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Industry roundup: 16 August

Citi introduces lending platform to expand access to capital for US businesses

Citi has announced the launch of Bridge built by Citi, a lending platform that is designed to help small and medium-sized businesses connect with various regional, local and community banks online for loans up to US$10m. The platform will initially include 18 banks and will be available to businesses through a pilot programme across the Southeast and Rockies regions, including Alabama, Colorado, Georgia, Louisiana, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee.

For many small and medium-sized businesses in the US, securing a loan involves manual processes that can be time consuming. Often, they are limited to banks near their own location. Additionally, local and community banks have limited access to digital tools to reach potential borrowers, which can make it difficult to broaden their customer base. Bridge built by Citi connects businesses with lenders in their region, enabling borrowers to interact with lenders beyond those that have a physical location nearby through an online request. By connecting borrowers with more lenders, Citi says the platform can empower businesses with access, choice and convenience, as well as capital to grow their businesses. Lenders can expand their reach beyond their immediate local market and offer their clients a seamless, high-quality user experience.

The Bridge built by Citi platform aims to achieve the following five goals:

  1. Create liquidity and access to capital. Borrowers submit their information via a single, standardised form for all lenders. Lenders are provided with an access point to deploy capital.
  2. Modernise and automate prospecting. The platform uses technology to allow for smart and efficient prospecting, which works better for both lenders and borrowers.
  3. Add digitisation, transparency and standardisation to the loan process. Borrowers and lenders have the ability to track the loan process in real-time.
  4. Continue to innovate and digitise small and medium-sized business lending. Bridge built by Citi modernises the lending process while supporting businesses and regional, local and community lenders.
  5. Democratise the loan process for both lenders and borrowers. Enable capital access for small and medium-sized business owners impacted by COVID-19 and populations that have historically been underserved, as well as break down legacy barriers for regional, local and community banks to provide capital to a broad range of communities.


Bank of Ghana and Giesecke+Devrient to pilot first general purpose CBDC in Africa

The Bank of Ghana has partnered with Giesecke+Devrient (G+D) to pilot a general purpose central bank digital currency (retail CBDC) in Ghana, West Africa. G+D is providing the technology and developing the solution adapted to Ghana’s requirements, which will be tested in a trial phase with banks, payment service providers, merchants, consumers and other relevant stakeholders.

To this end, the Bank of Ghana has signed an agreement with G+D to implement a pilot CBDC project as a precursor to the issuance of a digital form of the national currency, the Cedi. The project is part of the 'Digital Ghana Agenda', which involves the digitisation of the country of 30 million people and its government services. The digital Cedi, or 'e-Cedi', is intended to complement and serve as a digital alternative to physical cash, thus driving the Ghanaian 'cashlite' agenda through promotion of diverse digital payments, while ensuring a secure and robust payment infrastructure in Ghana. It also aims to facilitate payments without a bank account, contract, or smartphone, by boosting the use of digital services and financial inclusion among all demographic groups.

The project will be divided into three phases: design, implementation and pilot. In the design phase, all framework parameters for the CBDC pilot will be specified and defined. These include economic, regulatory and technical requirements of the country as well as the definition of the parameters for the test phase. In accordance with these individual requirements, G+D's CBDC solution would be adapted for the Ghanaian context in the second phase. In the pilot phase, a user group of diverse demographic and socio-economic backgrounds will test the solution in the field using different channels and form factors such as mobile apps and smart cards.

Over the course of the pilot project, a study will be conducted on the acceptance of the e-Cedi from the end users' perspective. In addition, the IT security of the infrastructure, impact of the project on monetary policy and payment system, and the legal implications will be evaluated. Insights from pilot user experiences should provide Bank of Ghana and G+D with valuable lessons for a nationwide rollout of the e-Cedi.


SBI Ripple Asia and Global Money Express launch DLT-based money transfer service between South Korea and Thailand

SBI Ripple Asia has announced that it has partnered with Global Money Express (GME), a South Korean money transfer company, and launched a DLT-based money transfer business between South Korea and Thailand.

In Asia, SBI Ripple Asia has been promoting payment platforms across the continent - including South Korea and Japan - by utilising RippleNet, the next-generation payment platform developed by Ripple. Thailand is one of the countries with the highest demand for money transfers in South Korea. Through this partnership, real-time and low-cost transfer of funds between GME and Siam Commercial Bank (SCB) of Thailand is now available.

SBI Ripple Asia says it will continue to expand its network in the Asian region and strive to develop inexpensive, secure, and highly convenient services that utilise cutting-edge technologies. For financial institutions that wish to participate in RippleNet, SBI Ripple Asia will work with US Ripple to further expand and strengthen its customer base by providing marketing support programmes and introducing partner financial institutions.

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