News Briefing - Crowdfunding, SME And Alternative Finance

Bank Underground station

1. UK – FinTech

OakNorth’s chief financial officer, Cristina Alba Ochoa, is to step down from her role. AltFi reports:

“In a statement, a spokesperson for OakNorth said: “Due to personal reasons Christina intends to move back to Barcelona to be closer to family.”

“She will be moving there permanently in due course but will remain CFO at OakNorth Bank for at least the next 12 months.”

Despite stepping down from the role of CFO of OakNorth Bank, Alba Ochoa will remain within the business.

The soon-to-be-former CFO will assume a role within another part of the fintech following the appointment of her replacement, for whom OakNorth is currently on the hunt for.”

2. UK – FinTech

“Behavioural biometrics” – the way we interact with our devices – are set to replace passwords in online finance, according to a report in the FinTech Times.

“Next year, an additional form of authentication will be required for some transactions when Strong Customer Authentication comes into force. However, the technology, which has been customised in partnership with Visa for the purpose of increased transaction security, could replace passwords and helps to make payments more secure.

Strong Customer Authentication is part of the PSD2 regulation and is an extra layer of security designed to prevent payment fraud and check that it is the cardholder making the payment.

Behavioural biometrics works by analysing the unique ways a customer interacts with their device when making an online purchase. The technology uses this information to confirm who is making the purchase and does not access or share any private data held on a device.

Working in the background of a transaction, the technology is able to deliver a seamless experience for customers while ensuring a high level of security.

The development represents a major breakthrough in the application of biometric technology, with NatWest the first bank to test the technology specifically for the purpose of SCA compliance.”

3. UK – FinTech

There’s so much smoke here, the possibility of a fire seems minimal. This deal gets postponed for the fifth time… AltFi reports:

“Waterfall Asset Management has delayed its proposed takeover of Pollen Street Secured Lending (PSSL) for the fifth time.

The deal, which has been on the table since late February, has now been pushed back until 14 July 2020.

In an RNS statement published earlier this week, Waterfall said it “remains committed to pursuing the possible offer.”

The stock market update also noted that, in lieu of the offer being finalised, shareholders are “minded to support an orderly run-off of the Company's assets and return of capital to shareholders.”

When the deal was first proposed in February, PSSL's share price jumped to 884p, but following the first extension of the deadline in March 2020, the share price nearly halved to just 432p.

Since then, the share price has remained fairly steady, currently sitting at 719p, a slight increase from the start of the week where it sat at 690p.

The news comes as tensions continue between the PSSL and its manager, Pollen Street Capital, 

As news first broke of a possible offer in February, PSSL accused Pollen Street Capital of "serious governance issues".

Since then, PSSL has threatened legal action against Pollen Street Capital, after the latter reportedly failed to provide key documents needed for the takeover.”


4. UK – SMEs

UK TechNews reports:

“Visionable, the first video collaboration platform designed especially for healthcare teams’ advanced clinical needs, has raised £6 million in an oversubscribed Series A1 funding round. The private placement, completed within 24 hours, was led by West Hill Capital.

To meet unprecedented demand, Visionable is rapidly upscaling its operations by building up its team to be 60 strong by the end of June, from 14 employees in May 2019, accelerating technology research and development, and in international expansion.”


5. International – SMEs/Fintech

Headline of the week goes to the FT. “Why this market is like Donald Trump’s hair” – unnaturally high and liable to be blown away at any moment. 

Unfortunately, this opinion piece spends three hundred words congratulating itself on its cleverness before getting to some well-made points (see the meat in the sandwich, below):

“In times of crisis, investors have traditionally turned to defensive stocks such as utilities, reckoning that we will still require our basic needs to be fulfilled. However, the industry is changing rapidly. “Green” two years ago was seen as a conscience easing add-on for your investments. 

Now renewable energy is the future and any power company that does not wear its non-carbon credentials proudly will be losing business. The same applies to the water industry (which always seems to leave out the key part of its role, which is sewage). Whether through shortages or quality variations, we will always need water — although I have to say, some I have met recently could do with using it more frequently (preferably aided by some soap). Infrastructure funds are one way of gaining exposure. 

Then we have food. Lockdown has changed our shopping habits, but internet delivery is not the only trend — the pandemic has moved us all towards a more local focus. As well as Amazon and the food retailers, be alive to the opportunity of investing in local food initiatives which will no doubt be looking for backers as entrepreneurs seize the opportunity (which could be financed via crowdfunding, impact investing and potentially EIS investments). 

Considering our ageing population, investments in healthcare and pharmaceutical companies must also form part of our portfolio. I come from the generation where drugs were optional and even a source of (illegal) entertainment. Now, in my case, they are becoming compulsory although lacking in any entertainment value. All I do know is that my entire generation seems to require pill boxes to keep their medication close to them. And then there’s communications. 

Again, the astonishing change in this area means that the concept of a phone company is positively antique. Back in January, did any of you know what Zoom was? For those with children, it has been vital under lockdown to have fast and reliable “comms” for all, if only to maintain domestic harmony. The integrated communications companies have now conflated the television, the computer and phone into an essential service for us all.”