Learnings from Unified Payments Interface in India

Nearly one year ago I have written about the beta launch of WhatsApp payments in India (Blog post). The service allows any payments-activated user of WhatsApp in India to send money to other WhatsApp users. However, the service is not yet available nationwide, due to regulatory problems. The Indian regulator requires WhatsApp to process the payment data purely on Indian servers but it is currently being processed on Facebook servers in the US. WhatsApp is in discussion with the regulators to find a solution. Most likely WhatsApp will comply with the request from Indian authorities and might also set up a payments team in India (another request from the regulator). It would probably be a worthwhile move since WhatsApp has more than 200 million monthly active users in India making it’s the biggest market for WhatsApp. Apparently there are already one million WhatsApp user activated for the payment feature (Source). Payment services are on a rise in India and due to the success of other providers definitely not an opportunity WhatsApp wants to miss out.

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Commerzbank revealed its API Hub

This week another German bank has revealed their Developer Centre or API Hub in this case. This time it was Commerzbank.

As we are approaching the deadline in most European countries to release test APIs in March and the release of production APIs in September this year, we will probably see more and more of these Developer Centres being revealed. Generally, this is a good sign as it is an indicator that banks see PSD2 as a chance to provide a little more to developers than just access to accounts. Since Commerzbank is not really known to be a leader in API banking so far, it is pretty good to see the launch of their portal, nevertheless, so far the portal is nothing more than a landing page which is indicating certain APIs and the chance to register.

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My books in 2018

The year 2018 is coming to an end and it’s time for me to pick up my weekly blogging again. My last blog post is actually from May and a busy summer season gave me enough excuses to not start again. And once the habit is broken it’s easy to ignore it for a longer time. But now with the new year ahead and thinking about some new year resolutions, it’s a good moment to start this again.

Even though I have not been blogging in the second half of 2018 I have increased my reading time. Usually I am aiming to read one book per month which results o twelve books per year. In 2018 I have read in total twenty books and most of them in the second half of the year. Even though twenty is a lot more than twelve, there’s still plenty of room to increase this. Thus, my reading goal for 2019 is more like 40-50 books – and definitely plus weekly blogging as well!

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How to benefit of Open Banking?

I speak with early stage FinTech founders and project owners on a daily basis. FinTech wasn’t  sexy when I started at figo in 2014 but is surily now for many people. The movement of digital transformation has arrived with a slight delay in the banking industry. This has many reasons, and personally, I believe PSD2 is one of the crucial ones. PSD2 and Open Banking in general is providing a complete new level playing field that attracts many industry outsiders. This is beneficial and supportive for FinTech, as banking has been an industry where most of the people have a long track record inside the industry.  This is not negative in general, but it surely limits innovative efforts overall.

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Happy Easter

This week I haven’t found the time to write a proper fintech focused blog post. Easter is usually a good time to refocus and recharge. And that’s exactly what I’m doing these days. Mostly while enjoying the good weather in Berlin and finish reading “Principles” by Ray Dalio. Even though I haven’t finished the book yet, I can already highly recommend it.

I hope you’re enjoying your Easter days too and making the most out of it.

Good times to be in FinTech

In the early days of FinTech, I remember quite a few people talking negatively about the potential impact of FinTech. The reasons were plentiful: missing investors, incumbents not interested to collaborate, high entry barriers, no mass market interest… Just to name the most popular ones. In their eyes, FinTech was just a hype and will disappear in the near future. Quite de-motivational opinions for anybody who was considering to switch from traditional banking to a FinTech player.

Hopefully these people still did the switch, as none of this turned out to be true. Just going through the biggest news in this still very young year, you will see plenty of indices to disapprove the statements from above:

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We come in piece(s)

It was just a funny autocorrect but somehow so fitting. I tweeted about an article describing Google’s efforts to collaborate with banks in regards of PSD2 and that Google intends not to compete with banks. In that tweet I raised the questions if banks knew what they are about to get into.

Tomi replied to this with this tweet:

Actually, he wanted to write “we come in peace” indicating that Google wants to work with banks together in a peaceful way. The quotation marks leave already some room for interpretation that this might just be a deception maneuver of Google. The autocorrect which changed the tweet  into “we come in piece” made an even stronger emphasis on the potential real intention of Google: entering banking slowly and easily, and potentially grow these efforts into a bigger offering if/when banking turns out to be a promising field. And thus, definitely become competitors to banks in some ways (most likely in frontend / data analysis).

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How to be 10 times better in FinTech?

Even though some people are still trying to ignore the trend of “FinTech”, it is already a pretty crowded space. In the early times (the wave I am talking about started around 2013/14) we saw that new services were rather focused on the “outer circle” of Financial Services. In these outer circles were traditional offerings that were relatively (!) easy to attack from outsiders and these new players were able to gain some kind of momentum (in worst case only media attention). Today, there is not a single area of Financial Services that is not exposed to weekly news about a new player entering the sector. Or even more extreme: there is no news about it, because new players entering the space is not a story worth anymore.

But how can new players can get their share in the redistribution of FinTech pie? Attracting consumers in Financial Services, especially with a B2C business model, is expensive and requires a pretty long breath. These players have to figure out how they can go through this valley, survive and prosper in the long term.

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Can banks get on “The Startup Way”?

I have just finished reading my second book this year (so I am nearly on schedule with my personal one-book-per-month-rule) and thought of giving you a glimpse of it . The book is called Startup way by Eric Ries. Many of you will know the famous book called “The Lean Startup” by Eric Ries and actually the Startup Way is continuing this story. Focusing on the models and ideas of Lean Startup, Eric Ries provides practical examples about the challenges while implementing them into (big) corporates. Eric has been consulting GE after publishing Lean Startup and helped the company to transform. Thus, why many parts of the book are about GE’s story.

All in all, Eric Ries is describing that corporates have to empower Entrepreneurship as a separate function internally, create internal startups on an ongoing basis that are looking for new breakthroughs with a result to rewrite the company’s DNA over and over. It is a great insightful read with many practical examples. In this blog post, however, I want to focus on the steps of how to transform a traditional company. Eric describes this process as three steps: laying the foundation, rapid scaling and deep implementation.

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