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Industry roundup: 11 November

AFP conference a step back to normality

The Association for Financial Professionals (AFP) has concluded its annual conference, marking a step back towards normal times with the first in-person event for two years held in Washington DC.

Unlike last year’s event, which was all virtual and spread over 11 days, AFP 2021 was “an integrated, in-person and virtual event“ that took place from 7 to 10 November. Reports suggest that the in-person sessions attracted a crowd of approximately one-third of the usual numbers due to the persistence of the Covid-19 pandemic, but reports suggest that corporate treasurers, cash managers, bankers and institutional money market fund managers were nonetheless well represented.

This year’s conference ended with Health Care Service Corporation being named as winner of the Association for Financial Professionals 2021 Pinnacle Grand Prize for excellence in treasury and finance. The Pinnacle Grand Prize, sponsored by Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group, was presented on the final day.

In a speech at the conference, Healthcare Financial Management Association (HFMA) 2021-22 Chair Tammie L. Jackson called on healthcare finance leaders to focus on reducing healthcare disparities and promoting health equity in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, which she referred to as a before-and-after event.

“Health disparities have long been part of our ‘before’ narrative, well researched and documented for decades,” said Jackson, “No matter your role in this industry, there is much we can each do to make bold decisions and promote health equity. If we are well informed, well educated and well-intentioned, our future looks brighter. As an industry, we can be better than we were before.”

The Association has already begun accepting registrations for AFP 2022, which it plans to host in Philadelphia from 23 to 26 October next year.

Crypto for corporate treasury Meow raises US$5m funding

Meow, which describes itself as “the future of modern, compliant investing for corporate treasuries“ announced that that the company has raised US$5 million via a seed round of funding.

Coinbase Ventures, Gemini Frontier Fund, Lux Capital, and various cryptocurrency entities including Jump Capital, Slow Ventures, Shine Capital, Castle Island Ventures, Acrylic, amongst others, participated in the round.

In its release, the company stated “Until now, corporate treasuries have lacked a compliance-first, user-friendly path to deliver cash-in-cash-out participation in emerging blue-chip cryptocurrency investment opportunities. Meow eliminates the need for complex crypto wallets, to enable the most direct and compliant bridge between institutional investors and crypto market yield. The company plans to provide access directly to decentralized finance (DeFi) protocols for crypto yield.”

“Corporate treasuries, who are typically more cautious and measured investors, will have direct, cash-in-cash-out access to the most trusted digital trading desks and protocols, to potentially yield them return on cash that currently sits idle in a savings account,” said Brandon Arvanaghi, co-founder and CEO, Meow. “Meow ensures SEC-compliant access for corporate treasuries to emerging crypto opportunities, which is what they have been quietly asking for and now opens the doors for Wall Street to confidently participate.”

Meow says that it seeks to deliver compliant investing for corporate treasures that may offer some protection from the risks of inflation and provide crypto-sourced yield in fiat (USD). Enabling corporate investors to interact with decentralised finance (DeFi) protocols in cash, which is an established way for them to operate, will provide a user-friendly, compliance-first, sustainable and long-term approach to participate in emerging crypto investments and potential yields.

“The Meow team has an elegant vision for streamlining corporate treasuries cash-based access to compliant crypto investing and yield,” said Brandon Reeves, Partner at Lux Capital. “The Meow team is fundamentally compliance-minded. They go above and beyond when it comes to regulation and doing things the right way. Meow is built in the right way -- for the long term -- and will be an important crypto investing market player for many years to come.”

“Founded by a team of veteran cryptocurrency and former Gemini engineers, Meow is focused on developing a compliant-first approach to corporate treasury participation in crypto markets and anticipates additional funding in a Series A in the near future,” the release concluded.

India’s CredAble launches credit/cash flow management app for SMEs

New Dehli-based CredAble, an artificial intelligence (AI)-powered technology platform enabling working capital financing across enterprise ecosystems, has introduced UpScale, an app designed for SMEs and micro SMEs in India. 

CredAble says that it disbursed 3,500 crore worth of loans to more than 100,000 Indian small businesses last month. With UpScale, the company plans to penetrate deeper into the ecosystem offering tailor-made solutions for small business owners.

The company adds that Indian SMEs are largely starved in terms of credit and growth, yet contribute nearly 30% of the country’s GDP. “Due to broken financial management, only 16% of MSMEs have access to formal credit, creating a gap of $350 billion,” says Nirav Choksi, co-founder & CEO, CredAble.

“Thus, it is important that MSMEs manage their finances better and scale faster. With UpScale, our aim is to create inclusive growth for small businesses by providing them with cash management, payment, credit and growth tools that will enable small business owners to efficiently grow and manage their businesses.”

CredAble describes UpScale as a credit and cash flow management app that connects with the existing accounting software of a business, syncs in transaction details, connects with bank accounts and credit bureaux and gives instant access to working capital with the help of partnering financial institutions.

While looking into banking, payments, accounting, reporting, working capital requirements and other growth tools, it takes care of a real-time and unified view of complete financial operations. The agile user interface on the web and mobile, with an easy-to-access dashboard and other features, saves the user’s time while real-time data helps them make informed decisions to manage financial operations like collection and payments and avail instant, collateral-free access to working capital financing along with other growth tools.

Talos plans to open Singapore office

Fintech firm Talos, which specialises in the institutional trading of digital assets, has expanded into Asia with the hiring of Samar Sen as Head of Asia-Pacific and announced plans to open a Singapore office imminently.

Over his 20-year career, Sen has held product, strategy, and technology leadership roles at capital markets firms across the industry. Prior to joining Talos, he served as the Global Head of Digital Products for Securities Services at Deutsche Bank, where he co-led the bank’s digital asset strategy and product delivery. He previously held senior Asia-based roles at BNP Paribas, Barclays, and TradeHero after starting his career at Goldman Sachs in New York.

Sen’s appointment is the latest senior hire for the firm following a US$40 million Series A funding round led by Andreessen Horowitz. Earlier this year, Talos hired Justin Schmidt, formerly Head of Digital Asset Markets for Goldman Sachs, as Head of Strategy, and Alfonse Mandese, ex-Citi, as Head of Sales and Business Development.

“As a technology firm focused exclusively on helping institutions around the world safely and efficiently access the digital asset markets, it’s important that our team brings the proper understanding of the challenges our clients and prospects face,” says Anton Katz, Co-Founder and CEO. “With his background as a capital markets technologist, Samar most definitely fits the bill. We’re excited to add someone of his calibre to lead our APAC growth strategy and look forward to his future success as we grow into 2022 and beyond.”

“Talos is one of the most respected firms in the crypto industry, quietly working with many of the world’s largest financial institutions on their digital asset strategies,” says Sen. “As institutional investors and their service providers increasingly allocate capital toward digital assets, they will require Talos’s institutional-grade trading platform and its connectivity to global liquidity. The quality of Talos’s products and their engineering talent is unrivalled in the market, and I cannot wait to contribute to the team’s vision. The opportunity to scale a platform built for an entirely new asset class comes around perhaps once in a career.”

“As we all know, crypto is 24/7 and global. Talos has been expanding organically in Asia for some time now, and simply put it's time we create a local presence to help us better serve our clients. Talos looks forward to working with Singapore and hiring locally for all business functions across revenue, technology, and operations.” adds Schmidt.

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