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Fintech will focus on bitcoin, stokvels, SMEs, in 2020

By DOMINIQUE COLLETT, a senior investment executive at Rand Merchant Investment Holdings and the head of AlphaCode

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Fintech is rapidly transforming the very essence of global financial services. Here at AlphaCode, we spend a lot of time researching and thinking about how technology, social media and a transforming consumer base is enabling new business models and changing the financial services landscape. AlphaCode is the Rand Merchant Investment Holdings (RMI) incubation, acceleration, and investment initiative that identifies, partners, and grows early-stage financial service ventures.

Here are our predictions for the financial services market for 2020 based on what we’ve observed globally and locally with our members.

Even though international investors are somewhat wary of putting money into South Africa currently, there are enough dynamic local players to fund projects – with deals certainly starting to flow through. This is a tremendously exciting sector to watch.

SME banking

While 2019 saw the introduction of consumer digital banks such as TymeBank and Discovery Bank; in 2020 the focus will turn towards the SME market.

Following its R3.56 billion takeover of Mercantile Bank earlier this year, Capitec Bank has shown that it views the SME and entrepreneurial sectors as providing significant growth opportunities. We expect them to do for SME banking in 2020 what they did for consumer banking over the last decade.

Bank Zero will also be launching, and it will be interesting to watch how this digital bank will put more pressure on the incumbents to innovate.

FNB has already responded to the influx of digital SME banks with the launch of its First Business Zero account. Designed for digital-savvy sole proprietors, this account provides zero-rated account fees to entrepreneurs and includes unlimited free card swipes.

Mobile point of sale (mPOS) players like Yoco and iKhokha are also making further inroads in the SME market – with more than 100 000 small businesses already part of their payment network.

Shared finances

Stokvels have become an integral part of South African society. A community of people serving as a vital savings scheme, stokvels illustrate the importance of how we relate to one another when it comes to money. Insurers like Sanlam are working with the National Stokvel Association of South Africa (NSASA) to offer financial services products to their base.

In line with this concept, mutual services will see strong growth next year. Iemas Financial Services is a group-buying community that leverages the power of its hundreds of thousands of members for collective bargaining. Arguably, it functions as a co-op that negotiates good deals on behalf of its members. This can include anything from discounts at a retail store to more affordable insurance products.

There is also PPS which has been around for some time. It provides financial services to professionals such as doctors, accountants, lawyers, and engineers. By segmenting its product offering and focusing on a niche, it puts professionals together in a risk pool. This enables the members to benefit from more affordable premiums. This shared finance trend can create an opportunity to grow.

Then, the Kin app is designed to track shared expenses and get paid. Whether people are living in digs together or a few friends are planning a trip abroad; Kin lets members track shared savings goals and expenses – like a WhatsApp for money. This secure service manages all the key elements of the payment process, and is likely to prompt quite a few discussions around the communal side of money in 2020.

Bitcoin

Bitcoin will be making a welcome return to prominence this year. We have always said that the best use case for Bitcoin is in an emerging market. Typically, such a country would have political instability, a volatile market, high exchange controls, and expensive money transfers – all areas where cryptocurrencies can deliver significant disruption.

With this in mind, 2020 will put the focus back on the decentralised money discussions that were rife when Bitcoin first appeared. Today, the major difference is that the spotlight is firmly on Africa.

We are watching Centbee – which recently launched its Minute Money remittance solution. This uses Bitcoin SV to make cross-border payments to support family easily and more affordably. 

Luno has continued to cement its position as a dominant emerging market crypto-currency platform with its relaunch in Malaysia and continued expansion into other African countries.

Insurance

Another key trend will be around smarter insurance. Discovery and OUTsurance are using data to reward good driving behaviour with better priced premiums. This strategy is targeted at drivers under 25 who have had to deal with loaded pricing. Now, if these members drive well, the telemetry data will be used to improve and more fairly calculate their premiums.

Lumkani seeks to address the challenge of fires in informal settlements and townships with a sensor network of early warning systems. This has resulted in a partnership with Hollard to introduce affordable shack insurance for fire cover.

Taking this a step further, Sensor Networks is working with Sanlam, Nedbank, and Standard Bank to deliver smart insurance to customers. This uses smart sensors in people’s homes to provide an early fault-and-fraud detection system that allows for automated logging of faults and the easy coordination of assessment and technical repair teams. Everything from geysers to security cameras and fire detectors are linked to the network.

Financial inclusion

Without doubt, 2020 will also see a focus on expanding financial inclusion in Africa. Companies like Selpal, Flash and Nomanini are making it easier for informal traders to sell their products. These innovators bring alternative distribution channels to informal communities that easily connect merchants to suppliers and customers.

Zande provides trade and merchant finance to spaza shops to enable stock purchases. It offers brands in bulk at a lower cost with goods delivered to spaza shops within 24 hours of being ordered.

Spoon Money is a group-based micro-working capital finance platform for female informal traders. This platform enables them to access credit to support their businesses and create more sustainable and predictable income.

Another one to watch is uKheshe. This micro-transaction platform generates a QR code for street vendors and even car guards to use. People simply use Zapper or SnapScan to pay them instead of having to worry about carrying change. It has proven to be the ideal way to digitise these micro-payments.

These solutions are having a real impact on the lower-end of the market in a commercially sustainable way. Importantly, they are African solutions to solve Africa’s specific challenges.

Proptech

A big area to watch in 2020 will be the proptech sector. For example, Jamii is creating a reward system for tenants where landlords can better incentivise their behaviour.

HouseMe provides a tech-enabled platform for better rental management. It does for rentals what Leadhome has been doing for the property sales market. However, Leadhome has pivoted and launched a rental service.

Innovators are quickly waking up to the fact that the local real estate market is highly fragmented and is one that can be improved and empowered with technology. When house prices are low and in a buyers’ market, people cannot afford to pay high commissions to agents. This is where proptechs will start dominating.

Coming to the market soon is IsiDuli. This is the AirBnB of the township market. It gives township dwellers the opportunity to create income from their land by providing financing to build a backyard room that can be rented out.

Alternative fintech partnerships

We have seen Root and Investec launching a programmable bank account for software developers. Essentially, this lets developers control their money programmatically, build their own features, and securely integrate with other services.

Lulalend and Vodacom have partnered to develop VodaLend. Designed to provide SMEs with finance through a digital portal in three steps; small businesses can apply for funding of up to R1.5 million over 12 months.

Retailers will also start coming back into the financial services space. Shoprite is looking at a number of financial services initiatives while Pick n Pay has partnered with TymeBank. Arguably, many retailers recognise that they cannot provide these kinds of services themselves and are identifying fintech specialists that they can work with.

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Security issues grow with transition to smart TVs

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You can’t picture a modern home without smart equipment. Smart thermostats, smart refrigerators, robot vacuums, and smart TVs won’t surprise anyone these days. For example, around 70% of the TVs being sold worldwide are smart TVs. Although they bring more entertainment, these devices also carry new digital threats. 

Sometimes people forget that smart TVs are as vulnerable to cybercrime as their smartphones and computers. Daniel Markuson, the digital privacy expert at NordVPN, says that “although smart TVs are connected to the internet and have similar functions to computers, they aren’t equipped with the same security tools, which makes them easy prey for hackers.” 

What’s so scary about your TV getting hacked? As smart TVs gain more features, the amount of your private information they handle increases too. TVs aren’t just for watching movies and shows anymore. Now you can use them for web browsing, streaming video content, gaming, and even shopping online. 

To enjoy your smart TV to the fullest, you need to download various apps and games. These cost money, so you need your credit card details filled in. Putting your financial information, logins, and passwords on your TV makes it an appealing target for hacking. 

According to Daniel Markuson, a smart TV can be used to spy on its users. Hackers can access its camera and microphone through malware, which they can slip into your TV when it is connected to Wi-Fi. They can use footage from your bedroom or living room to blackmail you and your family. By watching your home and listening to your conversations, hackers know what goods you have, where you keep them when you’re away, and what your plans are. 

If you use your smart TV for web browsing, you can infect it with various viruses too, says the digital privacy expert at NordVPN. Like computers, smart TVs run on software, but they don’t have the same strong antivirus and firewall systems installed. Once your TV gets infected, your browsing history, passwords, and other private data become accessible to hackers. And they won’t miss the opportunity to use this information in ransomware attacks. 

Even though smart TVs are vulnerable to cyber threats, Daniel Markuson says there is no need to panic yet. The expert names a few simple principles every smart TV owner should follow to protect their device.

Always update your TV’s software whenever a new version becomes available. The expert says that software updates are crucial for cybersecurity as manufacturers do their best to patch vulnerabilities. Updates often repair security flaws, fix or remove various bugs, add new features, and improve the existing ones. Some TVs install updates automatically by default. With others, you may need to check for updates periodically to make sure your device runs on the latest version. 

Use available security measures such as a VPN. The best practice for any internet-connected device is to install a firewall and use a VPN such as NordVPN. It secures your device and lets you enjoy fast internet access with encryption-powered privacy.

Connect your smart TV to the internet only when needed. It isn’t necessary to have your TV connected to Wi-Fi all the time. To make it less vulnerable to hacker attacks, turn on the Wi-Fi connection only when you are using it.

Download apps from official stores only. Do not install any programs and games from unofficial sources on your smart TV. Make sure that both the app and its provider are reliable. Moreover, if an application asks for access to your data, camera, or microphone that isn’t necessary for its operation, never accept it.

Be careful with personal files and financial data. Shopping online on a big smart TV screen might be fun, but be careful providing your credit card details and other sensitive information this way. Although some manufacturers equip their TV sets with security features, they cannot guarantee safety online. “People who synchronize their smart TVs with their computers to access compatible media content should be especially cautious,” warns Daniel Markuson. The connection between your smart TV and your computer can be a weak link and lead to a data breach.

Use strong Wi-Fi passwords. This practice is the most obvious and the easiest to follow. Create a strong password to protect your Wi-Fi connection at home and don’t share it with any outsiders.

Turn off your TV camera when not in use. Whether it’s a built-in camera or the one connected to a TV via Wi-Fi, turn it off when not using it. If you can’t turn off your camera, use a piece of tape or a sticker over the camera lens to cover it. 

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Tech too complex? It stresses out even the tech-savvy

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Picture by hobvias sudoneighm on Flickr.

Even the savviest members of the tech industry get stressed by common devices that power their everyday lives, according to a recent poll conducted at CES 2020 by Asurion, the global leader in helping people connect, protect and enjoy their tech.

Survey screen by Asurion at CES 2020.

Asurion surveyed nearly 1,400 attendees of CES 2020, the world’s largest and most influential tech industry event, about their relationship with personal tech and their role as tech expert for family and friends. What the tech care company found is that even the tech-savvy, tech DIY’ers and early adopters stress out over some of the most ordinary devices in our hands and homes.

So, what tech tops the list of devices that stress out some of the consumer electronics industry’s tech enthusiasts?

  • Mesh routers and Wi-Fi networks (33%)
  • Phones (26%)
  • Smart home security systems (23%)

And, the tech-related activities that even the tech-savvy dread the most?

  • Troubleshooting a device that worked perfectly yesterday (39%)
  • Device security (27%)
  • Setting up devices (nearly 27%)

Asurion helps nearly 300 million customers worldwide unlock the potential of their tech with a team of over 10,000 Experts who are just a call, click or tap away. The company’s Experts provide ongoing tech support, same-day device repair, and same-day delivery and setup services. They’ll meet customers virtually, in-home, at select partner stores, and in more than 540 uBreakiFix stores across the country or wherever it’s convenient.

“The tech industry just spent four amazing days experiencing and celebrating the latest innovations in the future of tech,” said Teresa May, Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer at Asurion. “What we heard is that even common tech tasks and devices can be challenging. Every day, our Experts help people across the country with their devices – everything from setting up a new phone to troubleshooting streaming issues on their smart TVs. Our CES poll reveals that the industry’s top tech innovators share the same pain points affecting millions of Americans.”

Asurion’s Experts received more than 18.5 million calls and chats from customers seeking tech help last year. And while the No. 1 question this holiday was a strong “How do I activate my new phone?” Asurion Experts also received many questions ranging from “How do I connect to Wi-Fi?” to “Can I sync my smart speakers to play them in tandem?”

And while the tech industry may have tech challenges of their own, they also get tapped by family and friends for help. Eight out of 10 attendees surveyed said their family and friends rely on them to help set up and troubleshoot their tech. Nearly two-thirds (63%) said they hesitate to gift tech to their loved ones because the recipient won’t know how to use it, and nearly half (46%) gave pause to gifting tech to family and friends because they didn’t want to be the one to help set it up.

Asurion CES Tech Poll

Consumer Tech Devices That Stress CES Attendees Out the Most

1. Mesh Routers and Wi-Fi Networks (33%)
2. Phones (26%)
3. Smart Home Security Systems (23%)
4. Smart Home Assistants/Hubs (20%)
5. Bluetooth Printers (19%)
6. Smart Home Automation (19%)
7. Laptops/Tablets (18%)
8. Smart TVs (17%)
9. Smart Appliances (14%)
10. Home Energy, Lighting and Switches (13%)

Tech Activities That Stress Out CES Attendees the Most

1. Troubleshooting Tech That Worked Perfectly Yesterday (39%)
2. Security (27%)
3. Setting up a Device (27%)
4. Privacy (23%)
5. Helping Others With Their Tech (20%)
6. Managing or Connecting Multiple Devices (19%)
7. Wi-Fi Connectivity (19%)
8. Paying for Personal Data Storage (18%)
9. Learning a New Operating System (17%)
10. Choosing Which Brand To Purchase (17%)

To learn more about where you can get tech support and protection, visit Asurion.com.

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