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Polaris Bank Nigeria Launches VULTe; a New Digital Bank

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VULTe - Investors King

Nigeria’s leading retail Bank Polaris has launched a digital bank called VULTe.

Speaking at the well-attended unveiling ceremony which held in Eko Hotel, Lagos the Chairman of the Bank, M.K Ahmad (OON) disclosed that the corporate goal of Polaris is to offer customers and non-customers of the Bank, a 24-hour seamless service using VULTe.

In his words, “This is a milestone in our pursuit of a strong and digitally-led retail brand. When we started the Polaris journey almost three years ago, we were very clear on the type of Bank we must build and the direction we must go. This was largely informed by the fast pace of change in financial service provisioning and the apparent technology-defined outlook of our business.”

“We are therefore bringing VULTe to the market place today. And this is not another mobile App, but one with a world of difference, a mobile digital bank. This is your Bank in your hand, affording you total Control of your financial service needs. With VULTe, you serve yourself, the way you want to be served,” the Chairman explained.

In his address, the Acting Managing Director/CEO of the Bank, Mr. Innocent C. Ike said the newly-launched banking platform, is returning all powers to the customer as king. He noted that customers are now at liberty to enjoy unhindered, contactless and refreshing banking experience all at the tip of their fingers thanks to the newly launched VULTe app.

“With VULTe, we affirm our resolve to serve the customer better and make their banking experience, more pleasurable. Therefore, we will continue to launch an array of banking products to cater to the varying needs of our diverse customers.”

Explaining the premium value the Bank places on its customer with the VULTe, Ike said: “Ultimately, VULTe represents our bold declaration to hand over CONTROL of banking services to our customers and allow them to serve themselves as they would want to be served.

“As a Polaris Bank customer, you are at liberty to determine your banking experience since we have put the Bank in your hand 24/7. You now have total CONTROL to serve yourself; it’s no more customer service but customer self-service.

“Are you opening an account, setting limits on your account, verifying your identity documents, registering your biometrics, making inquiries, taking an instant loan? You are in total CONTROL – you do it at your time, at your convenience, and on your terms – you determine how delightful your banking experience will be”.

The highlight of the launching was the practical demonstration of the uniqueness of the VULTe application by the Bank’s Chief Digital Officer, (CDO) Mr. Bamidele Adeyinka to the excited guests.

According to him; “The Digital Banking Platform, VULTE, will change everything that happens in the ‘brick & mortar’ space (i.e. branches) to clicks and buttons.” Continuing, he stated, “VULTE comes in mobile (Android and iOS) and Web Applications and it allows customers with either of the options, to access banking services at the click of the button,” he added.

The CDO explained that all Bank customers in the country can take advantage of VULTe to carry out their banking transactions including account opening, bills payments, transfers, balance enquiry, airtime recharge and quick loans.

He further stated that on-boarded customers will be able to access PayDay Loan on both mobile and web digital platform where eligibility will be displayed to the customer within the VULTe application.

Also, on-boarded customers will be enabled to pay taxes and levies for different government parastatals in addition to several other benefits such as ability to perform intra-bank and inter-bank transfers.

“To onboard, customers with BVN will input their BVN and take a selfie (photo of their face) which will be compared automatically with the photo on their BVN profile (via Facial Recognition – an advanced cognitive and artificial intelligence facial recognition technology),” the CDO disclosed.

Meanwhile, the Bank also announced special reward packages for early users of the VULTe app. Reeling out giveaways and free gifts, Mr. Muhammed Abdullahi, Executive Director, Abuja and Northern Region of the Bank said: “For your loyalty and positive acceptance of VULTe and all other banking services offered by Polaris Bank, on behalf of the Board, Management and Staff, I’m happy to announce some mouthwatering offers to everyone following us to mark this occassion.

“Consequently, please note that the first 2000 persons who download VULTe from Appstore or PlayStore and make a transfers on the platform, stand to win a collection of beautiful mementos like;  Mugs, Michael Cable Charger, Key Rings, Pop Socket among other collection of gifts,” the ED said.

The launch event had in attendance representatives of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), key Financial Technology (FinTechs) industry players and strategic partners of Polaris Bank who all in their goodwill messages attested to the bank’s unwavering determination to ensuring quality customer satisfaction at all times.

CEO/Founder Investors King Ltd, a foreign exchange research analyst, contributing author on New York-based Talk Markets and Investing.com, with over a decade experience in the global financial markets.

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Stripe Launches Stripe Tax To Integrate Sales Tax Calculations

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On the heels of acquiring sales tax specialist TaxJar in April, today Stripe is making another big move in the area of tax by launching Stripe Tax to integrate Sales Tax calculations into its service offerings.

The $95 billion payments behemoth is launching a new product called Stripe Tax, which will provide automatic, updated sales tax calculations (covering sales tax, VAT, and GST) and related accounting services to Stripe payments customers initially in some 30 countries and across the U.S.

Stripe Tax is a separate service from TaxJar, but the two are not unconnected: as Stripe Tax was being built out of Stripe’s offices in Dublin over the last several months, Stripe’s business lead for EMEA Matt Henderson told me that the team had identified TaxJar as a strong company in the field and that ultimately led to M&A between them.

Sales tax — and specifically a more seamless way to deal with charging and tracking sales tax — is a painful issue for people doing business online. Digital and physical goods are taxed in over 130 countries, Stripe said, and within that, there can be a huge amount of variation and compliance complexity, since codes get updated all the time, too. Mishandled sales tax, meanwhile, can result in pretty hefty fines, sometimes up to 30 percent interest on past-due amounts.

Unsurprisingly, a sales tax tool has been the most requested feature from Stripe’s customers, Henderson said, a request that presumably only got louder in the last year, as e-commerce and digital transactions went through the roof with Covid-19.

Arguably, that makes Stripe Tax one of the company’s more significant product launches, not to mention the first since announcing its monster funding round earlier this year.

Previously, Stripe customers would have resorted to using a third-party service (like TaxJar) to work out sales tax, or more typically those Stripe customers would have opted to limit the number of places they sold goods and services, in order to minimize the pain of dealing with multiple, complex, and usually quite localized tax codes.

Stripe said that a survey of its customers found that two-thirds of respondents said that the challenge of implementing sales tax actually limited their growth.

TaxJar has built a strong system for handling that, but the company — based out of Massachusetts — is primarily focused on the U.S. market, which has a sales tax that is complicated enough (there are 11,000 different tax jurisdictions in the country).

Stripe Tax, on the other hand, is being built from the ground up as a product aimed specifically at increasing touchpoints and stickiness with Stripe customers specifically.

Stripe Tax provides real-time tax calculation based on customer location and product sold; transparent itemizing for customers; tax ID management in areas (like Europe) where business customers can provide their code and get a reverse charge on tax if they are under a certain turnover threshold themselves; and reconciliation and reporting across all transactions to make filing and remittance easier.

However, Stripe Tax can only be used on the Stripe platform.

This could pose some problems for some customers — these days many of the strongest retailers will take an ‘omnichannel’ approach that might cover selling through marketplaces, selling through websites, selling through social media, and more — and not all of those storefronts might be powered by Stripe. It will be worth watching whether future iterations of Stripe Tax can account for that.

“No one leaps out of bed in the morning excited to deal with taxes,” said John Collison, co-founder and president of Stripe in a statement. “For most businesses, managing tax compliance is a painful distraction. We simplify everything about calculating and collecting sales taxes, VAT, and GST, so our users can focus on building their businesses.”

Stripe’s most significant product launch prior to Stripe Tax — Stripe Treasury — underscores how the company is currently very focused on diversifying outside of their basic payments business and opening the platform too much wider, more scaled transactions. Treasury, which is still in invite-only mode, saw Stripe partner with established banks to provide a business banking service, providing a way for its customers to handle money that they generate from their Stripe-powered businesses.

Stripe Tax will currently be available in 30 countries, here is the full country list where Stripe Tax is launching in Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, New Zealand, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the United States, and the United Kingdom.

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PayPal’s Payment Volume Jumped by 50% YoY to $285B in Q1 2021, the Number of Transactions Surged to 4.4B

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Paypal - Investors King

The COVID-19 continues driving the digital transformation of the global payments industry, with more people than ever using online payments over cash and credit cards. As one of the first and most significant players in the digital payments landscape, PayPal has also witnessed an impressive growth both in the number of users and the payment volume.

According to data presented by Buy Shares, PayPal’s total payment volume jumped by 50% year-over-year and hit $285bn in the first quarter of 2021.

The Number of Transactions Hit 4.4 Billion in Q1 2021, a 35% Jump in Year

Compared to its biggest rival, Alipay, built on the Alibaba ecosystem with a much larger user base, PayPal operates as a standalone company. Moreover, it scores the Chinese competitor both in terms of worldwide popularity and international acceptance.

Its massive global reach has been driving steady growth even before the COVID-19. However, according to the company itself, the year where the coronavirus pandemic dominated the world was the strongest year in PayPal’s history.

In 2020, PayPal generated $21.5bn in revenue, 21% more than in 2019. The platform’s total payment volume increased significantly. After reaching $190.5bn in the first quarter of 2020, total payment volume jumped to over $277bn in December, a 42% increase in nine months. The positive trend continued in 2021, with PayPal’s payment volume rising to $285bn, the highest figure in the company’s history.

The number of transactions made on the platform also soared in the last year. In 2020, PayPal processed around 15.4 billion payments, 25% than in 2019. In the first quarter of 2021, the online money transfer provider processed 4.4 billion transactions, 35% more than in the same period a year ago.

67 Million People Started Using PayPal in the Last Year

Today, the PayPal platform provides digital commerce and peer-to-peer money transfers in more than 200 markets globally, with millions of people using its services.

Five years ago, PayPal had 184 million users all around the world. Statistics show this number jumped by 65% to 305 million in the fourth quarter of 2019. However, last year witnessed the highest annual increase in the number of users, growing by 41% YoY to 377 million.

The number of users continued growing in 2021 and hit 392 million in the first quarter of the year, a 67 million increase YoY.

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Mastercard Foundation to Deploy $1.3 Billion in Partnership With Africa CDC to Save Lives and Livelihoods

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MasterCard - Investors King

The Mastercard Foundation has announced that it will deploy $1.3 billion over the next three years in partnership with the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) to save the lives and livelihoods of millions of people in Africa and hasten the economic recovery of the continent.

The Saving Lives and Livelihoods initiative will acquire vaccines for at least 50 million people, support the delivery of vaccinations to millions more across the continent, lay the groundwork for vaccine manufacturing in Africa through a focus on human capital development, and strengthen the Africa CDC.

“Ensuring equitable access and delivery of vaccines across Africa is urgent. This initiative is about valuing all lives and accelerating the economic recovery of the continent,” said Reeta Roy, President and CEO of the Mastercard Foundation. “In the process, this initiative will catalyze work opportunities in the health sector and beyond as part of our Young Africa Works strategy,” she added.

The African Union’s goal as set out in the African COVID-19 Vaccine Development and Access Strategy is to vaccinate at least 60 percent of its population – approximately 750 million people or the entire adult population of the continent – by the end of 2022. To date, less than two percent of Africans have received at least one vaccine dose.

The new partnership builds on the efforts of the COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access facility (COVAX), the COVID-19 African Vaccine Acquisition Task Team (AVATT), and the global community to expand access to vaccines across Africa. The number of vaccines available to Africa represents a small portion of the global supply and the financial costs to purchase, deliver, and administer vaccines remain significant. The Africa CDC is calling on governments, global funders, the private sector, and others to help meet this goal.

“Ensuring inclusivity in vaccine access, and building Africa’s capacity to manufacture its own vaccines, is not just good for the continent, it’s the only sustainable path out of the pandemic and into a health-secure future,” said Dr. John Nkengasong, Director of the Africa CDC. “This partnership with the Mastercard Foundation is a bold step towards establishing a New Public Health Order for Africa, and we welcome other actors to join this historic journey.”

In 2020, Africa faced its first economic recession in 25 years due to the pandemic. The African Development Bank has warned that COVID-19 could reverse hard-won gains in poverty reduction over the past two decades and drive 39 million people into extreme poverty in 2021. Widespread vaccination is recognized as being critical to the economic recovery of African countries.

The initiative builds on an earlier collaboration between the Mastercard Foundation and the Africa CDC to expand access to testing kits and enhance surveillance capacity in Africa. Through the Foundation’s support, the Africa CDC’s Partnership to Accelerate COVID-19 Testing (PACT) deployed nearly two million COVID-19 tests and more than 12,000 trained health care workers and rapid responders across Africa. In total, the PACT has enabled over 47 million COVID-19 tests across the continent.

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