FinTechs are no longer a threat to banks; the telcos, WhatsApps, and Amazons of the world are. A French phone company is planning to take full advantage of the scale of its mobile customers and rightfully so – the owners of communication networks and tech corporations are the ones with the biggest advantage when it comes to delivering services at scale.
Pick #1. Orange Bank: Is a Phone Company the Future of FinTech?
The shift to smartphone banking should put telecom operators, handset makers, and the big technology groups in a strong position to go head to head with the traditional banks.
The more bits of the value chain that tech companies large or small steal from the banking groups, the more those banks will be reduced to the “dumb pipes” of the financial system.
But Orange has breached the barricades – with some early signs of success. If the client accumulation rate of its first 10 days of operation in November has been maintained, it will have amassed some 200,000 customers by now – double expectations – and be on its way to a target of 2 million, even before it has expanded its product range from the basics. Consumer loans and insurance are due to be added to payments and savings this year. Mortgages will follow at a later stage.
“Orange Bank has what it takes to disrupt in our view, including a strong brand and already 28 million mobile customers,” UBS analysts wrote in a note to clients.
Our obsession with smartphones has helped Orange to number 62 in the latest Brandz ranking – far behind Apple or Facebook, but there is no French bank in the top 100.
Pick #2. Tencent Takes Aim at Apple & Google App Stores with WeChat Mini Program Push
Tencent has re-engineered the WeChat messaging app in a way that applications smaller than 10 megabytes can run instantly on WeChat’s interface. It is now offering 580,000 mini programs after just one year of development, compared to the 500,000 mobile apps that Apple’s App Store published from 2008 to 2012, according to Hu Renjie, WeChat’s mini program director.
“The mini program is a brand new product model which can seamlessly link the offline and the online together,” said Hu, adding that the mini program scheme has attracted 1 million developers.
Pick #3. Google’s New AI Service Makes Machine Learning More Accessible
Google has announced a new service designed to help democratize AI. Called Cloud AutoML, the set of services gives businesses automated AI building tools. They can then create machine learning-infused services without a detailed understanding of the underlying tech. Cloud AutoML consumes data supplied by the business to automatically generate a machine learning model. This is then optimized to suit the data set and begin producing further results.
Pick #4. Goldman Sachs, Wells Fargo & Others Invest $38 Million in Research Tech Startup
Goldman Sachs has led a $38-million investment round by large banks in Visible Alpha, a young New York-based company that helps investment managers better value the equity research services they receive from brokers.
Launched in early 2017, Visible Alpha uses technology to help fund managers keep track of the amount and value of equity research and corporate access that they receive from their brokers. It also offers tools that aggregate data from analysts to make it easier to use and more valuable for investors.
The company says it works with around 450 research providers and has more than 100 buy-side firms as clients which manage a combined $16 trillion in assets. It mainly operates in the United States and plans to expand further into Europe, Asia & Latin America, Rosen said.