Hi Five! The five fintech stories we’re following this week

  • Steven A Cohen's firm bets $250 million in crowdfunded investment strategies.
  • 75 percent of home buyers would use online mortgages if they could speak with someone.

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Hi Five! The five fintech stories we’re following this week

Forget DIY banking. Build your own bank.

More banks are creating interfaces for startups and other fintech partners so they can connect directly into their plumbing. Rather than weaken the role of the incumbent financial institution, this platformification of banking re-entrenches the bank at the center of financial services. In this setup, the bank manages the UI and customer experience, plugging in partners’ technology and services via APIs.

Alas, this type of model means that banks can afford to get slimmer – Radius Bank recently closed its branches. The industry is already on an employee diet, shedding branches and people with them. With up to 50% of the global financial services workforce at risk of losing their jobs, it begs the question. What should the industry do with all these people?

PayPal, powered by Visa, coming soon to a store near you.

A new deal with Visa paves the way for PayPal to enter into retail. PayPal will no longer discourage customers from funding accounts with a credit card. Interesting move by Visa, for sure, but it brings PayPal closer to being a true competitor in the digital wallet space, according to Tradestreaming’s Josh Liggett.

For PayPal users, that could mean more time spent fumbling with the new-fangled credit card reader in a store. Go ahead and spend with wild abandon, though. The CFPB wants to shield consumers better from creditor calls with new regulations it’s working on. All’s good — the agency really just wants consumers to pay what’s rightfully theirs to pay.

Those wacky hedge funds.

Hedge funds are interesting beasts. In a way, despite their antics, they provide windows into understanding our own humanity. That’s why this story, about sex, fear, and video surveillance at Ray Dalio’s shop, the massive Bridgewater Associates, is particularly scintillating. Beyond the he-said, he-said, Dalio likes to emphasize his firm’s radical transparency. But one employee said in a complaint earlier this year that the hedge fund was like a “cauldron of fear and intimidation”.

Across Connecticut, Steven A Cohen’s hedge fund family office, Point72 made a bet on a startup fintech firm, Quantopian. For its part, Quantopian lets people build their own quantitative investing strategies and make money by licensing these algorithms back to the firm, which invests in them. The equity investment for Cohen was relatively modest, but his firm pledged up to $250 million to be invested in Quantopian strategies in a move that illustrates a growing interest in quant strategies for some of the largest asset managers.

As Goldman Sachs enters online lending, peer to peer lending is dead.

“The little guy’s opportunity to earn yield like a Wall Street bank has been replaced with actual Wall Street banks,” wrote deBanked’s Sean Murray. GS is set to enter the online lending space and with that, the excited, democratic ethos behind peer to peer lending is all but gone. In its stead are traditional financial services moving into this new online domain. Distributed, personalized capital sources have been replaced with large lines of credit and lending facilities.

Prosper is said to be pitching a fund that would invest in its loans. Executives are meeting with potential clients this week to pitch the Prosper Capital Consumer Credit Fund, according to a person familiar with the matter who asked not to be identified discussing confidential talks. The fund’s managers are targeting returns of 6 percent to 8 percent. Not sure of those returns? Here’s why marketplace lending fund returns don’t look good.

Everyone’s getting in, online

Not everyone has gone whole hog over fintech. Some firms have taken their time, dallied in a partnership or two, before launching a full-fledged online offering. Fidelity fits that bill, launching its own retail robo offering, Fidelity Go, after breaking up with standalone roboadvisor, Betterment.

The mortgage industry is also finally finding a way to really embrace the web and not just for lead generation. A whole slew of firms are finally working on improving the home buying process –  75 percent of home buyers would use online mortgages if they knew they could speak with someone when needed. “I was frustrated by how offline, opaque and inefficient the mortgage application experience was,” said Rajesh Bhat of Roostify, one of the new upstarts.


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