Fintech 🧠 Food - Trade Finance is the end boss of Fintech

Plus; Fifth Third acquires a BaaS platform, Starling CEO steps back & Plaid & big banks play nice together

Hey everyone 👋, thanks for coming back to Brainfood, where I take the week's biggest events and try to get under the skin of what's happening in Fintech. If you're reading this and haven't signed up, join the 31,031 others by clicking below, and to the regular readers, thank you. 🙏

Hey Fintech Nerds 👋

Sometimes the most significant changes in our industry appear as a bland announcement or a passing headline. The whole purpose of Brainfood was to try and get at the why. Why does this matter?

This week Plaid announced it is partnering with Chase, Capital One, and Wells for API access to bank accounts. We also saw Starling CEO Anne Boden stepping back as CEO after announcing record profits (up 6x from last year). Public.com launched GPT4-powered, and Indonesia is banning Visa & Mastercard. 

In isolation, these are floating headlines in a sea of industry news.

Together, they show a Fintech industry reaching the maturity many doubted could ever happen. They also show a world becoming more complicated and divided for founders and entrepreneurs. 

But that means more problems to solve.

And the new infrastructure to solve them.

Open finance is here, challenger banks are profitable, AI is live, and banks are here to play in embedded finance.

But it's the people. You. The people who take risks and try to build better. That's what excites me most.

I have never been more optimistic about the future of this industry.

Another tiny floating headline caught my eye this week. Apparently SWIFT made two types of trade finance document interoperable. Boring? Random headline?

Far from it

It made me think. Is it time to tackle the end boss?

Are we ready? That's this week's 📣 Rant. Trade Finance is the end boss of Fintech.

PS. Thanks to everyone who reached out about meeting at Money2020 in Amsterdam. Still have a couple of open slots if anyone wants to say hi. Just hit reply to this email. 

Here's this week's Brainfood in summary

📣 Rant: Trade Finance is the end boss of Fintech.

💸 4 Fintech Companies:

  1. Vault - Ramp for Canada

  2. Hands-in - Buy Now Pay Together

  3. Expensa - Deel for remote SMEs and talent in Africa

  4. Gallop - The API for on-chain data

👀 Things to Know:

Quick hits 🥊

📚 Good Read:

Weekly Rant 📣

Trade Finance is the end boss of Fintech.

Fixing trade finance could be the most impactful thing we can do to prevent modern slavery, create energy security and increase global GDP. 

Everything around you, the desk, the chair, the coffee, came through a supply chain. The majority is through international trade finance.

In 2022 trade volumes exceeded $32 trillion. 

The world bank estimates that 80 to 90% of global trade needs financing. 

Banks dominate. 

The revenue pool was $45bn in 2022 and is expected to be $76bn by 2032. The usual suspects like Bank of America, Citi, DBS, and JP Morgan take the lion's revenue share.

The giant hole in trade finance is SMBs. We know small businesses are the lifeblood of the global economy, especially in developing markets. Yet they are disproportionately unable to access financing. At a minimum, these companies represent a $1.7 trillion trade financing gap

Trade finance might be the hardest bit of financial services to properly disrupt. In the past few months, I've seen several Fintech companies attempting to tackle it, but over the past decade, I've seen ~20+ try and fail.

It sounds simple, but the reality is a spiders-web of edge cases.

Fixing trade finance is the most significant impact we can have in the real world. 

If software is moving off our screens and eating the physical world too, then in Fintech, that means Trade Finance might be the biggest tipping point.

Large Language Models and AI are perfect tools for Trade Finance; wherever there's finance, there should be Fintech.

This might be the biggest, most daring challenge for entrepreneurs to tackle. But with so many failing how do we win?

We need to understand the subject better to get to the promised land.

So let's dive in 🏊‍♀️

1. What is it?

  • a) The actors (buyer, seller, financer, carrier).

  • b) The documents

  • c) The financial products

2. Why is it the end boss?

  • a) Trade Finance is global in nature, with no central governing body or convening point

  • b) Every kind of regulation or law applies

  • c) Compliance, Fraud & AML risk is massive and hard to manage

  • d) Trade Finance is impossible to separate from Geopolitics

3. Efforts to modernize haven't gotten far

  • a) Consortia have tried and not yet broken through

  • b) Standards for digital trade are not widely adopted

  • c) Global legal changes required are not widely implemented 

4. Where Tech and Fintech have succeeded

  • a) The Freight industry has benefitted from SaaS companies entering

  • b) Fintech companies have nibbled the edges of a big problem

  • c) Borderless accounts for B2B are making a difference.

5. Lessons from Fintech failures

  • a) Trade finance lending is hard because trade finance is high risk in every sense

  • b) Scaling is hard because there's no easy way to bucket the long-tail

  • c) The last mile is the hardest to verify which impacts innovation potential

6. Where Fintech could play a role

  • a) Trade Finance Fintech might be more of an infrastructure opportunity than B2B 

  • b) Large Language models are ideal for this problem space

  • c) Blockchain’s will play a role but only if complimented by standards

  • d) The mere fact that the space is overlooked creates opportunities

Let’s dive in 🏊‍♀️

1. Welcome to Trade Finance 🚢

a) The actors. Trade finance is the set of financial products used to finance moving goods and services domestically and internationally. At the most basic level, it has four actors

  1. The buyer (e.g., a shop)

  2. The seller (e.g., a factory)

  3. The buyer's financer (e.g., a bank)

  4. The seller's financer (e.g., a bank)

  5. The carrier (e.g., shipping company)

The buyer and seller both have a risk. 

  1. The buyer must often pay 30, 60, or 90 days before their stock arrives. If their supplier is new, the buyer has a risk the goods won't come. 

  2. If you're the seller and offer delayed payment terms, you often send the goods before you get paid. If the buyer is new, you have a risk you won't get paid.

The financer (bank) manages the risk of goods not being delivered for the buyer and ensures the seller gets paid if the goods are delivered. There's also a risk the goods are lost, stolen, or damaged during shipping. 

b) The documents. If any of these risks occur, the bank could also lose money, so it collects a series of documents through the shipping process from ports, shipping companies, and freight forwarders to manage its risk. These include

  • The Bill of Lading (BoL). It assigns legal ownership of the goods to whomever the named party is. It also describes the goods, acts as a receipt, and represents the terms and conditions of shipping.

  • Commercial invoice. Describes the goods, their relevant sales or import taxes the buyer is subject to, and is a formal payment request.

  • Insurance documents. Insurance can be paid for by the buyer, seller or split between the two.

This is the tip of the iceberg and doesn't include industry or sector-specific documents (like certificates for organic food, proof of origin and authenticity, etc.). Documents resembling the bill of lading can trace their origin to Roman times. The word "lading" is old English for "loading onto a ship," In Dutch, they still use the word "lading" for loading.

These documents travel with the goods, but duplicates must be sent to the buyer, seller, and both banks as the goods travel. Today the vast majority of this is happening via physical paper. 

Most of these contracts are written in English law (the UK's second-best gift to the world after Adele). English law is very open to making all of these documents digital. The problem is that most jurisdictions define a Bill of Lading as a piece of paper.

This paper is often at least 50 sheets and is sent to at least 5 parties (often far more) via courier. One estimate suggests that, on average, a cross-border transaction requires exchanging 36 documents and 240 copies. The commonwealth group of Nations estimated that up to 80% of the cost could be removed from trade finance by eliminating paper and increasing trade by $1.2 trillion.

This creates massive costs and prices SMBs out of the global trade finance industry.

That's why it's the end boss.

Oh, and we're just getting started.

c) The financial products. Trade Finance is ancient, as this quote from the banker explores:

The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York holds a series of Babylonian clay tablets from Mesopotamia. Dating from anywhere between 300 and 3000 BCE, these relics show promissory notes and letters of credit for everything from fruits to silver. Trade finance has been fuelling global trade for most of human civilisation.

That is the literal definition of ancient. It has evolved, but here's a whistlestop tour of today's most common financial products today.

  • Letter of Credit (LoC). The letter is a pledge made by the buyer's bank to complete payment if the seller meets all of the requirements in the trade documents on time. Estimates place LoCs at ~40% of global trade, but it has a shrinking market share. 

  • Purchase Order (PO) finance. Buyers send a purchase order to sellers, who can take it to their bank to receive an advanced payment (minus a % for the bank to cover its risk and profit).

  • Supply chain finance. Continual financing for sellers to avoid disruption in their ability to deliver. Buyers agree to send their invoices to a bank that provides advanced payment to the seller. This is ideal when the buyer has a better credit rating than the seller and can borrow at a lower cost. Big buyers from small suppliers may prefer this product.

  • Open account. Goods are shipped before payment is due within 30, 60, or 90 days. Risky for the seller but advantageous for the buyer. It may reduce costs for all parties and help a seller achieve a sale. No credit is involved here but likely an international payment. 

  • Invoice finance. The seller borrows against invoices not yet paid by the buyer.

  • Documentary collection. The seller provides documents to their bank, which transfers them to the buyers bank. On receipt of these documents, the buyer's bank may send payment to the seller's bank (AKA, the seller gets paid). 

Financial products, at their simplest, rarely change.

But the lesson from Fintech in the past decade has been that who distributes those products can change dramatically. This product feels ripe for disruption on the surface.

If only it were that simple. 

2. Why Trade Finance is the end boss

a) Trade Finance is global in nature with no central governing body. The very nature of shipping things around the world involves multiple jurisdictions. High-value goods like oil come from places as diverse as the USA, Russia, Venezuela, and Iraq. 

Now multiply this by everything. Food, metals, cars, silicon chips, clothes, plastic, toys, and air fryers. 

The World Trade Organization (WTO) has a multilateral trading system that traces its origins to the Marshall Plan and the end of world war 2. Its goal was to increase global trade, reduce tariffs and grow global GDP. Since its introduction in 1995, global trade has increased 4x, and average tariffs have decreased from 10.5% to 6.7%.

But. Like everything international, it relies on aligning at least 150+ nation-states to be effective. Getting every country to change its legal system to allow digital trade documents is among the WTO's challenges. They don't have an authority or mandate over international trade.

Setting rules won't fix trade.

b) Every kind of regulation or law applies. Food needs to be ethically sourced, in some cases, certified organic and must meet the local requirements of the receiving jurisdiction. For example, the EU won't allow chickens from the US washed with Chlorine to its shores. 

The UN and most nation-states require that no goods or services be the product of modern slavery. Most developed nations have a law that requires companies importing goods (and anyone in the supply chain) to ensure that no child labor is employed and that working conditions are humane. This can be everything from how Lithium is mined to how clothes are manufactured. 

Import tariffs apply to different goods and services. Each jurisdiction maintains tariffs on different goods depending on their origin. These tariffs are also a moving target. The USA imposes much higher taxes on certain goods from China today than 5 years ago.

Every jurisdiction has a law. And 100s of them could apply to a single trade. 

c) Compliance, Fraud & AML risk is massive and hard to manage. AML risk alone is a minefield. Saudi Arabia and Nigeria's top export is oil, but they're both on a list of high-risk jurisdictions for money laundering. Russia now has key companies and individuals on international sanctions lists. The reality of these supply chains is that at the last mile, in places like Nigeria, it's tough to be sure that oil came from where you think it did.

In fact, at the last mile, it's very hard to verify anything. The way we ensure that coffee is responsibly sourced is by occasionally having inspections of farms. Then as coffee (or other goods) travel throughout the supply chain, the next person checks the paperwork to see if the goods really came from the place the paper says they did. 

Verifying anything in global supply chains is like a relay race. You're relying on the last person in the chain to have done their job. But you have no idea how the person before you performed or what happens after you hand off the baton.

Fraud in trade finance is on a whole other level. A colleague in a bank once told me a story of a fraud ring that would rent a real factory, employ pretend workers for the day, and begin to "produce goods." Then they'd invite international inspectors and their clients to see the factory and get the all-clear to proceed. Once done, they'd open a second factory next door and fill it with exploited labor. 

Compliance is also a much more complicated beast. Not only does all of the financial services compliance stuff apply, but consider taxes, ESG, and modern slavery. 

d) Trade Finance is impossible to separate from Geopolitics. Whether it's sanctions following Russia's invasion of Ukraine, tariffs or bans on Chinese technology companies, or the acquisition of global mineral producers. Trade Finance and global trade are like the ultimate real-time strategy game with difficulty set to ultra-nightmare.

Every time a government announces one of these changes, every buyer, supplier, bank, and shipping company has to react. 

People are trying to solve this stuff.

I've heard incredible examples like a metal warehouse that flies drones 24/7 with high-spec cameras validating that no goods have been tampered with.

There's a giant prize if we get this right. Literally. All world trade.

So why isn't it fixed yet?

3. Historic efforts to modernize didn't get far

a) Consortia have tried and not yet broken through. Large banks and shipping companies feel like a natural convening point. A top global trade finance bank will have a good share of buyers, sellers, and available shipping to cover some trades almost end to end. A shipping company like Maersk works on some level with most buyers, sellers, and banks. 

Yet this year, the collaboration between IBM and Maersk called Tradelens recently shut down due to a lack of adoption beyond its initial proponents. Consortia effort Marco Polo recently entered insolvency. The issue is that these consortia often try to build utilities but focus on short-term gain. The European shipping companies have their own consortia (still going), and the Chinese companies are not yet deeply involved.

b) Standards for digital trade are not widely adopted. Less than 1% of global trade is digital, and at least 100 standards have been created. There are standards for legal entities, date and time, a unit of measure, and languages. These would have to be adopted to develop a digital trade end-to-end.

c) Global legal changes required are not widely adopted. The UN has MLETR – the Model Law on Electronic Transferable Records. So far, the only countries to pass legislation to comply are Abu Dhabi, Bahrain, Belize, Kiribati, Paraguay, Papua New Guinea, and Singapore.

If this starts to sound like the subject where hope dies. Stick with me.

Incredible developments have occurred in the past decade, and software could eat the atomic world in the next decade.

4. Where Tech (and Fintech) did succeed

a) The Freight industry has benefitted from SaaS companies. Flockfreight is like Airbnb for trucking; they help fill part empty trucks and share truckloads. Flexport is an operating system for brands, charities, and distribution firms to manage their supply chain. 

b) Fintech companies have nibbled the edges of a big problem. Mitigram is a platform to connect corporates with banks to buy and sell trade finance products. Tradeteq turns trade finance documents into investible assets (securities) that can be bought or sold (like loans). And Traydstream is a document OCR + workflow tool used by global banks like Deutsche Bank. 

c) Borderless accounts for B2B are making a difference. Companies like Wise and Airwallex simplify managing multiple currencies for SMBs, especially import/export companies. 

That's good.

But let's be honest, it's not a lot.

And the categories of Fintech companies you'd expect are almost entirely missing. The finance part of trade finance is missing. Supply chain finance, letters of credit, and invoice finance. Plenty of Fintech companies do lending or supply a part of the lending ecosystem, but the profitable underbelly is still wide open.

5. Lessons from Fintech's previous attempts

a) Trade finance lending is hard because it's risky. The biggest gap and opportunity has always been to finance SMBs in the supply chain. They're massively underserved, but the challenges make sense. A small business importing widgets from China could go out of business, and the level of due diligence in cross-border trade is way higher than domestic. Serving or lending to these customers profitably is challenging. 

Today, they're often simply doing invoice finance from one place (like their bank) and taking payments from another (like Wise or Airwallex). The hot new thing I keep hearing people excited about is "BNPL for B2B," which some have written off as invoice financing via another rail. (Although new rails might create new opportunities).

b) Scaling is hard because there's no easy way to bucket the long-tail.

The long tail of merchants and suppliers has never been matched well. A smaller supplier or buyer is risky to each other and any marketplace that tries to connect them. Trust is everything in financial services, and trust is tough to build in international trade without building a reputation through lots of transactions. 

c) The last mile is the hardest. Verifying that something happened is critical if you want to lend to or pay a company. But there's no FICO for global trade. Getting the truth about counterparties is incredibly hard. The last mile of any supply chain or delivery is often the hardest. In fact, this has become known as "the last mile problem." Verifying that the real medicine reached a remote village is easier from the manufacturing warehouse to the truck than it is on the last mile to the village. 

Any evidence from the last mile needs to be recorded and remain consistent throughout. This sounds simple, but how do you record the evidence from the last mile. Using a photo? It might not prove it's organic, or the photo could be tampered with. Using geolocation? It can be spoofed. And where should this data be recorded? Centralization is super hard in a global supply chain. 

6. The Fintech opportunity in Trade Finance

a) Trade Finance Fintech might be more of an infrastructure opportunity than B2B. If the operating system for SMBs or scale-ups is already a competitive landscape (with everyone from Ramp to Wise to Mercury fighting to be the next cash management platform). Then, being a provider to these companies is the right way in. Most B2B Fintech companies use a patchwork of other Fintech providers under the hood somewhere.

What if someone built a FICO score for trade finance? What if someone did open banking style cash-flow underwriting based on trade documents + cash-flows? What if we started to bring Tradeteq (the ability to securitize trade) automatically to the back office of these B2B Fintech companies? 

b) Large Language models are ideal for this problem space. If you're averaging 36 paper documents, that's a lot of manual work. The ability to OCR those documents and have LLMs summarize what they say and areas to pay attention to could be powerful. 

What if there was a PO box solution for trade finance documents that combined OCR and an LLM? What if that solution was also trained on the countless standards for a given industry?

c) Blockchain’s will play a role but only if complimented by standards. The countless attempts to build less centralized databases for trade finance made sense in principle. If there is no central convening point, what if we had a consistent source of truth? Better yet, what if that source of truth could also help us automate workflow between multiple parties?

A headline this week most people will have ignored is SWIFT doing a trial to make two electronic bills of lading (eBLs) compatible across two blockchain networks. Now extrapolate this to a standard that exists on Github, like ERC20. Trade finance has many standards to make trade digital; we just need to use them consistently.

d) The mere fact that the space is overlooked creates opportunities. Who would have thought startups could do defense contracting or space travel 10 years ago? Things that were once the preserve of governments or big industry are now coming into view. Trade Finance is almost never broadly discussed at Fintech conferences or in Tech.

But I have started to see entrepreneurs pop up wanting to attack it again.

If there was a time to find a wedge into this market, now could be that time. Global supply chains are reconfiguring after the pandemic and Russia's invasion of Ukraine. 

Timing is everything.

Throw in a willingness to wrestle with complexity and a VC environment looking for "the next thing." 

Maybe, just maybe, we can do something special.

ST.

4 Fintech Companies 💸

1. Vault - Ramp for Canada

Vault provides a corporate card, multi-currency account, global bank transfers, accounting integration, and up to 1.5% cashback on all card spending. Vault calls out its better FX rates than Wise and 5% rates on idle cash with Guaranteed Investment Rates (GICs).

🤔 It looks more like Arc or Rho than Ramp (and to some extent Wise or Airwallex). This is "cash management" as the core value proposition with cards as a feature. The importance of global bank transactions is much higher in Canada (where at least regional trade is normal). This "international" cash management capability is where the big banks win all the global corporates. Imagine having a Fintech experience, but the global cash network of Citi or JPMC? That would be cool. Vault uses People's Trust as its sponsor and partner. Might we see US players venture north next? People's trust is "the only game in town" on sponsorship, and perhaps the unit economics need competition for the market to truly open up.

2. Hands-in - Buy Now Pay Together

Hands-in provides merchants with a "split pay" solution at checkout. Users can split a shopping cart equally or by item. No money is taken from the group until everyone has opted-in. The service combines a checkout solution and an app for users. Hands-in aims to solve the purchase of high-ticket items (like travel) where one individual doesn't have enough cash to cover the entire purchase. 59% of travel in Gen-Z is purchased by one or more individuals. 

🤔 This is a proper payments business and well packaged. I immediately thought, "Why hasn't someone done this at checkout before?!" But then my brain counterpointed with, "Because it has a cold start problem." Remember that BNPL got its start with younger e-commerce focussed merchants and consumers. I think they have a shot if BNPT solutions like Hands-in can get the right adoption. I can also imagine this being a feature Klarna adds to their app since the app is the real superpower of BNPL. PS, did you see Airbnb and Klarna just partnered?

3. Expensa - Deel for remote SMEs and talent in Africa

Expensa helps SMEs manage contractor invoicing and payments and allows SMEs to pay their contracts in local currency without fees. SMEs can pay their staff or contractors with airtime methods like M-Pesa, MTN, and Airtel. Users create an account on the platform, add their employees, and can make one-off or regular payments through the platform.

🤔 Africa runs on the back of micro SMEs, many of whom trade cross-border. Global solutions are often too expensive and lack the payment methods businesses and talent need. Intra-African trade and supply chain tooling is a vast area of potential development.

4. Gallop - The API for on-chain data

Gallop provides APIs to allow wallets, NFT platforms, and investors to query multiple Blockchain networks. A wallet can pull NFT or token pricing data or a wallet reputation to help users avoid bad actors or scammers. Gallop APIs enrich raw blockchain data with liquidity data, sentiment analysis, and project discovery. 

🤔 This kind of project doesn't sound exciting until you try to build this stuff yourself. Querying on-chain data is hard. There are plenty of good generic infrastructure tools (like Quicknode or Infura), but most focus on fetching raw data. For example, with open banking pulling the data is fine, but now many companies like Henron, nTropy, and Spade cleanse it and make sense of it. That category needs to exist for on-chain data, especially if every asset will be tokenized

Things to know 👀

Fifth Third will add Rize to its Treasury Management business so its clients can take advantage of new embedded finance offerings. Rize provides a single API to build, launch and scale numerous financial products quickly. Fifth Third is the 19th largest bank in the US, with $200bn in assets, and its embedded division counts $130m in revenue.

🤔 The BaaS category was crowded, which was always an opportunity for banks to take advantage. Maybe 20 BaaS providers were fighting for a market share of a limited product set ~2 years ago. The field has thinned and specialized, and now we're seeing consolidation with the Fintech bear market.

🤔 Expect more banks to follow this route as embedded finance grows in importance over the next decade. There will be BaaS platforms that work with multiple sponsors who might offer an advantage in product depth. But vertical integration (like 5/3 and Rize) could offer powerful unit economics and ultra-consistent risk management. I'm seeing more banks want to go vertically integrated for these reasons. $130m is a chunky new revenue line for a bank the size of Fifth Third and it's early innings.

🤔 Embedded Finance is a payments product for banks. Treasury Management and Payments are the right places to park a BaaS offering in a bank. Goldman runs its partnership with Apple in its Transaction Banking division, and much of the innovative work JP Morgan is doing is now coming out of its corporate payment teams. The smaller sponsor banks (Cross River, Community, et al.) often run their embedded finance GTM through a payments team.

🤔 Fifth Third is overlooked as an innovator but has been thoughtful about its approaches to Fintech for a while now. They have a good rep with VCs, Fintech companies, and founders. Excited to see what they might do next. When "regional" is a dirty word its nice to see super solid execution.

Daylight will cease operations on the 30th June. Founded in 2020, Daylight had raised $20m, including a $15m Series A led by Anthemis. The neobank aimed to serve the 40m+ Americans who identify as LGBTQ+ with features the large banks could not offer. The shutdown follows an explosive feature in NY Magazine alleging lies and inappropriate behavior by the CEO. 

🤔 The market opportunity is enormous and the need is massive. This market has over 40m consumers and $1.7 trillion of purchasing power in the US. LGBTQ+ communities tend to live in urban areas where they feel safe. Urban areas have expensive rental costs. Having a child involves high costs, and the banking system simply isn't set up for anyone that doesn't fit the 1950s mold. 

🤔 Big banks and generic neobanks aren't set up to serve this market well. The Daylight co-founder once gave me a powerful example where a name change from the name on passport (deadname) differed from their preferred name. Their bank allowed a preferred name on their card, but if something goes wrong, like a fraudulent transaction, the bank couldn't identify them by the preferred name. Basics like this matter

🤔 Daylight became a case study for a category of "scaled digital niche" banks or community banks. Traditionally community banks were geographic, but why couldn't they be based on your Tribe? We live more in online communities. These features should be a default. 

🤔 They call it "venture" for a reason. 9 out of 10 businesses fail within their first year. If investors hadn't backed this company, would we be discussing this market opportunity? I'm sad to see Daylight go, but I hope it inspires 10 more. Regional and community banks and the wider BaaS movement make this possible. Let's serve this market.

Quick hits 🥊

3. Public launches ChatGPT-powered chat. The investing platform will allow users to ask market-specific questions using its new GPT4-powered platform, "Alpha." 

🤔 Chat is the interface for complexity, and public markets data are complex. Asking, "What other stocks are like this one?" is much simpler than finding an index for energy stocks and ranking where yours is vs. the rest. Public has made its name being the thoughtful, consumer-friendly investment platform. I imagine they've worked to smooth the edges of ChatGPT and ensure it's always pulling real market data to stay on the right side of regulators. Great use case.

4. Plaid and the big banks sign "tokenization" agreementsPlaid will now send 100% of data requests to Capital One, Chase, USAA, and Wells Fargo via their formal API tokens. 

🤔 This effectively removes the "screen scraping" approach banks long argued was not secure. It should start to solve the biggest problem users, and Fintech companies had with open finance that the major banks often didn't work via screen scraping.

🤔 It's a net positive that open finance works for more people more of the time. With this agreement, The USA now has a shot at being the premier open finance market in the world. 

5. Indonesia removes Visa & MastercardIndonesia wants to become less reliant on networks like Visa & Mastercard in the wake of Russian sanctions. The aim is to modify the central bank system to support more than debit cards and expand into cross-border credit. 

🤔 Sanctions have unintended consequences. This could be seen as a move from the US, but it feels like a broader trend towards a middle ground between East and West. If you look at UPI in India, it allowed India to ensure neither Chinese nor Western big tech companies dominated payments. Indonesia doesn't have quite that leverage but has a massive population.

6. Starling CEO Anne Boden to step down after record profits. Starling Bank has 3.6m consumer customers and recorded a pre-tax profit of £195m ($240m). 

🤔 Take a bow Anne and everyone at Starling. Here's the case study for everyone who said it couldn't be done or that challenger banks wouldn't be profitable. 

Good Reads 📚

8 out of every 10 things you can see, eat or touch was priced in dollars, using a rate called "LIBOR." However, this benchmark foreign exchange rate (the London Interbank Overnight Rate) was scrapped after a rigging scandal. To solve this, regulators introduced SOFR (Secured Overnight Financing Rate), but it works differently from LIBOR. LIBOR represented the FX rate + margin based on a borrower's credit risk. If buyers and sellers can't price goods, this will back up global trade.

🤔 The only thing worse than a bad standard is no standard. LIBOR was manipulated, leading to the banning of mobile phones on trading desks and surveillance of all trader communications. But the new standard is designed by supervisors to be "low-risk" rather than useful. 

🤔 If there's one thing you can count on, some banks will miss deadlines for a significant regulatory change. Not all banks but some. This is partly because changing their contracts and technology systems is time-consuming and complex. But it's also because any changes they make impact their clients. Their clients include the world's largest companies, some of whom are not the most agile organizations. 

🤔 Everything impacts trade finance. If the industry can't price things in dollars, it can't lend in dollars. If it can't lend in dollars, we can't trade. Bankers who work in trade finance are the unsung heroes of the global economy. I'd go hunting there for talent to build the next Fintech unicorn.

🤓 Extra credit: The Federal Reserve and Monetary Authority of Singapore report into Project Cedar x Ubin+. How Distributed Ledgers can be used for cross-border payments.

Tweets of the week 🕊

That's all, folks. 👋

Remember, if you're enjoying this content, please do tell all your fintech friends to check it out and hit the subscribe button :)

Disclosures: (1) All content and views expressed here are the authors' personal opinions and do not reflect the views of any of their employers or employees. (2) All companies or assets mentioned by the author in which the author has a personal and/or financial interest are denoted with a (3) Any companies mentioned in Rants are top of mind and used for illustrative purposes only. (4) I'm not an expert at everything you read here. Some of it is me thinking out loud and learning as I go; please don't take it as gospel—strong opinions, weakly held.