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Mastercard's hub in Sydney: Nearly half of Mastercard's 800 staff in Australia are technology engineers, leading the card network to open a technology and innovation in Sydney, its only such facility in the southern hemisphere, reports Australian Financial Review. The center will focus on artificial intelligence, blockchain, natural language processing and robots. Other work will focus on use cases for augmented reality, serving use cases such as allowing consumers to see how furniture will look in their homes before making a purchase and applications for artificial intelligence to power fraud detection. Language technology will support internet banking prototypes in which users can speak to Alexa or Google Home to make a purchase. Mastercard has additionally used technology picked up from acquisitions of loyalty and rewards business Pinpoint, lab-style technology development from DataCash and artificial intelligence company Brighterion.

iStock
iStock

Payments venture in Poland: Blik, a European mobile payment scheme that relies on collaboration among banks, acquirers and merchants, has received a major regulatory boost in Poland. The Polish central bank has approved the scheme as a national payment system, making Blik the country's first non-card based payment system and giving it immediate access to about 70% of the banking market in Poland. The approval certifies that Blik follows all regulatory requirements and meets standards for security and stability. Blik is built on a partnership of Poland's six largest banks, supporting a single integrated payment platform across all mobile devices, a model it hopes to expand to other countries. Mobile payments technology has expanded quickly in Poland. ING recently added Mastercard to its digital wallet; and Poland was an early market for Android Pay.

Blockchain Steem: Global Blockchain Technologies Corp. has entered into an agreement with Steemit to establish a $20 million Steem Fund. The fund will invest in startups building on the Steem blockchain and others designed to expand the Steem ecosystem. The Steem Fund's startups will support the Smart Media Token (SMT) protocol on the Steem blockchain, which is designed to allow organizations and companies to integrate a token system to their website, portal or platform. Publishers can use SMTs without changing any website infrastructure or functions, a structure designed to hasten fintech development and support improved payments and content connections among consumers, companies and content creators. Global Blockchain and Steemit will determine the ticket size and distribution of all investments, which are planned for full deployment by 2020.

Mobile pay vet takes on credit unions' tech gap: One of the founders of CU Wallet, Paul Fiore, is joining an organization designed to help credit unions scale broader technology and strategic learning curves. Called Credit Union 2.0, it will act as a full-service consultancy, providing branding services, speaking, workshops, digital coaching, custom content and content licensing. While at CU Wallet, Fiore helped build partnerships and developed strategy to encourage consumer adoption. CU Wallet in 2016 was acquired by CU Solutions, which combined the mobile payments technology with ATM technology for credit unions. In early 2017 CU Wallet rebranded as LifeStep Solutions, adding marketing and P-to-P payments. Fiore ended his tenure at the company in April 2017, according to his LinkedIn page. He has also served as CEO of restaurant payment technology company TabbedOut, and was a co-founder of Digital Insight, a financial services technology company that's now part of NCR.

From the Web

Will Cash Disappear?
The New York Times | Tue Nov 14, 2017 - Cash is unlikely to go away soon. Coins and paper currency remain the most popular ways to pay for things in most countries. But longer term, cash appears to be in a losing battle with electronic payment methods. There are few corners of the world where electronic transactions are not growing faster than cash. The consulting firm Capgemini recently estimated that electronic payments will grow about 10.9 percent a year between 2015 and 2020. But the movement away from cash is happening in very different ways and at varying paces around the world.

Start-up R3 has more than 60 firms using its blockchain platform, including Microsoft and Intel
CNBC | Mon Nov 13, 2017 - Start-up R3 now has more than 60 companies, including the likes of Microsoft and Intel, actively using its blockchain platform. The financial technology (fintech) company said Monday that dozens of firms are engaging with its open source distributed database network Corda. R3 added that, as well as the growth of the number of partners using its Corda platform, more than 100 banks, insurance firms, regulators and trade associations are collaborating with the fintech company as members.

'Proptech' follows fintech's footsteps
China Daily | Tue Nov 14, 2017 - Technology adoption to help create unicorns in China's real estate sector. In the past few years, technology has revolutionized the financial sector, and as fintech continues to swell into more sectors, the real estate industry will welcome its own version, known as proptech, according to a senior executive from international real estate consultancy company Jones Lang LaSalle. The report predicted that up to 12 percent of all retail sales will be settled through mobile payments by 2020 (up from 8 percent in 2015), other online payments will account for 16 percent (up from 9 percent in 2015), about 30 percent will be by cash (down from 61 percent in 2010) and debit or credit card payments will account for 41 percent.

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