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Australian government welcomes fintech: Australia's new budget takes major steps to encourage financial and payments technology, leveraging the political unpopularity of established banks, reports The Australian.The budget imposes new taxes on the country's large banks, expands Australia's fintech sandbox to include more products that don't need a license for testing, and extends the sandbox testing period from one to two years. Australia is also planning to allow startups to more easily access bank consumer data and reduces steps necessary for financial technology companies to become "challenger banks" by easing shareholder restrictions.The government is also reducing taxes on digital currencies, which are seen as a hindrance on the growth of bitcoin and other digital currencies. The Australian government has taken this sort of political stance before. While Apple's hardly a startup, Australian regulators sided with the technology company in the recent Apple Pay fee dispute with Australia's large banks.

Bloomberg News
Bloomberg News

App bank goes real time U.K.: As financial institutions around the world try to figure out how to deploy real-time payment processing, a U.K. institution is building its own network for real-time transactions. One of the first app banks in the U.K., Starling, plans to launch a service enabling hundreds of companies to access the U.K.'s payment system to facilitate real-time mobile transactions, reports the Financial Times. Starling's real-time payments service draws on the technology that powers the bank's account and money management systems. Companies will be able to connect to faster payments to for direct debits and transfers. Julian Sawyer, Starling's COO, told the Financial Times its service would be "open" to provide instant access so other banks could offer their customers real-time payments, considered a key element in powering mobile and other digital wallets.

German ID Alliance: As organizations such as the FIDO Alliance attempt to digitize authentication via standardization for payments and financial transactions, a group of large German financial services companies is aiming to standardize identity across industries. The group includes Deutsche Bank, Allianz, Axel Springer, Daimler and Postbank, which are collaborating on a standard online access system that includes a master key, reports wtvbam. The key will serve to authenticate users across multiple industries, and Deutsche says it can be used to help secure digital payments and financial services. The partners are building a platform that will be open and compatible, with Gemeran government agencies supervising projects under the alliance's umbrella. The alliance is also courting companies in other industries, including aviation, e-commerce, retailers and telcos.

Correspondent banks face pressure beyond startups: There's a growing number of startups using innovations such as cloud delivery and blockchain to take costs out of cross-border payments, with their marketing pitches usually targeting the time and expense of using correspondent banks to handle currency conversion and other tasks tied to international payments. Correspondent banks are also facing an additional hurdle from anti money laundering compliance, which has contributed to a 25% drop in global connections over the past eight years, according to Finextra, which cites research from Accuity. Many of the regulations stem from the financial crisis of 2008, when banks were required to increase liquidity thresholds and provide greater transparency. The trend is most notable in Latin America, according to Finextra.

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Casino haven Macau turns to facial recognition to protect UnionPay
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