Will Walmart play an important role in finance’s future?
The as-yet-untitled project will reportedly see the retailer bring its familiar ethos of customer inclusivity to “modern, innovative and affordable financial solutions.”
“These are substantive hires that should serve as an unambiguous signal of Walmart’s seriousness regarding its fintech foray,” Isaac Boltansky, Analyst at . “The regulatory moat that has shielded traditional commercial banks is steadily evaporating and the competitive risks are profound.”
The evolution of digital finance
Recent weeks have shown incumbent banks placing an emphasis on shoring up their digital platforms, presumably both to take on digital-native competitors/challengers and in recognition of shifting consumer preferences following COVID-19.
An inherent strength of incumbents is their legacy; hard-won customer trust cannot be developed quickly in the same way as technology, a fact that has largely kept challenger banks on the back foot.
Walmart, on the other hand, has the benefit of an in-built customer base that ranks among the largest in the world. As such, migrating further into financial services (beyond its current Walmart Credit Card and Walmart Money Card channels) could introduce a dramatic shift in the industry’s balance of power.
“For years, millions of customers have put their trust in Walmart to not only save them money when they shop with us but help them manage their financial needs. And they’ve made it clear they want more from us in the financial services arena,” said John Furner, President and CEO, during the announcement of the Ribbit Capital partnership.
How Walmart continues to answer that call will be an important story to follow throughout 2021.
Amber Group Valued at US$1bn in $100m Funding Round
Amber Group, a cryptocurrency financial services firm, has raised US$100m in a Series B funding round at a pre-money valuation of $1bn.
The funding round was led by Chinese investment firm China Renaissance, and other participants in the Series B include Tiger Brokers, Tiger Global Management, Arena Holdings, Tru Arrow Partners, Sky9 Capital, DCM Ventures and Gobi Partners. Existing investors Pantera Capital, Coinbase Ventures and Blockchain.com also joined in.
Michael Wu, co-founder and CEO of Amber Group said in a statement that the funding would be used to “expand global operations to meet client demand and develop market solutions for the world’s leading crypto investors and companies.”
“We’ve had record months over the past quarter across both client flow and on-exchange market-making volumes,” Wu said in a press release. “Our cumulative trading volumes have doubled from $250 billion since the beginning of the year to over $500 billion.”
Cryptocurrencies are becoming increasingly popular, with many people investing, although not everyone seems to know what they are investing in. Using survey data collected from 750 investors earlier this year, Cardify found that only 16.9% of investors who have bought crypto “fully understand” the value and potential of cryptocurrency, while 33.5% of buyers have either zero knowledge about the space or would call their level of understanding “emerging.”
Who is Amber Group?
Amber Group is a global crypto finance service provider with a presence in Hong Kong, Taipei, Seoul, and Vancouver. Founded in 2017, Amber Group services over 500 institutional clients and has cumulatively traded over $330 billion across 100+ electronic exchanges, with over $1 billion in assets under management. The company said that its assets under management, or AUM, reached $530 million in 2020, representing a 275% increase from the previous year.
Instead of being a cryptocurrency exchange that allows users to trade individual digital coins, Amber Group CEO Michael Wu said the company is bringing a “private banking experience to the everyday customer.”
Their goal is to optimise investment flexibility, maximise investment returns and deliver long-lasting value for their clients. In 2019, Amber Group raised $28 million in Series A funding led by global crypto heavyweights Paradigm and Pantera Capital, with participation from Polychain Capital, Dragonfly Capital, Blockchain.com, Fenbushi Capital, and Coinbase Ventures.