financial services

CowryWise micro-savings service opens high-yield government bonds to everyday Nigerians

In emerging market countries where economic volatility is a way of life, there aren’t a lot of relatively safe options for members of the burgeoning middle class to park their money. For instance, countries like Nigeria have experienced a tremendous growth in the number of citizens entering the middle class, which now accounts for about 23 percent of the population (it’s around 50 percent in the U.S.), according to a recent article citing the African Development Bank. While Nigeria now faces some significant headwinds from a weak domestic currency (the naira), high interest rates and a manufacturing recession, there are ways that local investment can both protect the wealth that’s been created and encourage investment domestically to potentially spur development. At least, that’s the concl...

A new $124 million for Brazil’s Movile proves that investors still see promise in Latin American tech

Brazil’s macroeconomic picture may be gloomy, but technology investors still see hope in the nation’s burgeoning technology sector — and a recent $124 million financing for the mobile conglomerate Movile is the latest proof that that the pace of investment isn’t slowing down. Brazil was already the hottest spot for technology investment throughout Latin America — with Sao Paulo drawing in the majority of the record-breaking $1 billion in financing that the region’s startups attracted in 2017. And with this latest funding for Movile, led by Naspers, that trend looks likely to continue. Indeed, Naspers investments in Movile (supplemented by co-investors like Innova, which participated in the most recent round) have been one of the driving forces sustaining the Brazilian startup community. In...

Ride-hailing firm Grab launches new venture to back startups in Southeast Asia

Grab, the ride-hailing firm that acquired Uber’s Southeast Asia business, is aiming to catalyze the early-stage startup scene in Southeast Asia after it launched an accelerator and investment unit called Grab Ventures. The six-year-old company has already made investments and acquisitions — backing startups like Drive.ai and buying Indonesia’s Kudo and India-based iKaaz — and Grab Ventures will build on that by making 8-10 investments over the coming 24 month period, but it is also offering different kind of support. The firm will offer an accelerator program for “growth-stage” companies and play a hand incubating new services inside Grab, according to Chris Yeo, Head of Grab Ventures. That accelerator effort — called ‘Velocity’ — will launch its first intake before the end of the year wit...

Jirnexu pulls in $11M for its financial comparison service in Southeast Asia

It’s been a busy week for startup funding in Southeast Asia. Following big deals for Carro and Carousell, financial comparison startup Jirnexu is the latest to announce new capital after it closed an $11 million Series B round. The new investment comes courtesy of Japan’s SBI Group — a returning investor which led the round having co-led Carro’s $60 million raise — alongside new backer SIG Asia Investments. The deal takes Jirnexu to $17 million from investors to date. The startup was founded in 2012 and it is based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. It operates financial comparison services in its native Malaysia (‘RinggitPlus‘) and in Indonesia, under the ‘KreditGoGo‘ brand, that aggregate offerings from banks and financial companies that include Citibank, HSBC, Standard Chartered, and UOB. In sh...

Mobile money-saving app Qapital raises $30 million to spend on growth

Qapital, one of a slew of mobile applications trying to make it easier for users to save money (and spend it more wisely), has raised $30 million in fresh financing as it expands beyond savings to offer investment advisory services. Since its launch in the U.S. in 2015, Qapital has amassed roughly 420,000 users that have saved nearly $500 million on the platform, according to the company. But Qapital is more than just a Digit -style savings tool these days. The company has also folded in Qapital Spending through a linked Visa Debit Card that works with money saved through the app — as well as a budgeting tool called Qapital Weekly Spending Target. The company now has designs on the robo-investment market through Qapital Invest, a new product that Qapital expects to roll out before the end ...

Revolut adds direct debits in Europe

Fintech startup Revolut is slowly making traditional bank accounts irrelevant. The company is adding direct debits in EUR to make it easier to pay for utilities and subscription services. While Revolut is currently applying for a banking license, the company has already been adding everything you need to replace your bank account with a Revolut account. The company started with an e-wallet in multiple currencies combined with a MasterCard . This way, you can upload money to your Revolut account in your local currency and then send and spend money in multiple currencies. But when it comes to spending money, Revolut users have been limited to card payments so far. And yet, many countries ask you to pay your electricity or phone bill using direct debits. Back in July 2017, Revolut gave you a ...

S&P Global snares Kensho for $550 million

S&P Global announced today that it will acquire Kensho, a Cambridge, Massachusetts startup that has concentrated on artificial intelligence and analytics for big financial institutions. The total value of the deal is $550 million in a mix of cash and stock. Kensho, which counted S&P Global as a client/partner and an investor, launched in 2013 and has raised $67.5 million, according to Crunchbase. The most recent funding round was in fact led by S&P Global for $50 million in February 2017. They apparently liked Kensho so much, they bought the company. “In just a short amount of time, Kensho’s intuitive platforms, sophisticated algorithms and machine learning capabilities have established a wide following throughout Wall Street and the technology world,” S&P global president ...

New credit card skimmer worked in plain sight at Aldi stores

Police in Lower Pottsgrove, Pennsylvania have spotted a group of thieves who are placing completely camouflaged skimmers on top of credit card terminals in Aldi stores. The skimmers, which the gang placed in plain sight of surveillance video cameras, look exactly like the original credit card terminals but would store debit card numbers and PINs of unsuspecting shoppers. “While Aldi payment terminals in the United States are capable of accepting more secure chip-based card transactions,” writes security researcher Brian Krebs. “The company has yet to enable chip payments (although it does accept mobile contactless payment methods such as Apple Pay and Google Pay). This is important because these overlay skimmers are designed to steal card data stored on the magnetic stripe when customers s...

Equifax launches its credit locking app and extends free credit freezes through June

Today was supposed to be the deadline for Equifax’s free credit freeze offering, but the company has decided to extend the service to consumers for another five months. Now, Equifax customers can request a credit freeze through June 30. Still, January 31 is the last day to cash in on free credit monitoring through Equifax’s TrustedID Premier program, assuming you still trust the company that failed to protect the personal data of 143 million users enough to rely on it. Equifax decided to offer these user services after a massive outcry from consumers and intense criticism from Congress last September. Users who freeze their credit report through Equifax also should look into doing so at Experian and TransUnion, the other two major credit bureaus. Choosing to freeze your credit reports is a...

Financial technology startups emerged as serious challengers to financial services in 2017

Dana Stalder Contributor Dana Stalder is a general partner at Matrix Partners and writes at forentrepreneurs.com. More posts by this contributor: All the attention in financial services this year has gone to the newest kids on the block: cryptocurrencies. With bitcoin now eclipsing $15,000 and Coinbase adding more than 300,000 users in one week alone, it’s easy to see why. While cryptocurrencies stole the spotlight, a clutch of companies were quietly working behind the scenes to slowly bring the financial services establishment to its knees. It may turn out that these startup entrants of the last several years will prove to be the more relevant disruptors. Earlier this year the “fintechs” hit a massive milestone, one that very few people noticed but which must certainly be keeping senior e...

Betting consumers are tired of bad bank behavior, Aspiration raises $47 million for its alternative

[embedded content] A who’s who of celebrities, investors and celebrity investors have come together to invest $47 million into Aspiration, the company launched by a former speechwriter for President Bill Clinton to challenge the traditional banking industry. For Andrei Cherny, Aspiration’s founder and chief executive, the company’s business is an inversion of the business model of the typical modern bank. “The problem with how banks make money off of most people is that often times banks make money when the consumer fails,” says Cherny. Everything from overdraft fees to late payment fines to ATM fees are the cash cows for retail banks, says Cherny. “Those moments when the customer is feeling pain is when the banks make their money,” he says. But they also make money off of selling products...