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Why fin regulators must work with tech entrepreneurs

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Fintech is set to boom in South Africa and the regulatory environment is likely to be conducive for growth in this space. But, a collaboration between the regulators and technology entrepreneurs is needed to boost the industry, writes AHMED CASSIM.

Global investment in fintech ventures has tripled over the last five years and will double again to an estimated $6 billion by 2018, according to a recent report by Accenture and the Partnership Fund of New York City. This growing industry clearly carries significant potential for boosting the local economy and needs to be nourished as far as possible.

The Hello Group understands regulation. Back in 2010 when the Group initially launched a SIM card for migrants to call their loved ones all across the world, it could not have done so if it did not hold a licence as issued by the telecoms Regulator, ICASA (Independent Communications Authority of South Africa). Three years later, we wanted to offer our customers an international remittance offering and it was perfect timing as the South African Reserve Bank had just issued new regulations making it easier for independent money operators to enter the market.

The company was involved in engagement with the regulatory authorities when the regulations were still fairly new. Hello Paisa, the Group’s international remittance offering was the first recipient of an “independent money transfer operator” license which allows the Group to offer its customers an instant, cheap and legal way to send money home.

It was ground-breaking to see that the Reserve Bank was so proactive in implementing new regulations and this is extremely encouraging in terms of growth prospects and innovation in the financial services industry.

Prior to the change in the regulatory environment, migrants working in South Africa were forced to use informal and illegal channels in order to ensure that their hard earned cash was sent back to their families at home. The illegal process meant it was expensive, there was a lack of transparency around pricing and inevitable delays in transferring of funds.

The regulations have paved the way for a healthier, more transparent environment where consumers are able to access a service that is transparent and offers the advantage of money being immediately available to recipients in other countries. Our shortest transfer time is literally two seconds to send money across the globe.

Looking globally, the development of the fintech industry is a key driver in the financial services market. However, as with all new developments in any field, the key to a smooth progression is a “meeting of the minds” between regulators and techpreneurs. For example, in Singapore, the Monetary Authority of Singapore created a regulatory sandbox in June this year. This essentially allows fintech companies to experiment with possible solutions/products for the market, carry out due diligence on their projects and then discuss a way forward in terms of regulatory requirements where it is less clear whether particular FinTech solutions comply with regulatory requirements or poses unacceptable risks.

The danger of a regulatory authority that is reluctant to adapt regulations to better embrace new technology is that this could lead to techpreneurs taking their ideas to friendlier jurisdictions. A further danger is that of international fintechs from more regulatory-friendly jurisdictions stealing the march on local companies. We could end up with a situation where foreign fintechs simply use the internet to offer their services and bypass local regulators. A clear example of this is the fact that Whatsapp offers VOIP (voice over internet protocol) telecom services in SA without a license. In line with this thought, it is extremely encouraging that the Reserve Bank has made it clear that it is open to ideas and very supportive of the country’s burgeoning fintech industry.

  • Ahmed Cassim, chief commercial officer at Hello Group

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CES: So long, and thanks for all the beer!

Last week, the Las Vegas expo showed off its fun side with state-of-the-art technologies for enjoying beer, writes BRYAN TURNER

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From craft beer-making machines to robots that pour beer, CES had more beer than usual in Las Vegas last week. And even free beer if you found the right stand. Stampede’s saloon-style booth offered beer to visitors who tried out its latest drones, virtual reality, and other gaming products. No beer tech, though.

Here are some of the beer technologies that stood out:

LG HomeBrew – Craft beer made at home

LG’s HomeBrew craft beer-making machine,  debuted at CES 2019, brings the brewing process home thanks to single-use capsules,  a self-cleaning feature, and an algorithm optimised for fermentation. 

Like a Nespresso coffee machine, the beer maker uses capsules, which contain malt, yeast, hop oil and flavouring. At the press of a button, LG HomeBrew automates the whole procedure from fermentation and carbonation to ageing. A companion app lets users check HomeBrew’s status at any time during the process, from their handsets.

The beer machine not only offers a simple way to make craft beer, but also enhances the quality of beer it makes. The fermentation algorithm intelligently controls the fermenting process with precise temperature and pressure control. It automatically sanitises itself, using nothing more than hot water, ensuring everything is hygienically clean for the next batch.

Designed with discerning beer lovers in mind, HomeBrew allows for in-home production of batches of more than 4 litres of beer in a variety of styles. The following five distinctive, flavoured beers are available now: 

  • Hoppy American IPA
  • Golden American Pale Ale
  • Full-bodied English Stout
  • Zesty Belgian-style Witbier
  • Dry Czech Pilsner

The only catch? It takes about two weeks to make, depending on the beer type.

“LG HomeBrew is the culmination of years of home appliance and water purification technologies that we’ve developed over the decades,” said Dan Song, president of LG Electronics Home Appliance & Air Solutions Company. “Homebrewing has grown at an explosive pace, but there are still many beer lovers who haven’t taken the jump because of the barriers to entry, like complexity, and these are the consumers we think will be attracted to LG HomeBrew.”

Click here to read about the party speaker that holds beer and robots that pour beer.

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CES: Alienware gets Legend-ary

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At CES in Las Vegas last week, Dell’s Alienware released a family of high-end, thin, light, and affordable machines for both amateur and professional gamers – and a new identity.

Alienware marked CES 2019 as a brand milestone with the debut of a new design identity, Alienware Legend. It aims to set a new bar of excellence for what gamers want most – performance and function. Alienware says it evaluated multiple concepts and chose one that was the biggest and boldest departure from its current look.

Alienware Legend, says the company, stays true to the brand’s core design tenets, taking cues from its deep roots in sci-fi culture and its early industrial designs, to distinguish the brand from the rest of the industry. The new Legend design is optimised with cutting-edge thermal cooling technology to achieve and sustain overclocking power, improved AlienFX lighting, and ultra-thin screen borders. It also unveiled a new “three-knuckle hinge” design that reduces the overall dimension while creating a stronger assembly, all combining to yield a better gaming experience.

“We’re excited to come to this year’s CES with some truly groundbreaking products, next-gen software and strategic partnerships that will bring more people to experience PC gaming and advance the industry,” said Frank Azor, vice president and general manager of Alienware. “The legend design answers the call for more and better from our gaming community, and the new G Series laptops will make PC gaming even more accessible to those looking for high-performance gaming at a cost they can appreciate.”

Click here to read about Alienware Legend in action with the Area-51m and m-series laptops

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