FTT Update: Fintech Today Launched A Podcast

Hi all, Julie here. In case you missed the big announcement on Twitter, Fintech Today now has a podcast! I'll be hosting, with two episodes coming out each week. We’ll focus on analyzing some of the recent developments in fintech, as well as have special guests join a few times a month. It’s available on both Spotify and Apple

Also, due to overwhelming demand, we’ve decided to launch a sponsorship program for our Career Corner. If you are hiring and looking to meet high quality candidates, send an email to jordan@fintechtoday.co for more information.

The News

Apex Next Up For A SPAC

Apex Clearing, which was Robinhood’s clearing house until it built its own a few years ago, has agreed to go public through a merger with the blank-check company Northern Star Investment Corp. II, according to a Bloomberg article. The transaction is said to be valued at $4.7B. Apex has more than 200 clients including Stash, Firstrade Securities, SoFi, and Goldman’s Marcus.

TransferWise Rebrands

TransferWise, the platform many of us know and love for its cross border currency transfers, has rebranded as Wise ahead of an expected IPO sometime this year. The move is meant to reflect its expanded suite of offerings outside of simply moving money. 

“Originally launched in 2011 as a money transfer service for people, the company has expanded to build a cross-border payments network helping to make international banking cheaper, faster and more pleasant for its 10M personal and business customers,” the press release says. It now processes $6B in cross-border transactions every month. That’s much more than another time it rebranded years ago. 

Wise is now home to three products, not just one. The first is its money transfer service. The second is a business account for global businesses. The third is a platform for companies to use Wise’s infrastructure to offer their customers cheaper and faster payments and international banking features. Wise says that Monzo and GoCardless are both users of this service. 

Stripe Adds Former Central Bank Governor To Board

Shortly after a potential $100B+ valuation round was rumored in the press, Stripe announced that former Governor of the Bank of England and the Bank of Canada, Mark Carney, is joining its board. Side note: It’s wild that Stripe added a former central bank governor to its board before I’m even able to buy shares of the company... Anyways, the Collison brothers (aka: Stripe’s co-founders) seem justifiably excited by the move. 

“As Stripe enters its second decade, Mark’s unparalleled experience of the highest levels of financial services and central banking will be of enormous benefit as we work to grow the GDP of the internet,” John Collison said in a company blog post. “From his desire to see faster settlement systems to his commitment to climate change mitigation, Mark’s values align with ours. We’re delighted he’s joining our Board of Directors.”

A bit on Carney: he headed the Bank of England and the Bank of Canada, had a 13-year career at Wall Street bank Goldman Sachs in London, Tokyo, New York and Toronto, and is the United Nations special envoy on climate action and finance. Quite the resume!

Analyst Argues Apple Should Get Into Bitcoin

I used to read a LOT of analyst notes when I was a markets reporter at Bloomberg. At that time, no one was really talking about crypto. Today, I’m sure that is a bit different. I completely missed this note from earlier this month, but I don’t think it’s too late to address it either. RBC analyst Mitch Steves argued in a recent note that Apple should use its Apple Wallet as a crypto exchange. From the note: 

“The wallet initiative appears to be a clear multi-billion dollar opportunity for the firm (potential for well over $40B in annual revenue with limited R&D).” 

In theory, this makes a lot of sense. Square has seen a ton of growth from adding crypto buying and selling to its Cash App product. Steves believes Apple would immediately gain market share if it were to enter the industry. He also argues that like Tesla and Square, Apple could further benefit from adding Bitcoin to its balance sheet, writing that “this would send even more users to ‘Apple Exchange.’” It’s worth pointing out that Steves has been following and talking about Bitcoin and other digital assets for a number of years, unlike many Wall Street analysts. 

Quick note on another crypto story. I remember a time during the Bitcoin run of 2017-2018 when a ton of companies were adding ‘blockchain’ to their names when in fact blockchain had nothing to do with their business model. One of those firms, Long Blockchain, which changed its name from Long Island Ice Tea Corp, has now had its shares delistedby U.S. regulators after failing to file financial reports for years. Can you guess what its shares did the day it rebranded in 2017? They went up roughly 200%....and now it has been delisted. What a ride. 

LinkedIn Wallet

You may have recently seen social media platform for professionals LinkedIn making headlines as hedge funds seek to hire sentiment traders from WallStreetBets. Well, it’s once again making moves, but this time for other, perhaps less provocative reasons. 

LinkedIn has announced that it is developing LinkedIn Marketplaces, a place where freelancers can seek out their next gig. With over 700M members, LinkedIn hopes to bite into a major slice of the gig economy pie. What’s more interesting about this product, however, is that LinkedIn is also developing LinkedIn Wallet - a tool that will enable the company to facilitate efficient transactions between the employer and the freelancers. This all-in-one ecosystem is likely to present an attractive alternative to all gig economy workers. 

Retail Trading Boom In....Indonesia

It’s not just retail investing in the US that’s seeing a big uptick. Apparently, other countries such as Indonesia are seeing similar growth due to younger generations. Hence, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that investment platform FUNDtastic just announced a $7.7M million round to focus on this growing market. Founded in 2019, FUNDtastic plans to add retail bonds, insurance and peer-to-peer lending to its current roster of mutual funds and gold investment options.

Apparently, real estate investments have traditionally been more popular in the region, but people have been looking to diversify their portfolios as they’ve been cooped up at home due to the pandemic. Even after covering fintech for the better part of a decade, I’m still learning new things every day! Super interested in following this trend and if you have any insights from the region, reply to this email or hit me up on Twitter!

Community Highlights

Congrats fintech companies based in LA, you've finally made it. SF and NY are out, LA and Austin are in (spoiler: I'm moving to Austin so i declare that fintech hub 'lit' as well). 

Lastly, our first premium piece focused on Latin America is coming out on Tuesday from Jenny Johnston. Be sure to check your inbox and let us know your thoughts! It’s a fascinating region.

Julie VerHage-Greenberg is the co-founder of Fintech Today, where she focuses on editorial content and brand. Prior to joining, she was Bloomberg’s first fintech reporter, covering Robinhood from before it was a billion dollar company, breaking the news that Plaid was acquiring Quovo, and interviewing executives on Bloomberg TV and at several large conferences.

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