital Insurance:

“The Hartford Insurtech Hub, one of a proliferation of insurtech startup accelerator and incubation programs to launch over the past several years, has announced the 10 startups that will participate in its second iteration. Selected from a pool of more than 200 applications, the companies will relocate to Hartford for the start of the three-month program in February. Corporate partners for the Hub include Aetna, The Hartford, Travelers and USAA.”

To be honest, the fields those 10 startups covering are not new. IoT, item coverage, claim enabler etc. But maybe they can provide a new perspective on existing concepts.

Story 3: SBC InsurTech teams up with Aon

Extract, read more on Finextra:

“Aon joins the SBC community as an industry partner for SBC InsurTech CoLab (CoLab), a themed-based innovation program for mature markets. CoLab aims to align the impact innovation can deliver with an organisation’s strategic imperatives and top priorities. Aon will be focusing on CoLab’s ‘Commercial and Specialty Lines’ sector, which will look at specific problems in key customer segments ranging from SME to large industrial insurance. This will enable the key gaps in the insurance value chain to be better understood and addressed through collaborating with growth stage startups.”

This one is about the other end of the chain – corporate partners. If startups are the source of energy for InsurTech programs, insurers as corporate partners can be appropriate tools to harness that energy.

Accelerators provide opportunities for startups to showcase themselves in front of potential partners or competitors. It’s about communications and idea sharing. Of course, most of the startups in those accelerators might mediocre, but sometimes there might be a gem hidden among them.

 

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Zarc Gin is an analyst for Warp Speed Fintech, a Fintech, especially InsurTech-focused Venture Capital based in China.

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

To schedule an hour of Zarc’s time for CHF380 please click here to send an email.

 

Tide and ClearBank potentially poised to grow with RBS bid

It’s the second week in a row I’ve been led, by my research, towards the Royal Bank of Scotland. This must say something about how heavily they are involved in the fintech scene. It increasingly seems like they are at the centre of a growing fintech galaxy, within the wider global universe.

Last week I was led to RBS when I took a deep dive into their multi-brand strategy, which had all the hallmarks of FMCG.

Going back as far as November, RBS also crossed my path when I wrote about their investment in Mettle. This was clearly something that coalesced in my brain, percolating in the background, and somewhat unconsciously drove last week’s insights.

This week I find myself back at RBS again, via news that Tide, a UK SME bank has partnered with ClearBank, the latter of whom is in the process of applying for a grant from the RBS Alternative Remedies Package. All roads, it would seem, lead to RBS, who’s money is poised to cycle through the fintech system through multiple routes!

What will they do if they get the money?

According to Finextra, the bid involves the two upstarts coming together to take on the big challenges SMEs face in the UK, including opening of accounts (only 4% of businesses switched banks in the past year). Switching services are available to make the process less painful, but fewer than 0.5% of those that switch use them.

Market differentiation is another pain point the two companies will look to address through the partnership. In a world of vanilla business banking products, why go through the pain of upping and moving for no real upside in the form of easier or smoother access to credit, or less time on business admin?

Today it’s believed Tide has 1% of the 5.6 million SME market. With a little money from the RBS remediation fund and some clever strategic partnerships, like the one with ClearBank, there’s good odds they could steal a lot more.

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.

Food and Finance blurring through technology

As technology blurs business lines and `forces` incumbents to get rid of silos, Wealth Management & Capital Markets become broader.

Wealth Management & Capital Markets are being re-imagined as we speak.

Stay with me in this transformation.

My vision of Wealth Management is a holistic service that surely includes the future of Food and how we eat.  We didn`t touch on this topic with Paolo Sironi, when we discussed the principles of the Theory of Financial Market Transparency (FMT) in `Sustainable Banking Innovation`. Limited (and irreversible) time constraints were the reason that I didn`t raise the issue, which otherwise would be a very suitable topic to discuss with the Italian thought leader @thespironi.

My belief is that Food, Finance, and Fun are essential domains to our health and wealth. So, we will soon add to budgeting, borrowing, insurance, investing, trading, all sorts of others non-conventional `assets` and services.

Vivek Gopalakrishnan, head of brand & communications Wealth Mgt at BNP Paribas in South East Asia,  shared a Reimagine food infographic about What and How we will be eating.

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Source: DECODING THE FUTURE OF FOOD

The way I see the broadening of wealth management with Food is through AI algorithms that we will eventually trust, as we become convinced that they know us better than we know ourselves. Once this cultural shift happens, then food AI advisory will become ubiquitous. We will entrust the mathematics, the algorithms to advise us on Diversification, risk management, and investing around food.

All this will be 100% linked to our customized insurance policies naturally. It will also affect our risk appetite in financial investing as science will put us in more control of our life expectancy and Immortality will become in. Audrey de Grey, the renowned biomedical gerontologist, wants to increase human longevity to the point that death could become a thing of the past. Medical technology could soon be able to prevent us from falling sick. Yuval Noah Harari, also talks about the `Last Days of Death` in Homo Deus.

Even if this doesn’t happen in the next 50yrs, food AI advisory will happen and the best way will be to integrate these services with the advisory of today`s conventional assets in wealth management. My US dollars, my Canadian dollars, my euros, my Swiss francs[1], and my food consumption, risk management, diversification; all in one place.

In the US, the USDA issues a monthly report on what food should cost families nationwide, presented in four different priced plans: thrifty, low cost, moderate cost, and liberal. Food costs, as a % of income, have been declining dramatically in the US (not the case in emerging markets). Whether food costs are 10% or 40% of household incomes, the point is there is a huge opportunity to manage `what and how I eat`, and just looking at the food budget which misses the entire opportunity.

My vision is that there is no distinction between PFM, robo advisors, private banking for HNW and health. Our wealth and health have to be managed in one place. Ideally, lets deploy blockchain technology to manage our data in a `personal locker` fashion and then let’s outsource the processing and the insights from this data to the best algorithms that act in our interest and advise us on what to eat, what to buy, how to diversify, how to rebalance, what risks match our goals etc. Whether it is food or money.

Tokenization can also unlock value in this context by creating communities linked by incentives built-in the tokens, that share similar food habits and or financial goals.

Blockchain can protect us from the data monopoly slavery and enable us to unlock value.

Fintech can empower us as asset owners of these new values.

[1] These are my personal actual holdings since I have lived in each of these currency places and still hold accounts. Still looking for an aggregator to view and manage all these on a single dashboard. Fintech is not done.

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

Get fresh daily insights from an amazing team of Fintech thought leaders around the world. Ride the Fintech wave by reading us daily in your email.

Blockchain Front Page this week: Bitcoin Whales, Bulls & Bears Heading to zero? Or heading to $1 million? Your call

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Last week our theme was “Governments Love Blockchain

Our theme for this week is “Bitcoin Whales, Bulls & Bears Heading to zero? Or heading to $1 million? Your call

Over the last year, we have seen all kinds of predictions regarding Bitcoin and its future. Some claim that its doomed, heading to zero, while others believe that it will eventually reach breakaway speed and jump out of the stratosphere.

To the inexperienced users who’ve heard of Bitcoin, but don’t really know about it, price drops over the last year are only an indication of Bitcoin’s failure. However, for those that have been in the market for a while, they are aware that Bitcoin has had its fair share of bear markets in the past and has come back stronger.

Cryptocurrencies have followed an interesting path, since their boom in late 2017. There has been growth, regulation, and changing sentiment.

Despite the dropping prices, the crypto user base has been growing. According to a report by the Cambridge Center for Alternative Finance, crypto users doubled in 2018 rising from 85 million in 2017 to more than 139 million in the first three quarters of 2018.

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Governments are developing regulatory frameworks to foster cryptocurrency innovation, and large financial institutions are getting involved.

In July 2018, Malta became the first country in the world to establish a clear regulatory framework for cryptocurrencies and ICOs. Japan again has been ahead of the curve, by officially allowing the crypto industry to self regulate. It has turned over this responsibility to the Virtual Currency Exchange Association (JVCEA), rather than authorizing traditional financial regulators, to oversee crypto exchanges.

Despite attempts at regulation, it still remains a challenge. The U.S. approach to regulating the crypto industry has been to work within its current laws, rather than introduce new ones. Other countries like Russia and India are preparing specific legislation for cryptocurrencies. We can expect governments to focus on taxation and regulation for ICOs/tokens offered  to the public, as the top nations agreed in the last G20 Summit.

The crypto market tends to be very emotional and volatile. People tend to get greedy, when the market rises, developing FOMO or become erratic, selling their coins when they see red numbers. The Crypto Fear & Greed Index, shows us how people’s emotions and sentiments change over time.Screen Shot 2019-01-14 at 12.37.40 AM.png

When it comes to ICOs last year, we saw even more growth, significantly higher than 2017. In 2018, ICOs raised  $21 billion in capital , 3.5 times more than 2017.

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Yet, investors no longer needed to buy BTC or ETH to buy the tokens of blockchain projects. 2018, was the age of private sales. With private sales, investors can purchase tokens directly, using US dollars or other fiat currencies. The 2017 bull run, in many wats was driven by investors buying ICO tokens with BTC and ETH.

On the tech side, despite the bearish market trends, Lightning Network has been making significant strides. We’ve seen a sudden influx of nodes on LN, growing by 300%. Data analyzed by 1ML.com showed that its 11,000 nodes surpassed $2 million and 574 BTC. LN can potentially, push the Bitcoin to a larger audience, which may include large centralized banks. Once Bitcoin gets past the scalability issue, its adaptation in the main financial ecosystem will boom to new heights.

One of the most anticipated developments coming soon to the crypto industry is the launch of Bakkt. Intercontinental Exchange, the operator of the New York Stock Exchange is planning to launch Bakkt, a federally regulated market which will seamlessly and safely enable institutions and consumers to buy, store and sell crypto assets.

It remains to be seen if we will see a significant increase in value, if prices remain around these levels or drop even more. As Bitcoin, cryptocurrency and blockchain adoption continues to grow, it simply becomes harder for them to disappear in thin air or for prices to go to zero. The fact is that cryptocurrencies aren’t going away and will remain an important element of the landscape in the future. Peer-to-peer, decentralized cryptocurrencies hold tremendous potential. The crypto market and blockchain technology are still in their infancy and more innovations are yet to come.

The crash we saw in 2018, is by no means an indication of long term value. At this point, the market will continue to be affected by speculation. Even small developments by governments and regulators will likely affect prices. Also, a big numbers of Bitcoins have been moved by whales out of cold storage. On any given day, this could mean market changes, larger than 10%, in either direction,.

It’s difficult to put a finger on price, but I believe that prices will rise over time and Bitcoin will regain its footing. As institutional investors join the market, they will jumpstart the next bull run. Whether it happens through direct investment or because of new developments like Bakkt or Bitcoin ETFs, one thing is for sure, its coming.

For more about the Front Page Weekly CXO Briefing, please click here.

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Ilias Louis Hatzis is the Founder & CEO at Mercato Blockchain Corporation AG. He writes the Blockchain Weekly Front Page each Monday.

Monzo – London’s latest Unicorn sets sight on Global expansion

It doesn’t get bigger than Monzo and its CEO Tom Blomfield for London/UK Fintech. After grabbing headlines over the past 12 months, the end of 2018, saw Monzo achieve the status of a Fintech Unicorn.

Monzo went on Crowdcube (UK’s largest crowdfunding platform) for the funding round in 2018, when the raise of £10 Million closed in under 10 Minutes. As crazy as it sounds, and despite being sceptical about the valuation, part of me still likes to think that it was a well deserved milestone for Monzo.

The end of 2018 brought more luck to Monzo, especially to Tom Blomfield. He was awarded the prestigious OBE for his services to improving competition and driving inclusion in Financial Services. I don’t entirely agree with the financial inclusion angle, but hey, the leadership he has shown at Monzo makes him the poster child of Fintech in the UK.

“An OBE is a Queen’s honour given to an individual for a major local role in any activity such as business, charity or the public sector. OBE stands for Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire”

Monzo was founded in 2015 initially offering prepaid cards and moved on to a current account when they got a banking license in 2018. The Banking license meant that upto £85,000 of depositors money is insured by the UK’s Financial Services Compensation Scheme.

They saw tremendous growth in 2018, when they acquired ~1 Million users, but only 20% of them used Monzo as their Salaried account. The strategic direction that Monzo wants to take (to make money) would be in saving money for its customers (charge commissions), and creating financial dashboards for customers.

As they set sight on accelerating their growth at the back of their funding round in 2018, Tech Cruch recently reported that, they may be going for the US market next. Gone are the days when UK firms took a conservative approach of capturing Europe before going after the US market – which is generally considered a higher risk proposition, atleast by investors.

They have also ensured that corporate governance is taken care of as growth continues. On that note, they have managed to get Gary Hoffman as chairman. Gary is the former Barclays vice-chairman who steered Northern Rock through its emergency bailout during the financial crisis.

Amongst Neobanks in the UK, Revolut have certainly got the throne for the time being. But Monzo are in striking distance. So its onwards and upwards for Monzo and Tom. Well done and Happy New Year!!


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

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