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Protocol | Fintech
The people, power and politics of fintech, every Tuesday and Friday.

Affirm thinks it can make money coming and going

Handling returns well can boost ecommerce sales.

Hello and welcome to Protocol | Fintech! This Friday: how Returnly fits into "buy now, pay later," Ripple under fire and Credit Sesame's brush with failure.

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The Big Story

Happy returns

Affirm, which offers credit to consumers so they can buy now and pay later, just spent $300 million on Returnly, a company that makes it easier to return purchases. CEO Max Levchin told Bloomberg: "Buyer's remorse is alive and well. We're going to make a lot of people a little bit happier."

It's a bullish bet on ecommerce. With the pandemic is coming under control, the economy is bouncing back, and Affirm expects consumers to start spending again.

  • Affirm went public in January, raising $1.2 billion. Though its stock has struggled since then, it's still worth nearly $18 billion. Deals help put that capital to work.
  • The Brookings Institution sees "reasons to be optimistic for a fast rebound in consumer spending." Consumers have been paying down debt, and there was a 10% to 20% spike in savings rate in the U.S. and Western Europe which "left many households in a strong position to spend," the research organization said.
  • Payments company Blackhawk Network cited a Bloomberg Economics report that said Americans amassed $1.7 trillion in excess savings during the crisis. Now, it says, "consumers are eager to shop, eat out and travel." (An earlier version misattributed the data source.)

Returns are about the goods — and the money. Affirm said the Returnly deal could let it help merchants immediately issue store credit for returned goods. That means more spending, faster, as well as happier customers.

  • Akshay Garg, CEO of credit-financing company FinAccel, said the deal boosts Affirm's "value prop" for merchants in categories like fashion, where returns are a big part of doing business online.
  • By handling the logistics of returns as well as payment, Affirm becomes stickier for both merchants and customers.

Point of no return. The pandemic "forced us all to change our buying behaviors," Rajeev Singh-Molares, general partner of Alma Mundi Ventures and a Returnly board member, told Protocol. "When the old normal returns, are we going to go back to our previous behavior? Unlikely."

— Ben Pimentel

A MESSAGE FROM BROADRIDGE

The future is positively digital. Ready? Consumers, investors and shareholders are savvier than ever. Everyone needs to create more engaging experiences that keep pace with today's new expectations. See how you can stay ahead with next-gen technologies that deliver on what matters most.

Learn more

From Protocol | Fintech

Crowdfunding pioneer: Kiva CEO Neville Crawley discussed how its nonprofit, small business lending platform has evolved, and why it expects a surge in demand for capital.

FTC's powers clipped: The Supreme Court ruled that the federal agency has the power to create injunctive relief, but cannot impose fines or monetary penalties on companies.

Overheard

  • "What color lambo you buying?" —Chris Garcia, who got into the retail trading frenzy with two friends. It didn't last.
  • "Anybody walking into a branch expects to be recorded. But when you're talking about face recognition, that's a larger conversation."Walter Connors, chief information officer at Brannen Bank.
  • "To overcome the limits of traditional computing power, we have begun exploring the future use of quantum computing. Quantum computing has the potential to unlock new possibilities to solve problems beyond the reach of traditional computers."Ally Financial, announcing it is working with Microsoft on quantum computing.

3 Questions With...

Adrian Nazari, CEO, Credit Sesame

What fintech trend do you find most exciting?

The use of AI and data. When it comes to consumer finance, the availability of data and the low cost of that data, plus the fact that consumers are willing to give you consent to use their data for their own benefit, are substantially up. There's demand by Millennials to use their data: "I gave you my Social Security. You should be able to pull that data. Why do you ask me that question again? Just make it easy for me." That's very exciting.

What fintech trend is most troubling for you?

A lot of newcomers join this gold rush in fintech, but they really don't realize how important security, privacy, some of those basic things that consumers assume you have are. Many of them will not succeed, but it's troubling to see how it's attracting people who are really not taking those things seriously.

What has been your biggest professional blunder and what did you learn from it?

Early on in the life of the company, we used data from one of the larger credit bureaus. We sort of changed the game and gave data for free. We became a threat to this bureau and they pulled the plug on us. We were fortunate and had insight to manage to get involved with other bureaus and ultimately pulled through. But this has not been an easy road to be a consumer advocate, to try to level the playing field for consumers.

Need to Know

  • Wirecard had bags full of cash. The German merchant payment processor's employees took shopping bags to steal millions of Euros.
  • The SEC is pushing the Ripple lawsuit forward. Any questions about whether the SEC would proceed with the landmark Ripple lawsuit were put aside with a filing.
  • Banks bet on a credit-card comeback. Big banks are releasing reserves they held for pandemic defaults. Some are offering big points rewards for credit card sign-ups.
  • Public launched a Town Hall series. The broker will have live Q&As with company CEOs and leaders, starting with Lemonade and Bumble.
  • Square is hiring to build a "new, unreleased product" in banking. The job post was updated to remove the more tantalizing language after it was spotted by Fintech Today.

Deal Flow

  • Brazil's PicPay filed for a U.S. IPO. The digital wallet app has 28.4 million active users.
  • Deel raised $156 million. The payroll startup is valued at $1.25 billion following a deal led by YC Continuity.
  • Checkout.com backed Saudi payments startup Tamara. The $110 million series A for the "buy now, pay later" startup is one of the largest for Middle East startups.
  • Tribal Credit raised $34.3 million. The B2B payments startup for emerging markets uses AI to underwrite approvals and credit.
  • Mastercard backed Fearless Fund. The venture fund backs startups led by women of color.

Data Point

$1.85 billion

That's how much Credit Suisse said it would issue in mandatory convertible notes to address capital concerns after a string of losses including Luckin Coffee, Wirecard, Greensill and Archegos.

A MESSAGE FROM BROADRIDGE

The future is positively digital. Ready? Consumers, investors and shareholders are savvier than ever. Everyone needs to create more engaging experiences that keep pace with today's new expectations. See how you can stay ahead with next-gen technologies that deliver on what matters most.

Learn more

Thanks for reading — see you Tuesday.

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