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Highlights from AWS Fintech Forum 2021

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“Trust arrives on the back of a tortoise and leaves on the back of a galloping horse,” said Joseph Healy, Co-founder and CEO, Judo Bank on the growing trust in the digital banking and payments sector in the last 18 months.

Joseph was speaking at a panel discussion on ‘Reimagining banking for the 21st century’ at the 5th edition of the AWS Fintech Forum held on November 25-26, 2021. Day 1 featured insightful fireside chats and panel discussions, covering everything from leading trends in the fintech space, how fintechs can grow and scale, neobanking, the path to unicorn status, and more.

Puneet Chandok, President – India and South Asia, AWS and Shradha Sharma, founder and CEO of YourStory opened the AWS Fintech Forum with a fireside chat on all things fintech, before the panel discussions for the day began.

Here is a look at some of the most relevant themes that were discussed on the first day of the forum.

Trends in neobanking

The business of banking is evolving rapidly, and neobanking is one of the most exciting and interesting spaces in the sector today. “Unlike consumer apps, banking apps lack interactivity. Customers’ expectations have evolved as they demand more interactivity, personalisation, recommendations, reviews, and ratings. They want everything in context and we are trying to address that,” said Jitendra Gupta, Founder and CEO, Jupiter on the ever-changing nature of consumer expectations, and the growing need for hyper personalisation in banking products and services.

Joseph further discussed the disconnect between banks and the communities they serve – particularly the SME sector.

Concurring with Joseph, Mabel Chacko, Co-founder and COO, Open Financial Technologies also spoke about how incumbent banks view small businesses. She highlighted the roadblocks in her journey and the lack of licenses for digital banking. The third trend, she discussed, was the need to integrate the business banking world with the business finance world by getting all players in the ecosystem together on one single platform to help entrepreneurs view everything – from banking, accounting, compliance, taxation, payroll, and more.

Nikhil Kumar, Co-founder, Setu echoed similar sentiments on the need for collaboration, speaking about how APIs are the way to scale partnerships. “Setu is solving banking infrastructures so that fintechs can focus on building incredible customer experiences for SMEs or retail customers,” he stated.

Secret sauce to success in fintech

While Sayali Karanjkar, Co-founder and CBO, PaySense, wanted to solve the gap in information and a gap in credit for the masses, neobanking startup Zolve founder Raghunandan G spoke about building businesses to solve fundamental and simple problems. Addressing the fragmented nature of large markets, Nitin Gupta, Founder and CEO, Uni spoke on building solutions for key sub segments in these markets.

The speakers were a part of a panel discussion on ‘Fintechs’ Road to Success: Growth, Acquisitions & IPOs’. Many fintechs start with a truly disruptive idea. However, there is a pivotal moment when organisations understand that they need to scale. Talking about that moment, Raghunandan G said that very often, regulations play a role in that pivotal moment. Targeting fairly diverse customer segments, Zolve gave them insights into what customers truly wanted. “The consumer’s behaviour is to access credit and to pay the credit. They have the intent and ability to pay. Only people in the other country don’t have access to that information, but we thought that it’s okay to provide them access to credit so that they continue with the same behaviour in the home country and in the new country,” he said.

The key component of a fintech’s success, the panel discussed, is security. Uni’s Nitin pointed to the potential and pitfalls of an organisation’s strategy on security. “Fintechs must keep in mind two aspects of security – capability (hiring the right talent) and commitment (constantly reviewing and updating security protocols and practices). In the same vein, Sayali spoke about the importance of identifying and stopping scalable fraud, and Raghunandan discussed balancing fraud management with customer experiences.

“The occurrence of fraud made us realise we are doing something right and a lot more people want us, so it was actually a signal for making sure we’re positioned for growth,” said Sayali.

Finally, the panel spoke about the potential areas of growth for fintechs, highlighting the importance of SaaS in the sector, the need for solutions in rural and underserved communities, and how companies had to learn to leverage technology to build personalised services and products for each and every customer.

Trends and opportunities in the next decade

In the period between January and August 2021, fintechs in India raised around Rs 4.6 billion – 5.8 times the amount than last year. Besides the phenomenal work by both early- and late-stage companies in the last 18 months, IPOs have also gone a long way in instilling investor confidence that this is a market interested in creating long-term value. There is also a lot of depth in the talent pool in India and founder quality is at an all-time high. With these significant developments, what does the next decade look like for the fintech sector?

In a fireside chat on ‘Trends, opportunity and challenges for next decade in fintech and financial services’, Aditi Namdeo, Chief Partnerships Officer, Reserve Bank Innovation Hub spoke about how the Hub aims to foster and evangelise innovation. She also discussed the need to bring the ecosystem – financial institutes, academics, innovation hubs, investors, and startups – together to discuss new innovations and where investment needs to go to solve local and imminent needs.

Consumer behaviour will play a key role in the next decade of fintech. Moderator Sandeep Laxman, Head – Fintech of AWS India and Varun Malhotra, Partner, Quona Capital spoke about the evolution of customer behaviour in the last 18 months. Varun noted that the pandemic had created some positive outcomes for the sector, by pushing consumers to take their first steps on digital platforms. Now, the question for most fintechs would revolve around retaining these customers.

“Consumer trust in fintechs is hard to earn and easy to lose. Fintechs would now need to ask themselves existential questions – particularly, if their products were actually delivering value and capable of retaining customers, because the answer would determine their futures,” he said.

Another big development in the sector is UPI. From 2 billion transactions in October 2020, UPI payments have grown exponentially to 4.2 billion transactions in October 2021. Talking about how Aadhaar and UPI were the first digital structures in India that drew enormous levels of financial inclusion, Aditi said, We have been a lighthouse for the world when it comes to Aadhar and UPI infrastructure creation.”

She further shed light on how rural India and low-income Indians remain unaddressed by the banking and financial sector, and stressed on the need to create solutions to bring them into formal banking systems. She also expressed the need to build a larger community of women startup founders in India. According to Varun, consolidation would be a major part of the Indian fintech story.

How AWS helps fintechs grow

Across the globe, fintechs are using AWS to transform the landscape of the banking and financial services sector. This is particularly true in India, where AWS has partnered, supported, and enabled the vision of some of the biggest and brightest organisations. ​​Sandeep spoke about AWS’s role in creating change in India’s fintech sector, and the different ways in which the organisation supports early- and late-stage fintechs.

“In fintech and financial services compliance and security is job zero.”

One of the key reasons why fintechs are drawn to AWS is security and compliance. AWS has resources, programs, and structures in place to help navigate India’s complex regulatory ecosystem and multiple regulators. AWS has mapped and created documents that fintechs can use to comply with important regulations, such as data localisation and cybersecurity requirements.

AWS also offers their customers’ important tools and guidance to enable compliance, along with detailed, deep industry experience, and consistent security reviews to help their customers meet the stringent standards in the industry.

Finally, he introduced attendees to different programs across the different levels of startup growth.


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Better together: Offsetting cybersecurity’s labor challenges with API integrations

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The labor challenges afflicting cybersecurity teams far and wide are no secret. A razor-tight hiring market coupled with surging demand and an accelerating threat landscape has created a perfect storm of complexity, resulting in a widening skills gap that is driving higher levels of burnout and human error across the sector. In fact, Verizon’s independently commissioned 2022 Data Breach Investigations Report found that 82% of breaches today involve some degree of human error. Whether it’s an unsuspecting end user or a bleary-eyed analyst, the vulnerabilities caused by cognitive overload shouldn’t be overlooked.  

Take the recent high-profile Uber data breach. A malicious actor, posing as an internal IT administrator, used digital collaboration channels to trick an Uber employee into giving up their VPN credentials, leading to a total compromise of the rideshare giant’s network infrastructure. The breach exemplified the consequences of a social engineering attack targeting the always-on hybrid workforce. And with the rate of such attacks accelerating in volume and velocity, it’s clear that more visibility of these threats is needed for security teams to effectively remediate them.

Many organizations are investing in a plethora of new, best-in-class security products in response to staffing shortages. However, reactive patchwork spending on the industry’s latest niche products shouldn’t be viewed as the answer, as the tool sprawl often creates additional complexity that hurts organizations more than it helps. Enterprises, on average, have 60 to 80 different security monitoring tools in their portfolio, many of which go unused, underutilized or forgotten. Forcing security teams to master a myriad of tools, consoles and workflows shifts priorities from managing risk to managing technology.

An integrated cybersecurity framework

The companies best positioned to offset cybersecurity’s labor challenges are those adopting best-of-breed security tools and platforms that offer a deep library of API and third-party integrations. Above all, an integrated framework empowers organizations to effectively navigate their unique environments by consolidating tools and reducing human error through the following three processes:

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  • Improved protection via security intelligence and threat sharing: This enables rapid recognition and response to incoming threats via machine learning analytics tools, strengthening a human analyst’s ability to formulate swift and comprehensive cyberdefense measures.
  • Improved efficiency via automation: This enables offloading of repetitive and mundane manual tasks to AI-enabled tools, streamlining human workflows by accelerating and improving key facets of incident response and vulnerability management.
  • Improved prevention via sharing and consolidating tool data: This enables complete, real-time visibility into an organization’s entire security environment to promote the creation of targeted alerts that uncover unknown threats.

In collaborating with a wider range of security vendors, organizations leveraging API integrations benefit from the combined knowledge of all integrated platforms to greatly improve overall security posture. The extensive access to timely threat intelligence allows security teams to align prevention, investigation and response plans across multiple security controls, as well as increase the speed of their detection and remediation efforts.

Amid the widespread adoption of cloud-based hybrid work environments, it’s increasingly clear that organizational security architectures must consist of scalable, tightly integrated solutions that combine the right balance of automated prevention, detection and response capabilities to effectively protect data across its lifecycle.

Enhancing detection and increasing cybersecurity efficacy

An open API integration framework is the embodiment of unlocking strength in numbers. It stitches together the critical functions and processes performed by foundational security tools — email security, endpoint security, web security, NDR, data security — into a single meshed framework that operates in unison and shares centralized threat intelligence data across its ecosystem. By connecting all the pieces of the puzzle, organizations gain the resources to enhance their prevention and detection capabilities in complex environments.

In one scenario, an API framework could enable automated processes to continuously flow between an email gateway and security service edge (SSE) to corresponding SIEM/XDR systems. This would allow security teams to share rich logging, metadata, indicators of compromise, malicious URLs, user activity, data movement and machine learning analytics in real time. The AI-powered SIEM platform automates the analysis of that threat data, sifting through the noise to generate actionable alerts with contextual information for security teams. Meanwhile, the real-time contextual insights provide simplified guidance for analysts to alleviate potential threats and, if needed, formulate a swift response to an attack.

With access to a wider range of threat data touchpoints, cybersecurity teams can also create customized scripts within the overarching API library. This gives them “targeted capabilities” that more directly align with their specific needs and skillsets. For instance, the team could create a script that simultaneously analyzes email security logs from Vendor A, data protection logs from Vendor B, web security click logs from Vendor C, and spam filter logs from Vendor D, based on which intel is most relevant to their specific use case. Filtering the exceedingly high volumes of incoming alerts enhances the efficiency of the entire team, empowering analysts to identify needles in the haystack by prioritizing the right alerts at the right times for maximized protection.

Automating manual processes and workflows

Despite the growing number of innovative, best-in-class products available on the market today, it’s important to remember that a multi-vector social engineering attack is exceedingly difficult for hybrid security teams to combat regardless of the tools in their stack. Quick and agile responses are non-negotiable in these situations, but with resources stretched thin and employees working from multiple locations, executing swift corrective action free of human error is easier said than done. Even the most experienced and skilled security teams are susceptible to mistakes while trying to remediate an attack. Therefore, identifying how to automate well-defined processes wherever possible is imperative for tightening these response durations and ensuring security teams can remediate quickly and effectively.

With access to an open API library, organizations can integrate the capabilities of additional AI/ML security tools into their existing security architecture to automate the repetitive steps of protection, detection, response, mitigation and intelligence sharing. Whether it’s informing an endpoint security provider of an emerging alert, or securely moving data from one storage solution to another, API-driven automation can handle the routine, error-prone tasks cybersecurity teams perform every day. Streamlining these otherwise human-centric workflows allows overstretched analysts to instead focus on more critical threat assessments requiring extensive time and attention. That, on a macro level, strengthens the security posture of the greater organization.

There’s no magic bullet that will completely reverse cybersecurity’s labor challenges in the immediate future. But there are proactive steps organizations can take now to provide the critical support their security teams need today. For effectively navigating a complex threat landscape, there’s no better place to start than with the applied adoption of a deep API integration framework.

After all, cybersecurity is a team sport. Why defend alone when you can defend together? 

Joseph Tibbetts is senior director for tech alliances and API at Mimecast.

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It’s foie gras season in unicorn land • TechCrunch

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W

elcome to the TechCrunch Exchange, a weekly startups-and-markets newsletter. It’s inspired by the daily TechCrunch+ column where it gets its name. Want it in your inbox every Saturday? Sign up here.

With most startups getting repriced behind closed doors, we love getting data that gives us a glimpse of what’s going on. This week, our new information comes from EquityZen, which shared insights on secondary stock sales. EquityZen also put up a few IPO predictions that gave us food for thought. Let’s explore. — Anna

A glimpse of repricing

How do you know when a unicorn has lost its billion-dollar valuation? Usually you only find out long after the fact, when — and if — the company raises a down round that makes it clear that its equity valuation is no longer in the unicorn realm.

The thing is, not many founders want to advertise that they have raised capital at a lower valuation than their previous round; in most cases, they just won’t disclose their new valuation.

As market observers, this leaves us with little data on a topic that our readers do care about: What kind of repricing they could expect. This is why we were grateful for Instacart, which made it public that it reduced its valuation through a 409A price change. This wasn’t good news, but it was a helpful data point for everyone involved. However, that was back in March.



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This Top-Rated PDF Solution Is 66% Off Now

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Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Paper has made its way largely out of business, but that doesn’t mean you don’t still work with documents regularly. Instead, we’re just working with them differently: with the dreaded PDF. These static files can be great if you’re positive that a document is ready, but a serious nightmare when you have to make changes. When you’re working with a lot of PDFs, you need a quality digital solution.



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These are just the tip of the iceberg of positive reviews for this all-in-one PDF solution for individuals and businesses. With it, you can edit any PDF document across Windows, Mac, iOS, and Android devices, adding or deleting text, editing fonts and color, and much more. The tool allows you to add, crop, rotate, replace, extract or delete images, watermark documents, and password-protect them for elevated confidentiality. You can also easily annotate PDFs, highlight, underline, or strike out text, add shapes and notes, and much more. Finally, it’s even easy to convert any PDF to Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and a ton of other file types in just a click.

Working with PDFs has never been easier than with a lifetime subscription to UPDF Pro. Grab it on sale for 66% off $149 at just $49.99, the best price you’ll find online.

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