News Briefing - Crowdfunding, SME And Alternative Finance

diagram of children's stages of growth

1.UK – FinTech 

AltFi reports (relatively) good news: 

“Fraudulent use of the Bounce Back Loan Scheme may be lower than previously thought, according to data analysis conducted by Equifax. 

The Bounce Back Loan Scheme (BBLS), which launched in the wake of the pandemic in April 2020, has lent out more than £46.5bn of government-backed cash to pandemic hit businesses before starting to be wound down last month. 

Early expectations were that much of this would eventually be written off through default and/fraud. Figures quoted in October last year put the figure of potential losses, including defaults at up to £26bn. 

However, according to Experian’s data analysis, companies that apply for multiple government-backed loans to exceed the £50,000 lending caps, could be far lower than anticipated. 

It said 0.3 per cent of companies making use of the scheme have taken out total loans in excess of the £50k cap, with only 0.4 per cent in total securing facilities with multiple providers.  

In addition, just 12 per cent of businesses with a Bounce Back Loan are consistently spending more money than they are generating each month. The majority do however continue to dip in and out of month to month balance sheet health. 

Only 2 per cent of businesses were consistently in positive financial territory across an entire six-month period and just 24 per cent have positive net cash flows in four or more months.” 


2. UK – FinTech 

Goldman Sachs does the real-estate hokey-cokey… Finextra reports: 


“At a time when other banks are consolidating their real estate, Goldman Sachs is to expand its footprint in the UK by opening a new office in Brimingham that will house several hundred staff. 

Engineering will be the first division to build out in Birmingham with a mix of hiring and employee transfers.

Richard Gnodde, chief executive officer for Goldman Sachs International, said: “Establishing a new office in Birmingham will diversify our UK footprint and give us access to a broad and deep talent pool in the local area. We see tremendous opportunity to enhance our UK presence and continue delivering for our global clients.”

While other big banks are using the pandemic as an opportunity to rethink their real estate needs as more staff work from home, Goldman Sachs remains an outlier.

In February , Goldman Sachs boss David Solomon labelled the work from home phenomenen as an "aberration".

“I do think for a business like ours, which is an innovative, collaborative apprenticeship culture, this is not ideal for us," he said. "And it’s not a new normal. It’s an aberration that we’re going to correct as soon as possible.” 


3. International – FinTech 

UK TechNews reports: 

“Market-leading Berlin-based subscription startup Grover has today secured €60 million (nearly £52 million) in an oversubscribed Series B funding round involving a number of UK investors. 

A number of UK investors are involved in the round, including circular economy PE firm Circularity Capital and Augmentum Fintech. 

Of this, €45 million (nearly £39 million) came from new investors led by Jonathan Schneider at private equity firm JMS Capital-Everglen along with participation Viola Fintech, Assurant, founders and angel investors from North America and Europe and existing investors, including UK-based circular economy VC, PE firm Circularity Capital, Augmentum Fintech, Samsung Next, Seedcamp and more. Another €15 million (nearly £13 million) came as venture debt financing issued by European growth debt provider Kreos Capital. 

Grover will use the funding to increase market penetration, advance product innovation and accelerate international expansion. It will also support its ambitious goals of tripling its subscriptions of 450,000 by the end of 2021. This will help it bring about a more circular approach to consumer electronics.” 


4. International – FinTech 


Crowdfundinsider runs a primer on non-fungible tokens, with are "five things about NFTs that may surprise you". 

They’re just another type of blockchain token. 

As with anything tokenized on blockchain, it is the functions and features of the NFT that determine what it is, as well as its legal and regulatory classification.  In this respect, there is no difference between fungible and non-fungible tokens.  They are both a form of digital representation of an asset or item on a blockchain database.  As such, an understanding of the rights and entitlements inherent in the token, including those programmed into the blockchain and smart contract as well as any associated written terms and conditions, is necessary to properly classify it.  This is true regardless of its fungible or non-fungible nature.  In fact, the same applies to representations of assets on other types of databases or in other forms.  Just like frequent flyer miles and other loyalty points are governed by terms and conditions, when you approach an NFT, read as much as you can (text and code) about the rights and entitlements associated with it. 

NFTs fulfill the promise of digital uniqueness.  

Blockchain solved the double-spend problem for digital assets.  Through cryptography and transparency, among other things, a blockchain database ensures that a digital item can be spent to only one counterparty at a time, rather than being sold or transferred simultaneously to an infinite number of people.  NFTs take this advance one step further by allowing true uniqueness of a digital item.  Non-fungibility and digital uniqueness are synonyms for these purposes and mean that there is only one of the item.  Now, just because an item is unique or non-fungible does not mean that there cannot be other versions of the thing.  Each orange is unique but there are lots of oranges in the world.  The same is true of any NFT; lots of versions, each unique, can exist. 

NBA Top Shots are going to be regulated.  

venues operated by a central party will be subject to regulation as a result of how anti-money laundering requirements keep ramping up when it comes to blockchain and blockchain-based assets.  NFTs are no exception and the recent draft guidance from FATF, an inter-governmental organization, will result in all trading platforms for NFTs trade being regulated.  NBA Top Shots operates such a trading platform and it is not the only one.  As a result, everyone trading NFTs can expect to go through “know your customer” due diligence that the trading platforms will administer to meet the coming regulations.  All trades will be monitored by the platforms and, in certain situations, by government agencies.  Governments will have access to all this information upon request.  There will be little true privacy.  Fortunately, there is still time to influence the breadth of these requirements so that maybe trading basketball cards will not be a regulated activity simply because it takes place in the digital world.  

You can use the same wallet.  Sometimes.  

Storing and accessing your NFTs requires knowing which platform they are created and maintained on.  For example, an NFT created and maintained on Ethereum, like Cryptokitties or Cryptopunks, can comfortably use the same wallet as any other Ethereum-based token.  For NFTs on other platforms, the wallet may be different.  Certain NFT platforms like NBA Top Shots are privately maintained blockchains and the NFTs created on them are difficult or impossible to move off-platform.  As with fungible tokens, it’s important to know as much as possible about the platform and the transportability of the particular NFT.  If you want a custodian to hold your NFTs, you will want to ensure that they have the right type(s) of wallet(s).  

Unique, programmable tokens mean personalized experiences.  

One feature of blockchain that mainstream watchers often miss is the programmability of tokens. Because they are computer code, a token can be incorporated as part of a computer program or application so that it has particular features or functions. With fungible tokens, the programming generally cannot be targeted at a particular token; the program sees all the tokens as interchangeable and will operate for any of them.  NFTs change that, allowing an application to recognize only that particular one. This capability opens up some really cool possibilities.  Imagine graduating from high school with your NFT diploma that, as you walk around town, opens up special events at restaurants, stores, and friends’ homes just for you.  Your NFT diploma also follows you through whatever virtual worlds you hang out in, giving you access to unique in-game experiences.  Of course, it might be best if your friends, not your high school principal, are picking all this cool stuff for you. 

Unraveling the conundrum of NFTs starts with understanding blockchain and tokenization of assets.  It also requires an in-depth analysis of the functions and features of each NFT and the blockchain it is built on plus the terms and conditions of its existence.  Perhaps then your conundrum of NFTs will become a gallery of NFTs that expands the physical and virtual worlds you inhabit. 


5. International – FinTech 


Finextra reports: 


“The Bank of Russia has set out plans to build a prototype digital ruble by the end of the year. 

The bank has opted for a two-tier retail model which assumes that it is both the issuer of digital rubles and the operator of the platform.

As with China's digital yuan, commercial banks will be able to open electronic wallets for their clients and perform operations over these wallets on the digital ruble platform.

This means individuals and businesses will be able to access the currency through their normal banking app.

Presenting the digital ruble concept, First Deputy Governor Olga Skorobogatova says Bank of Russia is likely to use open source code to build its own proprietaryy DLT platform for the ruble.

Explaining the decision to push ahead with a CBDC, the bank says it will reduce costs for households and businesses, increase the speed of payments, and develop innovative products and services.”