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A Fortnight in Fintech: blockchain, Bitcoin, carbon and contactless

/ 16 December 2019

Jon Wedge

Where finance meets technology, interesting things continue to happen.

It’s been no surprise to see fintech having a global reach, with news stories from Scandinavia to the States catching our eye. As always, fintech is having an impressive influence across areas that matter, from climate change to commuting.

Read on to find out more about these stories and our reactions to them.

Finn-tech: My Carbon Action

Finland have again demonstrated how ahead of the curve they are with a new mobile app that tracks a user’s carbon footprint. Called My Carbon Action, it’s been developed by Finnish payment provider Enfuce.

Analysing payment and retailer information will show the carbon footprint left by shopping habits (among other things).

Mastercard and Visa are already on board, showing they recognise the growing importance of ethically sourced products to consumers. Blockchain is also playing an increasing part in proving the source of materials and tracking products through their supply chains.

In fintech, as in other sectors, those that choose to ignore the issue run the risk of being abandoned by customers as awareness of this issue continues to grow. Those that make the choice to pay attention and promote the point may see brand popularity increase.

Blockchain legislation and Switzerland

If ‘Swiss’, ‘block’ and ‘chain’ make you think of a certain brand of triangular chocolate, think again. Legislators in Switzerland are continuing to encourage innovation and growth in blockchain technology.

Last month, Switzerland’s Federal Council adopted a proposal which aims to remove obstacles for applications based on blockchain. By providing legal and regulatory frameworks around new tech, some certainty is provided to those working towards wider adoption.

We would be pleased to see more of this in the UK as we believe more clarification will lead to both institutions and consumers having more trust, driving up adoption – and with it, change. It’s in the UK’s interests not to be left behind as others are quicker to take on, and adapt to, new and exciting tech solutions.

Danish bank’s Bitcoin ban

A court in Denmark has ruled that Nordea Bank is free to prevent its employees from investing in Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies in their own time.

This strikes us as a really strange situation. Putting aside the intrusion on personal lives by an employer, financial regulators have not deemed them risky enough to outright ban, although state caution should be exercised.

The ban also only covers cryptocurrencies and not related derivative products. It seems that although these allow positions to be leveraged (and are therefore more risky), as they are regulated, they are fine

It links crypto to criminal activity, a tag which applies to almost everything from cash to artwork.

Perhaps it is worth remembering that Bitcoin actually played a big part in tracking and convicting a number of people involved in the infamous online marketplace Silk Road. This included the person running the site as Bitcoins were tracked right to him.

Bitcoin leaves an immutable record of all transactions and by design is actually law abiding. Regulation of the on & off ramps for crypto coming with the Fifth Money Laundering Directive should tighten this up.

Criminals who think it is safe and anonymous are misguided. Perhaps that is a good thing!

Tech and ticketing in NYC

In a Fortnight in Fintech in June of this year, we reported on New York City’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority announcing the launch of OMNY, its new contactless fare payment system. OMNY has taken a big step forward this week with activation of 96 contactless card readers in New York Penn Station, said to be the busiest train station in the US.

Although New York and London are so similar in so many ways, it’s easy to forget that something we have taken for granted on London’s Tube network is still only part rolled out across New York’s subway.

That said, it’s only recently that BKL staff who travel in from South Hertfordshire, just outside Zone 6, have finally been able to pay using contactless and say goodbye to queuing for a paper ticket.

On both sides of the Atlantic, there are still gains to be made in forward-thinking payment services reducing friction. Start spreadin’ the new…

For more on how we can help fintech businesses, take a look at our fintech page or contact us using our enquiry form.

You can also read our previous fintech news roundup here.

Jon Wedge

Partner, Financial Services

T +44 (0)20 8922 9159
E jon.wedge@bkl.co.uk

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