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Excel is now a fintech-app

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This week in fintech

September 28 · Issue #29 · View online
A weekly summary of the latest news in our world of finance, design, and technology.

✋ What does the FinCEN files leak mean for banks?
This week’s unarguably largest fintech-news is that there has been a leak of files from FinCEN, the US-based Financial Crime Enforcement Network. The real leak is documented in the Buzzfeed-article with the simple title of: “Deadly Terror Networks And Drug Cartels Use Huge Banks To Finance Their Crimes. These Secret Documents Show How The Banks Profit”
These leaks show that despite filing over 2000 Suspicious Activity Reports (SARs), banks have been unable to prevent trillions in money laundering, tax avoidance, and criminality over the past decade. 11FS explains further: “The real story here is how ineffective the SAR process is in dealing with the sheer volume of criminality in the global financial system, and how banks so often throw people and process at the problem rather than rethinking it to make it more effective.” 
Frankly, I’m not surprised that this happens, considering it’s not hard to know what answers banks want on the default KYC-question: “What is the origin of the funds saved?”. Another consideration here is that every bank can be best-in-class on AML (Anti Money Laundering) and KYC (Know Your Customer), but the reality is that most transactions happen between their client’s customers and other banks customers. How should this be controlled going forward?
🧮 Excel is now a Fintech app
Working as a consultant for banks and fintechs, a large part of the job consists of getting rid of old Excel-spreadsheets and removing pdfs in favor of accessible websites. Two news this week made that job harder:
The most interesting one is that Plaid partners with Microsoft Excel, adding new integrations that access live consumer bank and spending data, called “Money in Excel”. This is exciting news for many reasons: first, because this is one of the first significant examples of how companies outside of the financial services industry are looking for assistance with their new fintech products and capabilities. Suddenly everyone is a fintech. Spreadsheets have always been a go-to tool for organizing and managing finances, and now they are synced. Microsoft on Money in Excel
📄 PDFs are now responsive(ish)
If you’ve ever tried reading a pdf on your phone, you know why we try avoiding pdf’s whenever we can. Unfortunately, at times it’s the only way to present documents for signing or similar. Now Adobe has released their ambitious multi-year vision for PDF and introduced something they call Liquid mode. Adobe explains further: “Liquid mode is powered by Adobe Sensei and uses AI and machine learning in the background to understand and identify the pdf.” 😂 My bullshit-detector just lit up for explaining what is basically a responsive pdf.
📱 Bank widgets?
Two weeks ago, we saw the launch of iOS 14 and finally, support for widgets in iOS. Strangely enough, very few third party apps had added widgets one week after the launch of iOS 14. The reason might be restrictions from Apples side, like a slow approval process, performance-issues or similar, but the lack has been noticeable, and I, therefore, wrote an article about why app creators were avoiding this “free marketing”.  Robinhood, who has raised a whopping total of $1.2bn this year, was unsurprisingly among the first to add widgets to their app.
Some sketches I've made on potential iOS14 widgets
Some sketches I've made on potential iOS14 widgets
🎟 Can turning savings accounts into a prize-linked lottery make people save more?
A startup called  Yotta Savings recently launched a savings accounts with one single modification: Instead of paying the regular interest rate on the money on their savings accounts, they’re paying users in the form of a lottery. The math works out so that users, on average, earn about the same level of interest they would other places. Still, the financial psychology behind it is interesting: “For every $25 held in Yotta Savings account, you get 1 lottery ticket every week. A lottery ticket has 7 numbers. Everyday at 6pm PST (9pm EST), one random number is drawn. At the end of the week, you win prize money depending on how many numbers on your ticket matched with the numbers that were drawn. The prize ranges from $0.10 to $10 million.”
Yotta Savings
Yotta Savings
This model is not entirely new: Prize-Linked Savings accounts are most popular in Iran, where traditional forms of guaranteed interest are banned by Islamic law. It seems that there’s a growing trend of apps that exist to disguise saving money in different ways and that this form for savings seems to work and encourage people to save more. 
🤓 How Transferwise has been cannibalizing banks for a decade
This week’s recommended long read is about Transferwise, the cheap, fast way to send money abroad. It explains how they have been cannibalizing the banks’ customer base for over nine years now, and why banks didn’t build a TransferWise-equivalent back in the late 2000s. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t
🙏 Don't keep it a secret!
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Marius Hauken, partner Stacc X
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