Weekly News Highlights – 21 March 2024

Welcome to the latest in fintech news, where cutting-edge technologies and innovative financial solutions converge to reshape the landscape of banking, investing, and payments. Stay tuned as we explore the trends driving the future of finance!

Kenya licenses 19 more digital money lenders (The East African)

The Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) has licensed 19 more firms to offer digital credit services, bringing the total number of licensed firms to 51. This move intensifies competition in the lucrative digital lending industry. The CBK, in collaboration with other regulatory authorities, has ensured compliance with new rules governing the digital lending space, focusing on business models, consumer protection, and the fitness of shareholders, directors, and management. This licensing marks the fourth round of issuances since the CBK began approving digital credit providers in October 2022, indicating a growing appetite for the industry despite concerns over high interest rates and abuse of personal data. Read more

Apple is adding to its arsenal of AI startups with a little-known Canadian firm (QZ)

Apple has expanded its artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities with the acquisition of DarwinAI, a Waterloo-based startup focused on AI technology for manufacturing component inspection and optimization. Dozens of DarwinAI employees have joined Apple’s AI division, with plans likely to integrate the acquired technology into Apple’s supply chain for improved efficiency. This acquisition reflects Apple’s ongoing efforts to bolster its AI capabilities, as it seeks to catch up with competitors like Google and Microsoft in the generative AI race. Despite its acquisitions, Apple aims to make strides in generative AI, with CEO Tim Cook promising groundbreaking developments in this area. Read more

BlackRock and JPMorgan are backing a $15 billion investor fund to rebuild Ukraine (QZ)

BlackRock and JPMorgan, along with a coalition of investors, are backing a $15 billion investor fund to aid in the reconstruction of Ukraine through the newly established Ukraine Development Fund. This initiative aims to finance at least $15 billion of reconstruction work in the country following two years of conflict with Russia. The fund, which is comparable to Germany’s KfW or BlackRock’s Climate Finance Partnership, will focus on various sectors including manufacturing, infrastructure, agriculture, and energy, with around 20 viable projects already identified. Read more

Hiber Acquires Srett Industrie to Accelerate the Roll-Out of Environmental and Integrity Solutions (FinchCapital)

Today marks a significant milestone as Hiber, a leader in well and pipeline integrity solutions, acquires Srett Industrie, a prominent IoT LoRaWAN enabled hardware manufacturer for ATEX environments. This strategic move enhances Hiber’s R&D and manufacturing capabilities, accelerating innovation in well integrity and monitoring technology for remote locations. The acquisition enables Hiber to offer end-to-end IoT solutions, covering hardware, LoRaWAN connectivity, and advanced satellite, 3G/4G, or LAN connectivity, serving major energy companies globally. Operating under the brand name Hiber, Srett Industrie will continue to contribute its expertise in IoT ATEX environment hardware to advance Hiber’s HiberHilo solutions, ensuring safer and more sustainable operations in the energy sector. Read more

Cloud banking tech provider nCino acquires DocFox to streamline account opening (Fintech Futures)

nCino, a US-based cloud banking technology provider, has acquired fintech start-up DocFox for an undisclosed sum. DocFox, founded in 2016, offers commercial bank account opening software aimed at automating and streamlining customer onboarding processes, boasting over 450 global clients and significantly reducing account opening times. nCino plans to integrate DocFox’s technology into its cloud banking platform to simplify onboarding and account opening processes for financial services firms, aiming to enhance the overall client lifecycle management experience. This acquisition aligns with nCino’s strategy to expand its functionality and bring innovation to commercial and business banking. Read more

GoCardless signs deal with EML Payments to acquire Nuapay (Fintech Futures)

UK-based paytech GoCardless has announced its agreement to acquire Sentenial, the payment services subsidiary of EML Payments, operating under the Nuapay brand. The acquisition aims to expand GoCardless’s bank payment platform to a broader blue-chip customer base, including independent software vendors (ISVs) and payment service providers (PSPs). Nuapay, founded in 2003, offers an account-to-account platform facilitating various payment services through open banking technology. GoCardless anticipates leveraging this acquisition to unlock new vertical sectors and use cases, particularly in payroll, utilities, insurance, gaming, and gambling. The transaction details, including the financial terms and closing date, remain undisclosed. Read more

IndusInd Bank partners Tappy Technologies and Thales to launch tokenisation solution for wearable payments (Fintech Futures)

IndusInd Bank has partnered with Tappy Technologies and Thales to introduce India’s first tokenisation solution for wearable payments. Through the Indus PayWear app, customers can convert their credit and debit cards into digital tokens for use on various wearable devices. This move underscores IndusInd’s commitment to digital innovation and enhancing convenience and security in payment experiences. Read more

European Parliament advocates for stricter verification system for environmental marketing claims (Fintech Global)

The European Parliament has proposed stricter verification measures for environmental marketing claims to protect consumers from misleading advertisements. Companies will need evidence to support claims like “biodegradable” or “less polluting” before advertising products, with EU countries assigning verifiers for pre-approval. Penalties for rule-breaking companies include fines of at least 4% of annual turnover, and green claims based solely on carbon offsetting schemes remain prohibited. The directive aims to enhance transparency and combat greenwashing, ensuring that businesses provide scientifically verified claims for sustainable products and services. Read more

UK fintech Railsr approaches Equals Group over potential merger (Fintech Futures)

UK-based fintech Embedded Finance, trading as Railsr, has approached Equals Group proposing a potential merger, as initially reported by Sky News. Equals Group confirmed receiving an indicative non-binding proposal from a consortium led by Embedded Finance Limited and TowerBrook Capital Partners. However, Equals stated that there is no certainty regarding any firm offer being made or its terms. According to UK takeover code regulations, Railsr must declare a definitive intention by April 17. Railsr’s turbulent year involved a rescue sale to a venture capital consortium and the appointment of new executives. Additionally, it secured $24 million in funding and appointed Lord Philip Hammond as its chair following the departure of Rick Haythornthwaite to NatWest Group. Read more

Apple in talks to let Google’s Gemini power iPhone AI features, Bloomberg News says (Reuters)

According to Reuters, Apple is reportedly in talks to integrate Google’s Gemini artificial intelligence engine into the iPhone. The negotiations concern licensing Gemini for new features in iPhone software, with discussions ongoing about terms and implementation. While no deal is expected until June, when Apple holds its annual developer conference, talks have also been held with OpenAI about utilizing its model. A potential partnership could expand Google’s AI services to over 2 billion active Apple devices and help alleviate concerns about Apple’s slow AI app rollout. The partnership could also face regulatory scrutiny, given Google’s existing default search engine status on Apple’s Safari browser. Despite Google’s recent partnership with Samsung to deploy its genAI technology, Apple CEO Tim Cook has indicated significant investment in generative AI, with plans to unveil more later this year. Apple may use its own AI models for some iOS 18 capabilities but seeks a partner for genAI features like image creation and essay writing. Read more

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