Money is moving faster around the world.
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Real-time payments take off

Protocol Fintech

Hello and welcome to Protocol | Fintech! Why the U.S. lags in real time, Coinbase listing's impact and Ant Group's about-face.

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The Big Story

The race to make payments instant heats up

The pandemic accelerated the growth of real-time payments as the use of cash and checks declined. But will real-time payments become the de facto way to send money? And whose system will come out on top?

Most payments still take days. Real-time payments jumped 41% in 2020 to 70.3 billion transactions globally. But that's less than a tenth of the world's payments, according to a report by ACI Worldwide.

  • The top real-time markets globally were India (25.5 billion transactions), China (15.7 billion) and South Korea (6 billion).
  • The U.S. is shockingly behind, with only 1.2 billion transactions.
  • ACI counted more than 50 instant payment methods worldwide, with more on the way.

Moving money matters. Delays cause businesses to hold onto cash while they wait for payments to clear.

  • That acts as a drag on the economy, a 2019 Deloitte study found.
  • Real-time payments could reduce the "transaction float," which means more money circulating in the economy.
  • "Banks, processors, acquirers and payment networks are under more pressure than ever to rapidly modernize their payment systems to manage this accelerated change," ACI wrote in its report.

Real-time payments are taking off across the globe. The best examples are overseas.

There's some progress in the U.S. Here are the efforts to watch.

  • The Clearing House's RTP network, launched in 2017, is accessible to financial institutions holding 70% of U.S. demand deposit accounts. Unlike ACH, RTP payments settle individually, not in batches. In addition to banks, others have jumped in: Payments infrastructure company Dwolla announced an API to allow companies to send instant payments using RTP.
  • Banks have Zelle, a real-time payments network from Early Warning Services, which is owned by Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, Capital One and others. Zelle said it recorded $307 billion sent via 1.2 billion transactions in 2020, a 62% increase in dollars and 58% spike in transactions. Also launched in 2017, Zelle has 7,000 financial institutions on board.
  • Meanwhile, the Federal Reserve is working on FedNow, which it aims to launch in 2023. It is testing it for example with five banks and three credit unions in northern California. The Fed also recently announced messaging specs for the system to prepare banks for the launch.
  • Some big banks believe the Fed shouldn't be competing with the Clearing House, while smaller community banks and fintechs tend to support it, per PwC. The Fed is working with the Clearing House to make the two systems compatible.

There's one big worry. Real-time payments can mean real-time fraud. That means fraud detection has to get much faster.

— Tomio Geron


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

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New opportunity: Social media has transformed the rules of investing. Some startups are jumping in to try to tame the chaos.

Timely warning: Regulation could ramp up, said Jina Choi, the former head of the SEC's San Francisco office. Companies shouldn't assume they can just ask forgiveness.


  • "Companies, consumers and communities must work together to make the significant changes needed to effectively address climate change."Jorn Lambert, Mastercard's chief digital officer, on the company's new calculator that measures consumers' carbon footprint based on their purchases.
  • "We are who we are because we grew up where we did." —Stripe co-founder and CEO Patrick Collison reacting to a now-deleted Forbes article that described the Irish town where he grew up as "stab city."
  • "Once the Coinbase registration statement becomes effective and Coinbase shares trade publicly, a sea change will have occurred in the US without most people recognizing it." —Lee Schneider, general counsel at, on the significance of Coinbase going public to blockchain and crypto asset trading.

3 Questions With...

Jared Kaplan, OppFi CEO

What do you think is the most exciting fintech trend?

Data is opening doors and pushing boundaries on what is possible for financial services, from the products you create, to customers you serve, to the ways services are accessed. The onramp is huge but fast and the players are increasing and moving at warp speed: It is an extremely exciting time to be a part of the disruption and where it will all shake out.

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

You forget that colleagues can't read your mind. One day I heard an employee describe the company in a way that no longer held true and I realized that I underestimated and assumed everyone knew what I knew. I wasn't communicating enough. It was a good reminder that I needed to establish regular feedback loops so that our entire team can operate on the same wavelength. Maintaining this commitment to communication has been helpful, as we've grown many times over in the past six years.

What problem in fintech would you like to see someone solve?

Owning real estate is the biggest traditional driver of wealth. Bringing more people into home ownership through mortgages without creating the systemic risk we saw from the Great Recession is a big idea. When people hear about the non-prime consumer and getting greater financial access, credit risk comes up. In context to the Great Recession, large mortgages were being given out without vetting to those who simply couldn't afford them. Today, using machine learning and AI to create highly intelligent underwriting algorithms, we're able to minimize that risk quite well. The more we can ease people back into the system through smaller products, the more people could someday get mortgages.

Need to Know

  • Binance launched tokenized stock trading. The crypto exchange giant launches trading of tokens that represent underlying stocks, or fractions of them.
  • Circle named its first new chief strategy officer. The financial infrastructure company said Dante Disparte, a former Diem executive, will also become its head of global policy.
  • Ant Group backtracked. Ant Group previously said it wasn't a financial company. Now it has set up a financial holding company to satisfy Chinese regulators.

Deal Flow

  • Vybe raised $2.9 billion. The French startup is using the funding to build a challenger bank for teens. Investors include Ronan Le Moal, Kick Club and Manoel Amorim.
  • Zebra raised $150 million. The insurance tech company's series D round was reportedly led by Hedosophia and boosts its valuation to over $1 billion.
  • Appzone raised $10 million. The African financial software company's series A funding was led by CardinalStone Capital Advisers.
  • Tipalti acquired The payables automation company said buying the procurement software firm will help it offer more financial products.

Data Point


That's the loan-to-deposit ratio at top banks at the end of March. It hit the lowest point in 36 years of weekly Fed tracking as loans dropped and deposits jumped.


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 Friday.

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