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Open Banking: A Wave Bigger Than The Internet And Mobile

As originally published on Forbes. A lot has been written about open banking. In Europe and elsewhere, it’s discussed in the context of regulation, privacy and other considerations. In other circles, like in Latin America, it’s seen as a distant wave. Search people’s expressions in related conversation and they seem to say “Keep an eye on it, but it’s not a pressing concern. It’s a choice we could make some time down the road.” But what if it’s not? What if it’s inevitable? What if it’s the next technical and transformational change in financial services, bigger than the internet and mobile combined? It is precisely that. For the financial industry, open banking is bigger than the internet and mobile, because while those technologies changed the edges, they weren’t able to meaningfully touch the core of banking and financial services with any magnitude. They didn’t materially disrupt fundamental systems or break our obsession with building product line-dedicated networks and systems. Sure, they were historic events that changed the channels, endpoints and introduced some new methods but not the basics of the business. Think about mainframes. Technologies that rolled out when the Beatles were embarking on their first world tour have kept humming right through ABBA, MTV and now grandchildren live-streaming Taylor Swift on their iPhones. On one hand, we should applaud these resilient relics that are somehow still in the background registering our Venmos, but on the other, we shouldn’t stop balancing the cost of practicality and convention against the need for new tools -- and the true distance of the next wave. A New Definition In my mind, open banking is more than a mandate or a new digital core. It’s any time a bank or financial institutions collaborate with a third party to deliver new services and more frictionless and scalable experiences via new, external platforms. Today, it most likely involves a fintech and APIs, the favored building blocks of innovation. This is to say it's an accepted approach more than a strict technical definition. It's an incumbent saying: "We're on board with models and practices that are inclusive of other participants. We don’t have to be closed and centrally controlled to play the game.” It is, of course, a natural expression of the “openness” and “ecosystems” that started in the software industry and, most notably, in mobile with iOS and Android -- worthy examples when thinking about open banking. Imagine what it must have been like just before the AppStore launched, when the world’s best creators of consumer electronics were told: “We're not going to build most of the products that go on this platform. Other people will.” Apple’s App store generated $11 billion in revenue for the company last year, overwhelmingly with the help of third parties. Better Together I’m not suggesting that banks try to wholesale imitate Apple and Google or simply go into the business of licensing their licenses. But I do think there is a lot to be said for the idea that you can both continue creating your own products and open space on new platforms for others to create and co-create with you to capture opportunities you couldn’t even begin to see, much less capitalize on, on your own. The internet and mobile are critical catalysts, to be sure. Without their combination, the world as we know it today wouldn’t exist. But it’s the larger trend of openness and collaboration that they helped galvanize that convince me that open banking is actually a different kind of wave. It is what in physics is known as constructive interference: waves passing through each other, their crests combining to produce a wave with greater amplitude. I believe that, with anticipation, preparation and experimentation, this wave can be safely and prosperously surfed, but it also demands caution of those who miscalculate its proximity and turn their backs towards the sea. ...
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From Miami, Visa is giving Latin America a technology boost.

As originally published on Florida Trend. In Latin America, cash is used in at least 80% of consumer transactions — more than twice the rate of cash transactions in the U.S., according to some estimates. But efforts to digitize cash and financial services are increasing in the region, thanks to a surge in smartphone use and a push by banks and fintech startups. Visa is helping spur that collaboration at its Miami Innovation Center, which brings together Visa’s Latin American clients, such as banks and key retailers, with its own specialists and cutting-edge fintech firms. In May, Visa made its first direct investment in a Latin America-focused fintech firm when it led a $12.5-million funding round for regional mobile-payments pioneer Yellow Pepper, which was founded in Mexico and now is based in Miami. “If you look at the fintech ecosystem in Latin America, a few years back, it was developing very slowly compared to other regions,” says Vanesa Meyer, an Argentina-born executive who leads innovation and strategic partnerships for Visa’s Latin American and Caribbean region out of Miami. “But last year, over 100 fintech deals closed in the region, double 2016, and in the first part of 2018, the pace accelerated.” Analyst Lindsay Lehr, a director at Miami-based Americas Market Intelligence, says only a global heavyweight like Visa has the clout to bring together both large and small players to speed the rollout of new financial services technology in Latin America. Even traditional banks in the region recognize the need to innovate, as fully digital banks have started to emerge in their markets. “Banks and others are looking to Visa to help them become more agile,” says Lehr. Among Visa’s partners in the fintech push: Miami-based NovoPayment, whose technology, says CEO Anabel Perez, serves as “connective tissue” among technologies, so banks and others can leverage existing assets without having to build apps and interfaces. NovoPayment now handles more than $350 million in transactions yearly, works in six Latin American nations and employs 300 people. “By collaborating, you augment your capacity, increase efficiency, reduce R&D expenses and help others boost their capacity,” Perez says. “And in Miami, we’re just an Uber ride away from Visa.” — Doreen Hemlock ...
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Latin American FinTech Payment ‘Recipes’

As originally published on PYMNTS. Want to understand payments innovation in Latin America? First, let’s talk about ingredients — as in food. Imagine a shopping bag full of common ingredients, the staples that are familiar and affordable for a wide range of consumers. Consider all the ways in which those common ingredients can be combined into a tasty dish — a few tweaks here and there, resulting in something totally different than what someone down the street might create in their own kitchen. One may indeed be a bit hungrier than before, but according to what NovoPayment CEO Anabel Péreztold Karen Webster during a recent PYMNTS interview, they can now understand one of the fundamentals of innovation in Latin America. As Pérez put it, more concisely: “Every time you enter a new market, you need to create a new recipe, even though the ingredients might be the same.” Latin American Progress Times are brightening for digital payments and commerce in Latin America. For instance, earlier this year, Visa announced its investment in mobile banking and payment solutions provider YellowPepper. According to Visa, the move will support growing opportunities for tokenized payments, increase access to Visa application programming interfaces (APIs) and expand the usage of push payments via Visa Direct. Homegrown players are upping their games, too. PagSeguro — a Brazil-based provider of digital payment services — launched its initial public offering (IPO) in January, raising approximately $2.3 billion. For its own part, NovoPayment, a digital financial services (FinServ) enabler based in Miami, which services the region via a cloud-based Open Banking platform, recently launched its Developer Hub, the first such platform to service Latin America. Developer Hub offers 41 APIs that cover a wide range of payment-related functions, as well as Latin American regions and industries, including banking, service organizations, insurance, urban delivery, and transportation and travel. In addition, NovoPayment is “seeing a push from bank customers,” Pérez said. “They are the ones knocking on our doors and experimenting in our sandbox.” This is a big deal, she added, because, for the first time, NovoPayment is seeing corporate customers coming to FinTech firms for solutions to then bring to banks and financial institutions (FIs). The fuel for that trend comes from treasury and operations professionals being pressured to digitize payments and processes. “Some of them are feeling ignored or like their bankers just don’t get it,” she said. “These are often long-standing pain points that are now board-level mandates.” This comes amid the ongoing challenge for the payments firm to “discover new ways of delivering our solutions,” while being able to replicate them at scale. Front Row Seat That work gives NovoPayment a front-row seat to the ins and outs of innovation in Latin America. Responding to, and respecting, those wide ranges is key when it comes to Latin American payments. Think of it this way: “Once you’re integrated into a local market, you get to the real opportunity, which is creatively solving for the customer,” Pérez said. As digital enablers, she noted, her company sits in the middle, meaning delivery models have to match the readiness of the client and their customers. There are ways to balance the differences, to handle them in a manner that leads to client loyalty and profit, and to increase the chance for innovation to stick. One example of an innovation needing local recipes, she said, is a forthcoming solution that simplifies the onboarding of small merchants, which, in some markets, can take up to three months to obtain acquiring and settlement accounts, keys to accepting digital payments. “We’re streamlining two processes simultaneously to make acceptance possible in days,” she said. That has important implications for acquirers, banks, aggregators, payment networks and gig economy players across the region. Team Tips Start with the team assembled to work with clients, and promote and deploy innovative products. The most important ingredient is talent, according to Pérez. A team is nothing if not a proper balance of talent. For instance, at least one innovation team member needs to be someone who “has been with us a long time,” she told Webster during the discussion. “You also need members who have access to local relationships, who understand how to interpret local laws,” Pérez added. “We always hire local advisors.” That sense of balance extends to the technology and back-end infrastructure work that is vital to the success of any payments innovation and product launch. “You need to adapt your toolbox to connect locally, to integrate with multiple networks,” she said. “And you need the ability to incorporate locals — both vendors and partners — into your ecosystem.” Locals are key. They can anticipate additional needs and obstacles to address, for instance, and have the know-how to get them done. Humbleness, too, is a friend for companies trying to deploy payment innovations. A weakness of success is hubris — that sense that one’s “secret sauce” — a term favored by Pérez — is equally applicable in multiple markets despite their regulatory, consumer-preference and business-environment differences. Innovation is easier said than done, and easier talked about than executed. That holds especially true in a region such as Latin America, where a (mostly) common language can mask significant cultural, historical, political and economic differences. However, in the proper hands, the right ingredients can certainly lead to local successes. ...
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NovoPayment Named “Best of The U.S.”, BAI Innovation Award Winners

Miami-based FinTech named best “Innovation in Customer Experience” and selected “Best of the U.S.” to be recognized at BAIs Beacon event in Orlando October 9-11 MIAMI--(BUSINESS WIRE)--NovoPayment has been selected as the winner of the 2018 BAI Global Innovation Awards in the Innovation in Customer Experience category for Embedding FinServ in Gig Value Chain, and is among a specially-invited group of award honorees selected Best of the U.S. to be recognized at BAIs Beacon event in Orlando October 9-11. BAI Global Innovation Awards finalists and winners represent the most distinctive, revolutionary solutions in the global financial services industry, selected from hundreds of nominations. Awards winners will be honored at BAI Beacon on Tuesday, October 9th at 4:30 pm. “Best of the U.S.”honorees will be showcased on Wednesday, October 10th at 3:45 pm. NovoPayment has also been selected as a finalist for Outstanding Achievement in the Disruptive Innovation in Financial Servicescategory to also be announced on October 9th. “NovoPayment found a unique way to drive positive change in the industry and, ultimately, the customer experience,” said Debbie Bianucci, president and CEO of BAI. “BAI is pleased to recognize the dedication and innovation shown from these leaders and visionaries to help solve some of the greatest challenges in financial services.” “Our collaborative innovation solves banks' and FI's general difficulty in serving modern, platform-driven businesses, and the undesirable impacts that cash-intensive processes have on their ability to scale,” said NovoPayment Co-founder and CEO, Anabel Perez. The BAI Global Innovation Awards are a prestigious awards program that unveils the most transformative solutions in the financial services industry worldwide. Since its inception in 2011, the BAI Global Innovation Awards recognize industry leaders and showcase what leading financial services innovators in all regions of the world are doing to deliver new value to customers and employees as well as improve efficiencies and profitability for their organizations. About BAI As a nonprofit, independent organization, BAI delivers the financial services industry’s most actionable insights, enabling leaders to make smart business decisions every day. BAI is passionate about the trusted information and powerful tools that provide leaders with the clarity and confidence needed to drive positive change and move the financial services industry forward. For more information, visit www.bai.org. About NovoPayment Miami-based fintech, NovoPayment enables digital financial and transactional services via a cloud-based, bank-grade platform that supports varied mass disbursement and collections services. The company helps banks, financial institutions and others throughout the Americas to leverage their existing systems and services to generate new deposits and transaction streams. For more information, visit novopayment.com and developer.novopayment.com. ...
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The Biggest Challenges Facing Financial Services – Part IV

A four part series originally published LinkedIn. Part IV: Don't Complicate What Others Have Made Simple In Part III of our series, we covered how our industry’s apprehensiveness with experimentation and failure and our longstanding fixation with seeing our businesses through a lens of distinct, fully-owned and operated product lines impedes our ability to make the changes necessary to digitally transform. This also has the added effect of complicating the simple. I’m referring to the requisite decision-making and authority needed to meaningfully transform which, if hampered by product and area centric governance, becomes less clear, more committee-like, and stifling to new partners. And yes, frustratingly slow. What’s required instead is a more streamlined approach that, for example, pairs new collaborators with strong internal sponsors who can usher them through critical phases of innovation. The alternative is to stifle partners (and doom projects) through a series of unending objections, exceptions, foot-dragging, and stonewalling. In addition, many of us tasked with transforming our organizations lack sufficient experience and training to understand best practices in key areas like relationship management and platform banking to, for example, avoid unnecessarily complicating technical decisions that have already been made simple for us by innovative collaborators. This scenario is perhaps most evident in the process of introducing White-Label banking platforms, which by design have the built-in flexibility to accommodate many different collaborator roles and use cases. However, this flexibility can have a downside. You see, if banks, FIs try to apply these modern digital assets with an own-and-control mindset, arbitrarily carving out an increasingly bigger role for themselves, they can easily nullify a lot of the innovation, simplicity, agility, and savings they had to gain at the start. Iteration, Iteration, Iteration If the three most important things in real estate are location, location, location, then the same can be said of iteration’s importance to digital transformation. As I often advise partners: don’t get overwhelmed. Start small. Find a project you like that employs APIs and open banking platforms -- the new ways of doing things. Give yourself and your people the hands-on opportunity to learn new flows, and where you might need to invest in people and processes. Who knows, maybe even dazzle a few clients along the way! OK, ‘but where do you start?’ you ask. As Deloitte advises, “Corporate banking groups should ramp up their digitization efforts, especially in businesses that still heavily rely on manual, paper-based activities.” In Latin America, the B2B and retail space offer a wide and green-field on which to test this thesis, new mindsets and to assemble key collaborators. In conclusion, banks and FIs need to dispense with the idea that successful transformation is compatible with legacy organizational structures and ways of thinking about clients. They and other key players need to come to terms with the reality that the ability to decree how and when clients will be served is quickly fading and with it long-held beliefs about technology, investment, ownership, control, and product. That may sound like a bold statement to some, I know. But, I firmly believe we’ll solve the digital transformation puzzle faster and more easily if we have the grace and courage to help ourselves and our collaborators understand when we may be looking at the picture through the wrong lenses. ...
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The Transition From Tellers To Digital Touchpoints In LATAM

As originally published on PYMNTS. Mass payments are no novel concept. Readers of this space know that many verticals and functions, from insurance to payroll – where payments are on the grandest scale in terms of volume – could see improvement in convenience and choice if only more companies would embrace instant and digital disbursements. The paper check remains a stubborn fixture in many areas of business. And readers also know that when it comes to Latin America, in the switch to banking done in ones and zeroes, transforming the way B2B is done may be best served through partnerships between financial institutions and FinTechs. As part of a continuing series on the digital transformation taking shape in the region, in an interview with Kevin Fox, executive vice president of NovoPayment, he stated that the trend is not a new one, but that it definitely has new twists. “Digitizing a company’s manual, cash and paper-based processes and payments has been going on a long time,” he told PYMNTS. “The difference is that solving it today provides not only a new service for banks to sell, but often their first truly transformative digital use case.” Progress has been a hallmark over the last several years – and yet, for firms like NovoPayment, greenfield opportunities abound. That is especially true in Latin America, Fox said, where in many emerging markets processes could be streamlined, where bank’s client companies are grappling with the demands of their own logistics and operational costs, and where traditional methods are just not cutting it. The age of the portal is over, it seems, and banks are finding that in product lines like corporate prepaid, enterprise customers want real-time, scalable and seamless payment experiences. Banks, once wary of FinTechs and of collaborative and API-driven models, are realizing the competitive advantages of digitizing payments functions, which in turn allows them, ultimately, to better serve their customers. “The catch is the urgency to the corporate client,” Fox told PYMNTS. “These payments can impact the operational flow of the business through procurement and key vendor relationships. We have found that there are a lot of organizations with large geographic footprints that may have considerable requirements to be able to support different business processes.” Thus, he said, complexity may stymie banks’ abilities to satisfy their clients’ desire for mass disbursements of funds to different stakeholders – ranging from employees to contractors who help fulfill different operational requirements on scales both small and large. It’s the last mile, in a way, and no easy task to tackle. Think, for example, of a logistics company served by independent trucking fleets, bringing various goods between cities or across borders. Mass payouts via an enterprise solution could be used to pay for expenses critical to the flow of business, such as fuel, tolls, stipends and drivers’ fees. Education and Dialogue — and APIs Fox contended that as client firms work with banks seeking to centralize operations and simplify last-mile activities, the API offers a new channel of delivery, where once the teller or the portal was a conduit for transactions. In outlining NovoPayment’s approach to Latin America, education and dialogue are key when seeking to smooth operational processes, he stated. “When you combine the importance of the mass payout problem to the client, the specific challenges it presents to the bank and the best practices for solving it today, you have an ideal recipe for testing some pretty top-of-mind stuff,” Fox said, as his firm helps to streamline, say, enrollment and compliance efforts through closed and partner APIs delivered through banks. Among the challenges in Latin America, as stated by Fox: “A significant share of your end user/recipient population probably lacks formal banking relationships and electronic payment instruments.” And against that backdrop, through the API, the client self-serves in what Fox termed a fully digital manner, pulling in services in an automated fashion, enrolling and authenticating workers and vendors. And when it comes to payments, he said, with the aid of APIs, those clients are able to go about ordering and electronically funding co-branded debit accounts, dynamically loading and reloading accounts at the individual transaction level, sweeping back and redeploying funds, and blocking and replacing accounts. Getting to the Heavy Lifting None of this takes place in a vacuum, said Fox. The banks have to understand what questions to ask of their clients. The pace can be daunting in adapting and adopting the digital mindset – and for some banks, there is the challenge of accepting the reality that in linking with FinTechs, the FI may need to accept a smaller role in executing some of the transformation in exchange for a bigger impact on the backend. “From the perspective of the FI,” Fox said, “the challenge is really to fundamentally understand the business processes of their clients. In some cases, financial institutions are not accustomed to getting very granular with their clients to determine where in their workflows they might add additional value.” An optimal experience, he said, is one where the bank client is consuming those aforementioned services from within the banking institution and via a White Label platform, rather than having to go to the bank for those services, picking and choosing them individually on an as-needed basis. “So the opportunity here,” he said of the FI linked with the FinTech and dialoguing actively with the client, “is to really get ingrained within the customer’s value chain.” As banks get their arms more fully around the idea of mass/instant payouts, in working with their enterprise clients, Fox suggested that all parties benefit from setting short-term goals, with a constant feedback loop in place. “There need to be champions,” said Fox, of digital initiatives across the FI and the client, “and those champions currently do not fit a specific profile” – as they can come from not just the C-suite, but also from marketing, sales and IT departments. But when is all said and done, “the bank emerges more digitally mature at the end of the process, which today is strategic gold.” ...
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NovoPayment Named “Best of The U.S.”

Miami, Florida – August 28, 2018 –NovoPayment has been selected as the winner of the 2018 BAI Global Innovation Awards in the Innovation in Customer Experience category for Embedding FinServ in Gig Value Chain, and is among a specially-invited group of award honorees selected Best of the U.S. to be recognized at BAIs Beacon event in Orlando October 9-11.   BAI Global Innovation Awards finalists and winners represent the most distinctive, revolutionary solutions in the global financial services industry, selected from hundreds of nominations. Awards winners will be honored at BAI Beacon on Tuesday, October 9th at 4:30 pm. “Best of the U.S.” honorees will be showcased on Wednesday, October 10th at 3:45 pm. NovoPayment has also been selected as a finalist for Outstanding Achievement in the Disruptive Innovation in Financial Services category to also be announced on October 9th.   “NovoPayment found a unique way to drive positive change in the industry and, ultimately, the customer experience,” said Debbie Bianucci, president and CEO of BAI. “BAI is pleased to recognize the dedication and innovation shown from these leaders and visionaries to help solve some of the greatest challenges in financial services.”   “Our collaborative innovation solves banks' and FI's general difficulty in serving modern, platform-driven businesses, and the undesirable impacts that cash-intensive processes have on their ability to scale,” said NovoPayment Co-founder and CEO, Anabel Perez.   Click to view full release....
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The Biggest Challenges Facing Financial Services – Part III

A four-part series originally published on LinkedIn. Part III: Getting Comfortable with Experimentation In our second installment of this series, we covered how new customer-centric collaboration models require us to rethink our concepts of ownership and control. As an extension of that exercise, we must also change our attitudes about experimentation and failure -- key concepts on the path to achieving digital maturity. According to Deloitte’s 2018 Digital Banking Outlook, “Digital disruption starts with experimentation, iteration and relinquishing command.” What I love best about the statement is what it doesn’t say: That going it alone today is also a kind of experiment, just one with poorer chances of success and recovery.  It’s no surprise then that respondents of a recent enterprise IT survey reported that the biggest challenge impacting a company's ability to compete in a digital environment is experimentation and taking risks. Of course, this challenge is not particular to financial services however, I would guess that many transformation champions and project owners in our region and elsewhere would probably rather walk on hot coals than utter the words “experiment” or “failure” in reference to their work. This mindset clearly needs to change. Product vs. Customer Centric It would be so much easier if we could just choose between operating and transforming, but unfortunately, we need to simultaneously do both. As such, we need to come to terms as an industry with the fact that most of us are still organized around products, fragmented lines of business and area silos rather than customer segments, as many experts recommend. This is perhaps the biggest obstacle to achieving digital maturity due to its immediate and often underappreciated consequences. Today, few if any banks and FIs can honestly say that they are dazzling their customers. This is a problem in a world where the importance of customer experience (CX) is difficult to overstate, and both consumers and business users are becoming increasingly restless in their desire to have more seamless, user-friendly interactions. The takeaway is that current organizational and delivery models are failing to meet customers’ expectations, and if left unchallenged, will not only inhibit the adoption of new technologies, but also the introduction of new collaborators. More on that in our next installment. In our final installment, we’ll explore how legacy decision making structures impact digital transformation initiatives and share some advice on setting project roles and reach. ...
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The Biggest Challenges Facing Financial Services – Part II

A four-part series originally published on LinkedIn. Part II: Rethinking Ownership and Control As we established in our first installment of this series, there is an inherent need to shift our industry’s mindset if we’re to advance our efforts to transform, achieve digital maturity and deliver services in a more customer-centric manner. Our way of thinking about ownership and control of technology is one such area. Two of the most contemporary trends and widely accepted practices in enterprise IT are the externalization of technology and the rise of open collaboration. Yet, an overly guarded attitude persists that in order to innovate, banks and FIs must replicate and own what others have done or acquire and assimilate. This way of thinking may be misguided or at best impractical when taking into account available human resources and relative costs. In Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC), where deep domain expertise is more scarce, assembling and successfully directing a group of vendors to replicate an imported innovation can be fraught with setbacks and costly blind spots. Also, consider that out of the roughly 300 banks in the LAC region, there may be 10 with the ability to successfully pull off a buy-and-integrate move allowing their organizations to meaningfully transform their tech and tech culture through acquisition. Therefore, one can conclude that the majority of banks and FIs, would be better off betting on technology partnerships that allow them to leverage other’s capabilities and connective tissues to generate value, preserve customer relevance and learn sooner, rather than to embark on building their own tech from scratch. Still, the own-and-control mindset is so ingrained that many organizations would still rather spend $10 million and two-plus years with the hope of successfully modernizing their own legacy tech (betting heavily on one option) over spending a half a million to go live on a more flexible platform in months, allowing them to more seamlessly integrate and create customer-centric ecosystems via APIs, for example. This alternative approach has the added benefit of allowing banks and FIs to innovate gradually, spread risk and invest more over time as initiatives begin to bear fruit and their organizations digitally mature. The takeaway is that we need to end our infatuation with ownership and control and get better at weighing our organizational readiness to transform against the most precious asset of all – time. In our next installment, we’ll explore attitudes about experimentation and organizational obstacles to achieving digital maturity. ...
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