Every fortnight we compile the most important events & news updates from the fintech industry covering digital banking, payments, cryptocurrency, and more.

US neobank Chime quadruples valuation to $5.8b, raises $500m Series E

US digital bank Chime raised a $500 million Series E which quadrupled its valuation in nine months from $1.5 billion to $5.8 billion. The funding round was led by DST Global and is the largest individual equity investment for a challenger bank ahead of Brazilian challenger NuBank’s $400 million fundraise in July 2019. DST Global led Chime’s $200 million March 2019 funding round where it became a fintech unicorn with a valuation of $1.5 billion.

South Korea to formally launch Open Banking system

South Korea’s commercial banks will formally launch Open Banking services by the end of 2019, following a 10-bank pilot to test the system in October 2019. Korea’s FSC (Financial Services Commission) launched a pilot programme covering ten banks on 30 October 2019. Bank customers could access account services at the 10 banks using a single mobile application. Individuals have had to use different apps for each institution they bank with. The October trial attracted 2.39 million users and included a total of 5.51 million Open Banking accounts and 49.64 million transactions, the FSC said.

Click to view global open banking initiatives in our infographic.

Ant Financial to raise $1 billion fund for Southeast Asian and India start-ups

Ant Financial, affiliate of Chinese Alibaba Group, is set to raise $1 billion for an investment fund dedicated to Southeast Asian and Indian start-ups which sit in the payments and online finance industries. The $150 billion company already has an investment history in India. In 2015, Ant Financial became a backer of Paytm’s parent company One97 Communications, buying a 25% stake in the Indian fintech. The online payment services provider also took part in Paytm’s $1 billion funding round. Foodtech company Zomato, based in Gurgaon, also saw Ant Financial lead its $600 million funding round.

To know more about fintech in India, check out our article on how India is developing itself to become Asia’s largest fintech hub.

Digital banking app Monese is now offering joint accounts to customers in the UK

Online banking app provider Monese is now offering joint accounts to clients in the UK and the European Economic Area. Users can make “up to €/£ 200 per month” worth of ATM withdrawals from almost anywhere in the world at no extra cost. Customers can also withdraw “up to €/£ 2,000 per month” in foreign currency card spending from their joint account. They can also make “instant” transfers to other Monese accounts at no cost.

Fintech API platform Rapyd raises $20m and hits $1.2bn valuation

London-based Rapyd, an API platform creating mobile payment methods, has raised $20 million to reach a valuation of $1.2 billion. The “fintech-as-a-service” raised $100 million in an October Series C round to expand its Rapyd Global Payment Network, which offers local and cross-border payments through multiple channels. Durable Capital Partners is responsible for Rapyd’s latest $20 million capital injection. The backer is a newly-formed investment adviser founded by Henry Ellenbogen, who spent 18 years prior at asset management firm T. Rowe Price

Starling adds legal services to its digital offering

Starling Bank has announced a partnership with legal services provider Sparqa, the latest addition to the challenger’s in-app Marketplace. Providing Starling’s 88,000 small business customers with customisable and affordable legal services, the lawtech partnership will enable the Starling customer base to access a wealth of legal information tailored to their specific commercial needs.

Starling is one of the few digital banks to offer marketplace services; to view a comparison of five mobile-challenger banks, check out our infographic here.

Chinese Fintech WeLab Secures $156 Million Through Series C Financing Round

Chinese fintech WeLab announced on Thursday it secured $156 million through its Series C funding round. According to WeLab, the investment attracted new investors, as well as five existing investors including Alibaba Hong Kong Entrepreneurs Fund and China Construction Bank. Founded in 2013, WeLab claims to be one of the first virtual banks established in Hong Kong. The company provides financial services by creating digital experiences to move than 40 million users across Hong Kong, Mainland China, and Indonesia.

SoftBank pours $100M into Mexico’s Konfio

Mexican small business lender Konfio has completed a $100 million funding round led by SoftBank’s Latin American fund. Founded in 2014, Konfio uses technology, data analytics, and artificial intelligence to provide funding for companies, many without any formal credit/history. Previously, Goldman Sachs had lent $100 million to Konfio, now one of the most heavily-funded fintech startups in Mexico.

NatWest tests biometric fob

NatWest is issuing a payment fob linked to a customer’s fingerprint that will allow contactless payments of up to £100 to be made without the use of a bank card or mobile phone. Linked to the user’s fingerprint scan, the fob can also be registered in the comfort of the customer’s home using their mobile device for activation.

Bank of America AI chatbot surpasses 10 million users

Bank of America’s mobile chatbot Erica has surpassed 10 million users since its nationwide rollout in June 2018 and is on track to complete 100 million client requests in the coming weeks. The AI-driven personal assistant helps users with a host of simple transactions such as money transfers and balance enquiries. Bank of America currently claims 29 mobile banking clients, representing 60% of the bank’s total account base in 17 major cities and 50% nationwide.