Small businesses face challenges amidst Fed rate cuts and competition from non-banks offering enticing APYs. Despite this, SMBs exhibit growth, prompting FIs to target this sector strategically. Bluevine's high-yield checking account for small businesses demonstrates the demand for high returns and cash flow flexibility. Customized banking experiences are crucial for small businesses, with regional banks outperforming larger institutions in customer satisfaction. FIs can leverage technology and data-driven approaches to tailor services to SMBs' needs, including industry-specific solutions and collaborations with fintech companies. Education on less mainstream banking services, like positive pay, presents an opportunity for FIs to monetize and enhance customer relationships. By expanding services, customizing solutions, and providing educational support, FIs can gain a competitive advantage and foster long-term relationships with SMBs.
Credit unions (CUs) face challenges from FinTechs, prompting Bankwell, a $3.2 billion community bank, to appoint Ryan Hildebrand as Chief Innovation Officer. Hildebrand focuses on digital transformation and strategic collaborations to stay competitive. Bankwell partners with FinTechs and employs AI, like Sarah, to streamline small business lending, improving lead quality and customer engagement. Strategic partnerships, such as with Z Suite Technologies, enhance client offerings for homeowner associations (HOAs) and municipalities. Bankwell plans to launch small-dollar Small Business Administration (SBA) lending and deposit programs, aiming to reach more entrepreneurs. The bank's vision includes elevating customer experience through digital transformation, focusing on top-tier standards for account opening, online/mobile banking, and risk/fraud systems.
Swedish FinTech Froda has partnered with Visa to expand its card-based embedded lending product for small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) across Europe. This collaboration enables FinTechs, banks, and neobanks to offer instant business loans using Froda's solution, powered by Visa's infrastructure. The initiative aims to streamline SMB financing through automated credit decisions and instant Visa Direct payouts. Philip Konopik, Visa's Regional Managing Director for Nordics & Baltics, emphasizes the importance of fostering innovation for SMB growth. Froda's CEO, Olle Lundin, sees this partnership as a milestone, demonstrating their commitment to empowering SMBs economically. Currently available in Denmark and Germany, the partnership plans to expand throughout Europe by identifying new markets and partners. This expansion aligns with their goal of providing accessible and innovative financial solutions to SMBs continent-wide.
Dish Network's Boost Wireless Network now extends 5G voice service, or VoNR, to over 200 million Americans nationwide, solidifying its position as the fourth nationwide wireless carrier. The network supports leading 5G smartphones such as the iPhone 15, Samsung Galaxy S24 series, and Motorola razr. Boost Wireless Network, launched in 2019, achieved milestones including being the world's first standalone 5G Open RAN cloud-based network. It also leads in VoNR technology, offering super-fast download speeds and seamless handovers. Dish's commitment to connectivity is evident through consistent network growth, meeting deadlines, and releasing seven new compatible devices in January 2024 alone. Dish is recognized for its innovation in Open RAN and VoNR technology, ensuring a network prepared for current and future customer demands.
Researchers from the University of Colorado Denver and Chinese universities unveiled a new biometric vulnerability in smartphone fingerprint authentication. By capturing subtle finger movement sounds through built-in microphones, their system, PrintListener, infers fingerprint patterns, posing a threat to personal and national security. The technology can exploit social media and gaming interactions to collect fingerprints. Despite the booming fingerprint identification market, sophisticated attacks are emerging, including this sound-based method. To counter such threats, developers may prioritize enhancing acoustic privacy and security in device designs and conduct routine security checks. PrintListener offers stealthiness and efficiency, targeting both partial and complete fingerprints without extensive individual training. The researchers suggest implementing noise-dampening materials and developing less vulnerable authentication methods.
Crypto miners' Bitcoin (BTC) holdings have fallen to their lowest level since July 2021, as they run down their stashes ahead of the halving of revenue earned per block. The decline began in October, when miners held over 1.83 million BTC. Currently, miners receive 6.25 BTC per block, but the halving, a quadrennial event due in April, will reduce that figure to 3.125 BTC, cutting per-block revenue by 50%. To improve profitability, miners may be using their stored BTC to buy more efficient equipment to reduce running costs. The halving is seen as a stress test for miners, as it is expected to reduce revenues and boost production costs simultaneously. Industry consolidation is possible. The prolonged dry season in southwest China, which accounts for roughly 20% of the total computing power on the Bitcoin network, could also be a factor in the decline in miners' bitcoin balances.
DEX Biometrics ASA's interim report for the fourth quarter and preliminary annual result for 2023 focuses on the company's transformation from a component company to a biometric solution company. The company has focused on laying the foundation for biometric smart cards at scale, introducing a suite of scalable enrollment solutions and working closely with manufacturing partners to launch solutions with IDEX Pay and IDEX Access. The company has also partnered with an Asian bank offering the world's first biometric metal card. The company's portfolio of customers and partners has grown from seven in 2022 to over 25 in 2023. The company's gross profit margin for the fourth quarter of 2023 was 44%, compared to 33% in 2022. Operating expenses for the fourth quarter were $4.7 million, a decrease of $1.9 million from $6.6 million in the previous quarter.
Healthcare providers in the US are facing financial difficulties following a ransomware outage at UnitedHealth Group's Change Healthcare unit. The hackers gained access to the unit, which is crucial for making and clearing insurance claims. The outage affected electronic pharmacy refills and insurance transactions, particularly among independents. Small businesses, including therapists and laboratories, are unable to process claims and are racking up thousands of dollars in overdue payments. The American Hospital Association (AHA), which represents nearly 5,000 hospitals, healthcare systems, networks, and other providers, has reported that large, well-resourced hospitals with alternate technologies and sufficient cash reserves will be able to sustain the outage initially and on a longer basis. The impact of the hack on payments is expected to be felt by thousands, if not hundreds, of providers, who will see their cash flow grind to a halt.
NFIB has filed an amicus brief in Starbucks Corporation v. M. Kathleen McKinney, arguing that the Sixth Circuit's current standard is harmful to small businesses, allowing the NLRB to interfere in lawful business practices. The NFIB seeks to reverse the Sixth Circuit's decision and clarify that the traditional four-factor test is the proper standard for preliminary injunctions, arguing that it allows the NLRB to have unchecked and long-term meddling in small employers' operations. NFIB's brief argues that the watered-down injunction standard leads to extreme deference to the NLRB and that the NLRB has used this standard to engage in unchecked interference with small businesses. The NFIB Small Business Legal Center protects the rights of small business owners in the nation’s courts. NFIB is currently active in more than 40 cases in federal and state courts across the country and in the U.S. Supreme Court.
The US Small Business Administration (SBA) has launched the T.H.R.I.V.E. Emerging Leaders Reimagined program to help small businesses succeed. The program, which stands for Train. Hope. Rise. Innovate. Venture. Elevate, combines business fundamentals with innovative tools and competitive strategies to deliver immediate results. It offers master's in business administration equivalent knowledge, amplifies leadership skills, and builds relationships with a community of business peers, advisors, and experts. The program entails entrepreneurship education and training for executives of small, poised-for-growth companies, taught through an interactive e-learning platform, in-person CEO mastermind sessions, and live business coaching. Alaska Cohort's 2023 T.H.R.I.V.E. Emerging Leaders Reimagined Program graduated 15 small business owners, CEOs, and CFOs, offering free training, professional coaching, and peer connections.