Launched by Accenture in Hong Kong in June 2014, the Lab is a collaboration between Accenture and a dozen leading financial institutions – Bank of America Merrill Lynch, China Construction Bank (Asia), China Citic Bank International, Commonwealth Bank of Australia, Credit Suisse, Goldman Sachs, HSBC, J.P. Morgan, Maybank, Morgan Stanley, Standard Chartered and UBS. Situated in the Hong Kong Cyberport purpose of the Lab is to incubate startup companies developing new technologies for the financial services sector with emphasis on the Asia-Pacific region.
Bitspark has a cross-border remittance platform that uses bitcoin blockchain technology to send and receive payments in developing markets, such as the Philippines and Indonesia. Its cloud-based web platform enables money-transfer operators and financial institutions to manage payment information, customer due diligence, and real-time business analytics. Bitspark connects offline businesses such as corner store remittance shops and online businesses to unbanked customers via its on-the-ground network providers. The proposed benefits of the platform include easy access to mobile-first markets, increased profits for money-transfer businesses, and reduced costs for customers. Bitspark is apparently expanding its platform to more money transfer operators and financial institutions throughout Asia. In late May 2015, Bitspark won the Innotribe Challenge and will represent Asia as finalist at the Sibos 2015.
For Sparro, the goal is to develop a fast, secure platforms that makes cross-border payments from Australia as easy as domestic payments. Built on the Ripple protocol, it is designed to support low-value, high-volume cross-border payments and reduce bank processing costs. Sparro’s platforms are quickly deployable, cloud-hosted and provided to banks as a payment option for their customers. According to Sparro, customers can use the Sparro payment network for their cross-border payments from within their existing banking platform with no modification to their current workflow.
Jon Allaway, senior managing director, Financial Services at Accenture, commented:
We’re extremely impressed with the energy and enthusiasm the startups have demonstrated for creating solutions that are intuitive for customers, secure for financial institutions and cost-effective for everyone. It’s exciting working with the entrepreneurs because, like Accenture, they envisage a future where technology solutions not only arm financial institutions with far-more-sophisticated, fine-tuned data but also make everyday transactions simpler for consumers.
George Harrap, CEO of Bitspark commented:
There is a clear trend in the banking industry in 2015 that they are ready to engage in the world of Cryptocurrency and Blockchain technology. We are happy to be introducing our world leading Blockchain powered remittance platform to the financial services industry who can not only assist us to accelerate our business but also provide us with support, mentorship and the contacts to ensure we can bring our technology to the market in the best way possible.
The entrepreneurs from the startups chosen for the Lab will be mentored for 12 weeks by leading executives from financial services firms through a series of panel discussions, workshops, one-to-one coaching and networking opportunities. At the end of the program, the entrepreneurs will be given an opportunity to present their concepts to potential investors and financial industry executives.
The FinTech Innovation Lab Asia-Pacific is modeled on a similar program that was co-founded by Accenture and the Partnership Fund for New York City in 2010. The Partnership Fund for New York City is the $115 million investment arm of the Partnership for New York City. The Fund’s mission is to engage NYC’s business leaders to identify and support promising NYC-based entrepreneurs in both the for-profit and non-profit sectors to create jobs, spur new business and expand opportunities for New Yorkers to participate in the City’s economy. Since that time, Accenture has launched other FinTech Innovation Labs in London (2012) and Dublin (2014). The New York FinTech Innovation Lab’s 24 alumni companies have raised a total of $176 million in financing after participating in the program, and one alumni company was acquired last year for $175 million. The 14 companies that passed through the London program in the first two years raised more than US$35 million in new investment, signed nearly 50 contracts to do business with banks, and increased revenues by 170 percent. Participants in the Asia-Pacific Lab have thus far raised more than US$26.5 million.