Mastercard is bringing cryptocurrencies onto its network

Earlier this week, bitcoin landed back in the headlines when Tesla revealed it had bought $1.5bn in the cryptocurrency. The company also said that it would soon accept bitcoin as payment for its electric vehicles.

The news prompted such a spike in trading on cryptocurrencies that exchanges such as Gemini, Kraken and Binance experienced technical difficulties.

Now, as the surge in interest continues, credit card giant Mastercard has announced its plans to support certain cryptocurrencies directly on its network later this year.

While Mastercard had allowed its customers to make transactions using cryptocurrencies, this was done without going through the company’s own network.

In a statement, the fintech company said supporting select cryptocurrencies directly on its network is “a big change” that will require a lot of work.

“We will be very thoughtful about which assets we support based on our principles for digital currencies, which focus on consumer protections and compliance,” it said.

“Doing this work will create a lot more possibilities for shoppers and merchants, allowing them to transact in an entirely new form of payment. This change may open merchants up to new customers who are already flocking to digital assets, and help sellers build loyalty with existing customers who want this additional option. And customers will be able to save, store and send money in new ways.”

The company said that not all of today’s cryptocurrencies will be supported. “While stablecoins are more regulated and reliable than in the recent past, many of the hundreds of digital assets in circulation still need to tighten their compliance measures, so they won’t meet our requirements.”

Mastercard also said that it is actively engaging with several major central banks as they review plans to launch new digital currencies.

“Last year, we created a test platform for these banks to use these currencies in a simulated environment. Using our deep experience in payments technologies, we look forward to continuing these partnerships with governments and helping them explore the best ways to develop these new currencies.”

The post Mastercard is bringing cryptocurrencies onto its network appeared first on Silicon Republic.

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Summary List PlacementThe card issuer launched its Cloud Tap on Phone solution in 16 global markets and introduced pilot programs in several others, including the US—representing its first full-scale deployment of the smartphone payment solution.

The cloud-based offering will enable businesses to accept contactless payments using an Android mobile device or tablet and is being launched in partnership with payments gateway NMI, payments tech firm Global Payments, and IT services provider Computer Engineering Group (CEG). In addition to expanding the point-of-sale (POS) solution, Mastercard is making its cloud POS software openly available in several cloud environments to let solution providers develop their own cloud-based POS offerings and expand acceptance.
The coronavirus pandemic has experienced a rapid shift toward digital payments—and Nili Klenoff, senior vice president of global acceptance solutions at Mastercard, told Insider Intelligence that this shift is expected to be permanent. The card issuer says that contactless payments represented 41% of global in-person transactions in Q3 2020, up from 30% a year prior—indicating the increasing popularity of the offering amid the pandemic.
In response, other payment players have innovated to make digital POS solutions more accessible: Toward the end of 2020, Visa introduced its Tap to Phone solution in various global markets—and like Mastercard’s Tap on Phone, it gives businesses a mobile POS solution without the need for any additional hardware. In terms of Mastercard’s offering, Klenoff told Insider Intelligence that the firm’s solution will help build out and expand the overall payment ecosystem to help evolve the shopping experience.
Mastercard’s new tool could be especially beneficial for small- and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) heavily affected by the pandemic, and might aid global expansion of digital transactions as the payments landscape continues to evolve.

SMBs and microbusinesses will gain access to a cost-effective contactless POS solution without needing to spend extra on hardware. Mastercard’s cloud-based POS solution could be especially relevant for SMBs—especially microbusinesses—that may not have the resources to purchase POS hardware that supports contactless payments but have a growing interest in it. During the pandemic, 34% of SMBs have implemented contactless payment solutions at checkout, according to a survey by Paysafe that examined SMB checkout solutions in the US, UK, Canada, Bulgaria, Italy, Austria, and Germany. Introducing a cloud-based software POS solution will also help SMBs keep pace with larger businesses that offer a variety of payment methods, enabling Mastercard to increase its payments volume.
Mastercard’s Tap on Phone solution can also help expand contactless payment acceptance in global markets. Since Marstercard’s offering is rolling out across many countries, businesses in markets with developing digital payments infrastructure, like parts of Asia and Africa, will gain access to the POS solution—pushing forward digital payment acceptance and furthering the issuer’s payments volume potential. For example, micromerchants in India—which has seen substantial growth in noncash payments in recent months due to the pandemic—might take up the offering, helping expand overall contactless payment acceptance.

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Narmi, a fintech that helps small banks up their digital game, is looking to double headcount this year after nabbing $20 million from a backer of Salesforce and Plaid

Summary List PlacementA fintech founded by two former investment bankers has big plans for 2021 — and they all revolve around helping small banks upgrade their digital offerings. 
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These are also the financial institutions that, even before the COVID-19 pandemic began nearly a year ago, have been most hard-pressed to develop digital banking services – from remote check deposits to account openings – that can be costly to develop and require significant, long-term investment.
Narmi is a startup that’s looking to bridge that divide. The fintech offers cloud-based technology to regional and community banks that includes digital banking and account opening tools for consumers and a digital business banking service for small businesses. 
On Tuesday, New York-based Narmi announced that it had raised $20.4 million in a Series A fundraising round that was led by New Enterprise Associates, or NEA, a venture capital firm with more than $24 billion in assets that’s also invested in companies like Salesforce and Plaid. Executives from Plaid and Brex also invested in the round although their names were not disclosed.
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“We do think we have a very strong differentiation strategy,” Nikhil Lakhanpal, Narmi’s co-founder, told Insider, adding that the capital raise will allow Narmi to execute its key focuses as a company in 2021: developing more business banking digital tools, enhancing the user experience of regional and community bank customers, and doubling down on their open-source strategy (Narmi’s API code is publicly available online.)
“It’s a massive catalyst to our company in so many ways,” Lakhanpal continued.
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Both Lakhanpal and Chris Griffin, Narmi’s other co-founder, experienced the tech challenges smaller banks can face when trying to reach customers online. While students at Georgetown, they led the Georgetown University Alumni and Student Federal Credit Union, with Lakhanpal as CEO and Griffin as CIO. 
“We ran this financial institution and we really just wanted to give our customers, our end users, a really awesome digital experience, like nothing else mattered. That was critical. And we just couldn’t do it. We looked at the vendor landscape, it’s really crowded with legacy tech. You’re paying a premium, not for a premium product, but for a larger company,” Lakhanpal said. 
After stints in the investment banking world at Citibank and Barclays, respectively, Lakhanpal and Griffin launched Narmi in 2016. The startup counts Radius Bank, the Boston-based online community bank that was acquired by LendingClub for $185 million in February 2020, and Berkshire Bank among its customers. Lakhanpal said the company doubled headcount in 2020 and is planning on doing the same this year. 
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A big backer in NEA
NEA, meanwhile, brings both capital and experience to the table, something that Lakhanpal said was particularly valuable given the venture firm’s experience in growing companies at scale.
As for NEA’s part, it has a veteran of both the e-commerce and banking world in Liz Landsman, who helped close the round. Landsman previously headed the internet, digital, and mobile teams for Citi’s North America consumer banking business, was the chief marketing officer of E-trade, and served as the president of Jet.com, the e-commerce startup that was acquired by Walmart for $3.3 billion in 2016 (NEA was also an investor in the site.)
“We were very excited when we met these guys, both because we thought they were exactly the right team, we thought the platform they built was thoughtful and technically strong, but also coming out of those unique insights of having lived on the other side of the table,” Landsman told Insider.SEE ALSO: Citi just announced a leadership reshuffle in its consumer bank as new head Anand Selva takes the reins, and the promotions point to a big digital push
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