Author Archives: LFP

LFP241 – A Deep Dive Into Alternate Asset Investment via Fintech w/Dan Harman CEO Darksquare

Why buy alternative assets? Well in extremis what else would you buy? 😀 Bonds have finished their ca. 40yr bull market and yield well below the rate of inflation. The FTSE to pick one has gone sideways over the past 5 yrs and is not greatly ahead after a decade. And as for UK property it’s soft at best, Gold is going nowhere and so forth.

Naturally as we have touched on both those phenomena are a function of the nature of money, the ’08 crisis, covid insanity, non-stop war and much more which have all messed with the fiscal and monetary base of major western economies.

Anyway even if you keep a core of say equities in your portfolio there must be something more interesting to buy. Besides the self-styled “elites” are busy hoovering up alt. assets bigtime which tells you a thing or two.

Dan has an investment banking alt. asset background and so, as well as founding Darksquare, is well placed to dive into the topic with us.

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LFP240 – Mortgage Decisions In Days Or Even Hours Not Weeks w/Stuart Cheetham CEO Mpowered Mortgages

Back in the 70s getting mortgages took months – there was a mortgage queue (&before techies get over-excited about how “bad” this was it was one of the factors restraining insane bull markets in residential property). Fast forward and the median mortgage in the UK is granted in 19 business days which is still a long time to wait given the stresses associated with the UK legal structure of buying a house. MPowered Mortgages, a regulated mortgage lender in the UK, have reduced this to a median of 3 days to make a decision and are aiming in the next 18mts to make half of those done in a few hours.

Stuart is the CEO of MPowered (and its sister company MQube seller of AI products into regulated industries more globally) and guides us through this astonishing outperformance. Like many a hardcore Fintech founder he has a long history in FS behind him having been CEO of several banks in Asia for Lloyds Bank for many years.

Even so this is no mean achievement as Stuart himself found out recently when he needed a mortgage but – under the “rules” – was not allowed to use his own company to borrow from.

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LFP239 – The Latest In Payments Tech – Curation Trumps Orchestration? w/Aran Brown CEO Paytrix

The speed of change is super-rapid and nowhere more than in payments where advance rapidly leapfrogs advance. For the past two years “orchestration” has been The Thing (see eg LFP213 a deep dive into that topic). However now we have the latest greatest kid on the block the idea of curation. If orchestration solved the challenge of the techies namely replacing many APIs with one – a natural leap forwards – it did not solve the businesses challenges with negotiating a whole bunch of biparty arrangements contract et al. Curation promises to fix all that by creating a single counterparty – the curator – as an intermediary.

Aran has a super-impressive long track-record in the payments industry and his latest venture – Paytrix – has impressive backers such as Bain Capital and raised some $18m for an A Series in a tough time for tech raises.

Bootstrapping to be a Tier 1 counterparty is not simple matter and Aran guides us through not just what the curation model is but also the challenges of not slowly walking up the mountain to the heights but getting there super-rapidly.

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LFP238 – Global Real Time Payments in 2023 w/Craig Ramsey Head G/R/T/P ACI Worldwide

The world is quite a large place but who better to cover the situation and trend in real-time payments than Craig Ramsey Head of Global Real Time Payments at ACI Worldwide who process around a billion payments per day with total value in the trillions of dollars. In this episode we dive into real time payments in the UK, Europe, the US and within the BRICS as well as talking about the next challenge – namely smooth interconnection of local real time payments networks.

Craig has getting on for 40 yrs experience of payments including having started as a Cobol programmer. He has been at ACI since 2000 and has thus seen a very long time horizon on this topic as well as being involved in managing and planning future real time payments programs worldwide.

The topic certainly turned out to be one that was more fascinating than I had previously realised with many moving parts.

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LFP237 – Avoiding Operational Challenges in Emerging Markets w/Tosin Eniolorunda CEO Moniepoint

Scaling any successful technology firm (who can expand so much faster than ~”bricks and mortar” firms) involves considerable challenges. These challenges are only compounded by challenges with surrounding infrastructure which, shall we say, aren’t even around the world. What may be taken for granted in the world’s leading tech hubs may be conspicuously absent in many territories. Thus in many ways scaling in emerging markets is the real stress test for an entrepreneurs ability to overcome challenges, internal and external.

Tosin is founder and CEO of Moniepoint, who provide banking platforms, Africa’s largest fintech by transaction volume ($170bn pa) and were recently ranked the second-fastest growing company in Africa by the Financial Times. Based in Lagos Nigeria Tosin has had more than the average entrepreneurs share of challenges dealing not just with scaling a company but scaling it where the ecosystem isn’t entirely ideal.

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LFP236 – Making Business Loan Decisions in Minutes w/Chirag Shah CEO Nucleus Commercial Finance

It was not that long ago that business lending decisions took days, weeks, or even months. This lengthy period – and then need to perhaps apply to multiple banks was a severe challenge for many organisations, many of whom over time have gone bust whilst going through such processes.

But what if using the best of technology this extended time-period could be reduced to minutes moving way nearer to B2C BNPL decisions? Even a few years back this would sound highly unlikely in anything other than special cases. However Nucleus Commercial Finance have funded £2.6bn of loans and processed over 100,000 loan applications for over a decade with successful results and now make decisions in less than 5 minutes and aim to get that time even lower.

Needless to say this is no easy task and in this episode founder and CEO Chirag Shah leads us through the journey to that. Key elements are naturally the data – where Open Banking and Open Accounting are the technical conduits to getting data, permission to access this data ahead of the need for a loan and naturally the challenge of ensuring that automated decisions are at least as good as if not outperform those of human credit officers.

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LFP235 – Fintech in China, Super-Apps and Alipay w/Eva Zhang CEO Alipay UK

Although the title is apparently three-fold re episode topic the Chinese Fintech market is very different from other markets we have touched upon so far and one that we definitely need to dive into. You will have heard of Alipay but may not know that as long as a decade ago they overtook Paypal to become the worlds largest online/mobile payments platform. They serve an astonishing over 1.3bn users and 80m merchants. Which is impressive. Furthermore – to the super-app point in a radically different marketplace their app – a Super-App, back to the title – doesn’t just do payments but a wide range of functionalities including ride sharing, travel bookings and medical appointments

Like much (all?) in China history goes a long way back. Alipay were founded nearly 20 years ago by Jack Ma as part of the Alibaba Group but later split off. Eva Zhang is CEO of Alipay UK and guides us through this large landscape today.

China is itself either the world’s largest economy or second or about to be first or some such. Even if China isn’t the world’s largest or largest Fintech market I recall Peter Renton founder of Lendit some 5 years ago on this podcast giving us an overview of Fintech around the world (as his conferences covered the world, one annual event being in China) saying that if you wanted to know the future of Fintech just go to China.

So a must-know set of topics for Fintechers. Topics discussed include: Continue reading

LFP234 – Managing Your Insurance Portfolio w/Goncalo de Vasconcelos CEO RNWL

Over a decade into the Fintech revolution its a rare episode that covers something entirely fresh and furthermore a show that I end up thinking I should check out downloading the app – and not just me – everyone who uses insurance (that’ll be everyone) may well do too. Rnwl promise to take the hassle out of all those email renewals at random times of the year as well as providing a single hub to track your insurances as well as a host of other benefits which we dive into. It is one of those ideas so seemingly simple that when its been done one wonders why it hadn’t been before. Maybe it is harder to execute well than it sounds.

Goncalo was last back on the LFP way back in LFP025 in 2015 when he was CEO of Syndicate Room which he founded. Syndicate Room is still going strong but as Goncalo explains he loves most the early part of the entrepreneurial journey the one with infinite creative potential and at the same time no funds, no resources and few people believing it is possible.

Amazingly price comparison sites do not track – or have the data to track your insurance policies and just email you with last years search rerun. Equally insurers are interested in selling you a product and not in your entire insurance portfolio which unless you insure everything with the same provider they don’t capture either on their platforms.

So check this episode out, not just to learn more but also potentially take a burden off your shoulders and potentially have a bunch of added-value along with that.

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LFP233 – Radical Innovation in B2C Lending Using Open Banking Data w/Gerald Chappell CEO Abound

This is a super-rare episode on a fundamentally different way of assessing consumer loan risk so far into the Fintech Age focusing on an area which is bizarrely massively undercovered namely that of utilising Open Banking Data for credit assessment of personal loans. Furthermore this is a rare example of a Fintech – the parent company is –  which both provides SAAS services to banks under its Render brand and directly lends itself through its Abound brand – which is quite a compelling display of faith in the approach which has so far over two years led to an astonishing 70% reduction in loan defaults :-O

Gerald was previously Global Head of Digital Lending at McKinsey so he should know a thing or two about this topic. Furthermore despite Abound being formed only in 2020 last year they raised an eye-opening £1/2bn in funding so there must be quite a few people out there impressed by Abound.

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LFP232 – Learning from Entrepreneurial/Business Failure, Three Case Studies w/Jovi Overo MD BAAS Unlimit

This is a very unique (sic) in the long history of the podcast in that I have finally found a guest brave enough and kind enough to talk about the experience of business failure as well as the human journey through it. Naturally the LFP focuses on proven successes if only to provide North Stars and ideas for other entrepreneurs/intrapreneurs. But in business as in life – and after all the former is simply a subset of the latter – there is much we can learn from failure, painful as it always is. Painful as it is to recount and relive being wounded and scarred this is thus a very heartfelt sharing by Jovi in order to help others avoid incurring similar wounds and scars and thus prevent human suffering – there being no higher cause.

The other challenge with such an episode is avoiding the degree of abstraction that effectively says “work hard, have a great idea and a team” blah blah. Not that any such abstractions are wrong but our lives are more real and rich experiences than any words in a dictionary or clickbait article on “6 ways to guaranteed success”.

Jovi, MD of BAAS at the formidable Fintech Unlimit – formed in 2009 and with an impressive 16 offices in 5 continents – avoids this over-abstraction challenge by taking us on the journey through three businesses – the first of which, an FS brokerage, was an astonishing success for nigh on a decade and survived the 2008 crisis.

We also reference other case studies and life lessons/experiences – both of us for example having experienced that phenomenon when a Midas Touch suddenly becomes the reverse Midas Touch and everything one touches stops turning to Gold and turns to dust.

Overall an entrepreneurial episode from a very human perspective which is easily forgotten and/or glossed over in a world where having “great tech” can take you a long way.

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