Tag: smartphones

Can your smartphone really handle all your finances?

Can your smartphone really handle all your finances?

Would you be prepared to manage all your finances through your smartphone?

This is the hope of many financial technology – fintech – start-ups aiming to transform our money management habits. They think we now trust our mobile technology enough to carry out banking, money transfers, investments and loan applications without ever stepping into a bank branch or writing a cheque.

But are they right? One start-up is going a step further, bringing many financial services together onto one app so that you have complete visibility of all your cash transactions in one place.

The app, called Bud, has been developed by 26-year-old Ed Maslaveckas. He says: “Many people simply don’t have the time or expertise to track down the apps that can help them manage their money.

“So we’ve created an independent, universal banking app for my generation and anyone else who wants to make their money work harder for them.”

Can your smartphone really handle all your finances?

The idea is that customers will be able to aggregate all their bank and credit card accounts into one place and switch money between them quickly and easily, as well as make payments to other people at the click of a button.

“The Bud app fits into a wider trend in the market as banks battle it out to make their online services as effortless as possible,” says John Rakowski, director of technology strategy at AppDynamics.
“As consumers become increasingly used to intuitive tools such as Siri and Google Now… the idea of using multiple apps to do their banking is becoming outdated.”

But Bud has its work cut out to raise awareness, given that its own research suggests nine out of 10 young people have never even heard of fintech.

Anna Laycock, lead strategist at the London-based Finance Innovation Lab, warns that while the market is exploding with innovative ideas, those that succeed will be the ones that people can easily understand and engage with.

“Companies need to be able to articulate how their products help people,” she says. “Anything that empowers people with information they can understand and that can help their money management is a positive development.”

‘In your face’

The advent of smartphones and apps has given the global financial services industry – and tech-based start-ups in particular – the opportunity to change the tone and style traditionally associated with finance, believes Mr Maslaveckas.

“For years financial services were loud and in your face. Companies were always trying to sell something to you that often wasn’t to your benefit,” he says. “We’re looking at things the other way round and offering people services that will benefit them.”

In June, Bank of England governor Mark Carney, said: “Fintech will change the nature of money, shake the foundations of central banking and deliver nothing less than a democratic revolution for all who use financial services.”

Smartphone-only banks, like Atom Bank and Mondo, are aimed at younger people comfortable running most of their lives on their phones. At the moment Mondo only offers prepaid debit cards that can be topped up at cash machines and online, but it hopes to get a full banking licence later this year. This will enable it to offer standing order, direct debit and faster payments features.

Money management apps such as Loot and Moven aim to help consumers set a budget and keep track of their spending. “You don’t need to be a professional finance manager to be really good with money,” reckons Mr Maslaveckas. “You can get control of your finances simply by making the most of the fintech innovations that are already available to you on your phone.”

High stakes

High claims, but is it a reality? There has certainly been an upturn in the number of new app-based fintech firms attracting serious investment across the world in the last few months.

Payments providers, peer-to-peer lenders, “robo advisers”, trading platforms, and foreign exchange companies have all been catching investors’ attention. For instance, global Bitcoin-based payment app Circle raised $60m (£45m) at the end of June in a cash-raising exercise led by Beijing-based venture capital company IDG Capital.

The company has launched a Chinese venture and plans major European expansion. And the aforementioned banking app Mondo raised £8m, some £1m of which was crowdfunded in just 96 seconds earlier this year. Globally, consultancy Accenture says fintech investment has risen from about $3.2bn in 2012 to $22.2bn in 2015, with the volume of deals nearly doubling over that period.

Innovation

Behind all this investment activity is the belief that technology is simplifying and democratising finance, putting control back into the hands of consumers.

Investment incubators, accelerators and innovation hubs are cropping up everywhere to encourage this flourishing sector.
For instance, Spanish banking giant Santander has set up a venture capital fund to back fintech start-ups working in areas that may improve its banking service.

“Any investments we make need to have potential commercial applications for Santander as a bank, and ultimately benefit our customers as the end users,” explains Mariano Belinky, managing partner at Santander InnoVentures.

Two fintech projects already up and running as a result of the investment are Ripple and Kabbage. The former allows banks to transfer international payments securely without the need for a middleman, while Kabbage provides quick online loans of up to £40,000 to small businesses.

But such convenience and flexibility doesn’t necessarily come cheap. A £40,000 Kabbage loan repayable over 10 months – the maximum period allowable – will cost you an additional £11,000. Hi-tech doesn’t always mean low-cost.

Fight back

Banks are having to respond to the fintech challenge with innovations of their own, whether that is voice biometrics or mobile codes for authentication purposes.

Some are experimenting with personalised video to improve customer service, while others are expanding the way they communicate, using social media platforms such as WeChat, Facebook Messenger and Whatsapp.

Others are even moving beyond banking. For example, Poland’s award-winning Idea Bank focuses on providing services to entrepreneurs, including a cloud-based space where people can work, meet and collaborate.

All this innovation should mean that, as Mr Carney said: “With time, fintech could mean a more open, more transparent, and more democratic global financial system.”

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Samsung unveils its iPad challenger

Samsung unveils its iPad challenger

Galaxy Tab Has Smaller Screen, Similar Features to Apple’s Device; Likely Cost Is $200-$300.

Samsung Electronics on Thursday unveiled the Galaxy Tab, its take on Apple’s iPad, as more technology companies trickle into the nascent tablet market. Tablets represent a potential new source of revenue for Samsung, which is making up for lost ground in the intensely competitive smartphone business.

Rather than sell it directly to consumers, Samsung will rely on its carrier partners to sell the Galaxy Tab, which runs on Google’s Android software, comes with a cellular connection, and features a seven-inch screen. The tablet will debut in Italy, moving to other markets as Samsung locks in more carrier deals.

Vodafone Group, the world’s biggest mobile operator, said it would start selling the Galaxy Tab in most of its European markets and a number of its other markets worldwide in October.

It is expected to launch in the U.S. over the next few months, but the company would only say it was in talks with multiple carriers. The Galaxy Tab is essentially an enlarged version of Samsung’s flagship Galaxy S smartphone, which was originally available through AT&T and Deutsche Telekom’s T-Mobile, and more recently Sprint Nextel Corp.

While a price hasn’t been set, Samsung product executive Hankil Yoon said in an interview that it would likely retail for between $200 and $300, although the final price would vary depending on different carrier subsidies.

Mr. Yoon expects to ship 10 million units and take a third of the global tablet market next year.

But it’s unclear if any tablet beyond the iPad will prove to be a hit. Samsung follows Dell which launched its Streak through AT&T last month. More tablets are expected for the holiday selling season.

While many companies are devoting resources toward building a worthy iPad competitor, history shows that Apple often enjoys a lengthy lead with its products, said Rhoda Alexander, an analyst at iSuppli.

The iPad, which sold 3 million units after 80 days in the market, is expected to control three-quarters of the tablet market this year, with its share only slipping to 62% by 2012, according to iSuppli.

Like the iPad, the Galaxy Tab customizes core applications, such as email and contacts, to take advantage of the larger screen, offers Wi-Fi capabilities, and provides a hub for reading magazines, books and newspapers. It also lacks a removable battery and requires a proprietary dock to connect to a PC.

The Tab sets itself apart on size. The 7-inch screen allows for a slimmer profile than the iPad, which packs a 9.7-inch screen. Also, the Samsung device supports the latest version of Adobe Flash–something the iPad doesn’t do–enabling the Tab to show more video found on the Internet.

It features a camera on each side of the device, as well as a slot for expandable memory. It also has the capability to make phone calls, but carriers will decide whether that capability will be offered. Mr. Yoon said Samsung plans to support the device with two major software updates a year.

The Tab will run on Android 2.2, the latest version, and will have access to the Android Marketplace for a number of applications. But Gartner analyst Carolina Milanesi said she was concerned about how many apps will be designed specifically for the device. The iPad already benefits from a number of third-party apps that utilize its larger screen.

Samsung is exploring the possibility of a tablet with a 10-inch or 6-inch screen, and Mr. Yoon said the company plans to eventually launch a family of Galaxy Tab devices. Samsung has invested $200 million in advertising the Galaxy S phone around the world. The company plans to spend less promoting the Galaxy Tab, because it feels the product appeals to more of a niche audience than the more mainstream smartphone, said Samsung mobile marketing executive Younghee Lee.

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