Month: October 2021

NFT
ArticlesMarkets

What Do Payments Market Players Have to Gain by Acquiring NFTs?

NFT


A ploy to stay in the loop or a strategic decision? Simas Simanauskas, Head of Payments at ConnectPay, has explored further what’s in it for the payments processing giants diving into the NFT trend.

A growing number of businesses are joining in on the Non-Fungible Token (NFT) craze. Not long ago, Visa, the payments processing behemoth, bought a “CryptoPunk” – one of the thousands of NFT-based digital avatars, for nearly $150,000 in the cryptocurrency Ethereum. Following the example, Mastercard has recently entered the market as well by announcing a sweepstake to win an NFT. According to Simas Simanauskas, Head of Payments at ConnectPay, the NFT appeal can be attributed to both staying on-trend, liquidity, and its massive future potential.

The NFT market sales volume grew approximately 182 times in the first half of 2021, compared with the same period in 2020, reaching a whopping $2.5 billion. Seemingly everyone–from sports fan platforms to art houses jumped on the bandwagon. According to Simanauskas, while the actual value of NFTs is subject to much debate, it is widely seen as an appealing market for investment.

“VISA’s move to acquire one of the iconic “Cryptopunks” is nothing less than a message that traditional market players are closely following the crypto-space and looking for ways to capture part of that market,” he stated. “When and how they will do it will very much depend on the overall crypto regulation, as well as how fast the biggest crypto wallets and exchanges will adopt rigorous Know-Your-Customer (KYC) regimes.”

 

Others joining in on the trend

There is little evidence to suggest the NFT boom will dial down anytime soon, which seems to have attracted more payments market players to get on board. For instance, Goldman Sachs has been offering bitcoin futures trading for some time now, while Mastercard has partnered up with Circle to create a solution bridging cryptocurrencies and traditional fiat money for people wanting to spend their digital assets anywhere Mastercard is accepted.

“Since NFT is another use case of blockchain technology that has attracted massive liquidity, there can be no doubt traditional players will seek to stay relevant in the market and will look for ways to cater for NFT traders,” Simanauskas added.

 

Potential threats for the finance sector

However, where large sums trade hands – fraud is rampant. For instance, earlier this year, a hacker exploited security loopholes on a famous artist’s website and sold a fake Banksy NFT for $336,000. Hence, when it comes to potential threats to the finance sector, for instance, money laundering, Simanauskas notes authentication and systems will need to be made more robust.

“One could argue that a person seeking to launder funds would either buy or create multiple NFTs—which can take only minutes to create—list them on various platforms, buy them using illicit funds from multiple anonymous wallets and legitimize one’s funds as a proud digital artist. That’s not an issue of NFT, but rather one of KYC,” Simanauskas explained. “As long as crypto exchanges will do sloppy KYC and platforms will accept payments from anonymous wallets, the blockchain industry will retain its messy image.”

“On the other hand, many big players in the industry are trying to clear that reputation by bringing more transparency and internal regulation into the way they oversee client transactions. While financial watchdogs are trying to make sense of all this and prepare to regulate the crypto-space, it will largely depend on the blockchain community itself how well they can address AML/CTF and security questions that would make people trust and utilize the technology to the fullest.”

Banking Customers
ArticlesBanking

How to Ensure Safe Onboarding Procedures of Clients’ Customers?

Banking Customers

Non-banks have been choosing BaaS (Banking-as-a-Service) due to the difficulty of getting and maintaining a banking license, which calls for meeting all the necessary requirements, like KYC (Know-Your-Customer). Chief Compliance & Risk Officer at ConnectPay, Thibaud Catry, says that it takes mutual cooperation and a strong in-house compliance team to ensure the safety of clients’ customers’ onboarding procedure.

Banking-as-a-Service (BaaS) platforms have been gaining more traction in the market as they streamline non-banking businesses’ entry into the financial services sector. Alongside the fully developed banking infrastructure, a BaaS provider takes on the responsibility to adhere to any regulatory requirements, including Know Your Customer (KYC), aimed at preventing money laundering activities and helping to better understand the customers, as well as manage risks more prudently.

Since BaaS uses KYC to onboard their client’s customers, Thibaud Catry, Chief Compliance & Risk Officer at ConnectPay, has outlined key aspects necessary to ensure that this process runs smoothly: a strong in-house compliance team and mutual collaboration.

To provide banking services companies must obtain a banking license, which is both hard to get and difficult to maintain. The necessary infrastructure to carry out transactions and handle funds can cost millions, while using BaaS is usually a fraction of the price — making these platforms a more cost-effective solution.

Infrastructure aside, businesses find it hard to enter the financial market due to strict and ever-changing regulations, which also differ depending on where in the world companies are trying to provide banking services. When choosing BaaS, non-bank entities acquire both the necessary framework as well as the assurance that they are running an operation in compliance with mandatory AML requirements and KYC, which becomes the responsibility of a BaaS provider.

The reason for constant adjustments in regulations is to combat constantly emerging new threats — in the case of KYC, their intent is to minimize illegal activities like money laundering and fraud. According to Catry, these developments are part of the various challenges that BaaS face when trying to safely carry out their clients’ customers’ onboarding process.

“Each industry has its own challenges, from geo-risk to new modern payment methods providing an additional level of anonymity and fast-changing regulatory landscape. Compliance professionals need to adapt to these nuances, learn about market changes and the potential risks linked with these transformations. When it comes to KYC, some of the main obstacles while onboarding clients’ customers emerge from poor data and record management, which both result in potential risks going undetected.”

To avoid these mishaps, Catry emphasizes the need to focus on compliance specialists. ConnectPay followed this strategy when creating their own new BaaS product, making sure that these experts made up a substantial part of the team.

“For example, a third of ConnectPay’s staff is just the KYC department. It takes quite a number of qualified professionals to keep up with all of the changing requirements and sort through all of the client’s provided data to make sure that their customers are identified and assessed correctly,” Catry emphasized. “It’s not enough to check and verify a customer just once — a BaaS provider needs to conduct ongoing monitoring to detect any possible risks and react accordingly. This is a detailed procedure which requires a number of specialists at work and, considering the current regulatory environment, financial institutions in Europe cannot afford to work with a weak compliance team.”

Although regulatory procedures are the BaaS’s responsibility, it cannot effectively meet all the necessary requirements alone. In order to make sure that everything is running smoothly, Catry says that mutual cooperation is a must.

“Using an intermediary is always a challenge for any FI. At ConnectPay, the team focuses on working with their partner to ensure that the standards they are applying regarding KYC procedures are at a minimum at the same level as ConnectPay’s standards. When it comes to ensuring the safety of onboarding client’s customers, strong cooperation, direct line of communication, and sharing best market practices is key.”

ConnectPay is constantly investing in its compliance department, making sure that all activities of the company are adhering to regulatory requirements. Additionally, any unethical business practices are eliminated during the thorough screening process, ensuring that all of the company’s customers are working inside the legal framework.

Crypto currency coins infront of a stock screen
Finance Advisor
ArticlesFinance

Top Careers in the Investment Industry and What You Need to Acquire Them

Finance Advisor


The investment industry is one of the most lucrative industries in the world. If you’re looking for a career that pays well and has many prospects, then this may be an ideal field to pursue. However, not just anyone can break into this field. There are specific requirements that need to be met before someone can become a successful investor. In this blog post, we will discuss what careers are available in the investment industry, as well as what qualities are needed to acquire them.

 

Investment Advisor

An investment advisor helps people manage their money and plan for the future. They are knowledgeable in many different areas, such as stocks, bonds, mutual funds, etc. They can help people decide how to invest their money and which pieces of the market will be a good fit. This career will see you have many meetings with clients as you share your knowledge in the investment industry. Having exposure can make you rank high in your career.

It’s, however, necessary to have the proper documents as this is what makes your profile impressive. Having the appropriate certification is significant. These days, some courses are made specifically for anyone planning to mold a career in investment advisory services. The Series 65 study courses can be challenging as they test you to the limits. This is what helps you become a great investment consultant. Check if there is sufficient series 65 study material for the course you pick. If you want to pass your exams, then you need plenty of resources.

 

Investment Manager

In this career path, you will have the opportunity of helping others make the best out of their investment. Practically, you will oversee their projects to make every operation fruitful. What is most fascinating about investment management is that you have options on the field you want to work in. For instance, you may consider working for insurance companies, brokerage firms, banks, and credit unions.

This job can be lucrative, primarily when you work for a well-established international company. If you want to become a competent investment manager, you need to have the right skills and knowledge. The good thing is that you qualify to become an investment manager with a Business Administration or Finance bachelor of science degree. If you have even worked for years in the industry, it makes you even more resourceful for the job position.

 

Corporate Careers

In every company, it’s the combined effort of the team that will lead the team in accomplishing the overall mission, vision, objectives, and target. This relies on input from the chief executive officers (CEOs) and managing directors (MD). In most cases, these jobs are demanding and may prompt you to work for more than the traditional hours. This is because you need to monitor every corner of the company and ascertain everything is running smoothly. Again, it involves a lot of meeting with other stakeholders, investors, and clients.

For you to become a CEO, your track record and profile need to be remarkable. You need to give an image of someone down-to-earth and unique in handling things. A company’s success rests on your shoulders hence the need for an exceptional person for the job.

There is flexibility in the types of companies you can work for, but primarily your know-how guides a lot in the field you can comfortably succeed. On the other hand, you have the freedom of either working in a public or private company.

The investment industry is growing due to economic factors such as increased demand and better technology. If you want a career in the industry, there are different options that you could consider. For instance, you can become a financial advisor, investment manager, or even pursue a corporate career. What is significant is having the right qualifications as your competency levels matter a lot.

Tax Tips
ArticlesTax

5 Income Tax Tips for People Living and Working in Different States

Tax Tips


Having to file your taxes in more than one state can be a complicated process. The first step is figuring out how much income tax you owe for each state. A lot of people think that they only need to pay the higher amount, but this isn’t always true. You may have a credit or offsetting deduction that makes it worthwhile to calculate what you owe for each state and then compare them before filing in both states.

 

1. Differences Between a Resident and Non-Resident Tax Filing Status

The state you live in considers you a resident if your intention to stay there is indefinite. You are also considered a resident of the state where your spouse and kids reside even though it may not be the same as where you currently live (if they’re with you most of the time).

If neither one of these applies, then you are considered a non-resident and only have to file taxes in the state where you currently live.

If both apply, then things get complicated because it doesn’t always make sense for your filing status to be determined by the state where you work or receive income from business activities. You should go with whichever one benefits you more.

 

2. Understand How to Report Income from Multiple Jobs on Your Taxes

If you work in-state and out of state, then things get a little more complicated. The best thing to do is maintain accurate records so that it’s clear which income should be reported where.

In the case that your total taxable wages are higher than $117,000 (married filing jointly) or $73,800 (single) then you will need to file taxes in both states.

In any other case, you only go where the total taxable wages are higher and use that state’s income tax rate when filling out your return there. You can report all of your W-G from outside jobs on a separate Schedule NEC – Other State Income line with the specific amount of income you earned there.

You can also take a deduction for the taxes paid on your out-of-state work as an itemized deduction to even it all out and avoid paying more in one state than another.

 

3. Are You Eligible for Deductibles or Credits that Could Lower Your Taxes?

There are a number of deductions that you can take advantage of on your tax return to reduce the taxes owed. You should compare these with what is available in each state and go with whichever means more money back for you.

Some examples include:

  • Charitable donations (don’t forget about non-cash items)
  • Medical expenses above a certain threshold
  • Moving expenses to a new state for work or study purposes
  • Property tax deductions (for people who own their own home)

Not all of these will be available in every single state, so you should do your research and see if any apply. The more you can deduct the lower your taxes owed are going to be.

 

4. Review What Counts As Income When Determining Eligibility for Certain Deductions

You may think that the amount of money you made in a certain state is what’s counted as income for your tax return, but this isn’t always true.

The most common example would be refunds from overpayments on property taxes or home loans. These are not taxable as long as they were deducted from previous returns and will lower how much you owe.

If this happens, make sure to include it on the required schedule where income from out-of-state jobs should be declared. You can also claim any deductions associated with that money if applicable.

For other types of income like bank interest or dividends, each state might have different rules about how much is counted as taxable income. It’s best to double-check with the Department of Revenue or Treasury in each state you live and work to find out what counts as income, how much it is, and if there are any deductions associated with it.

The more information you have about your total taxable wage for a year can help lower your tax liability when filing returns from multiple jobs.

 

5. Ensure You Have All the Necessary Records Before Filing Your Taxes

Having a record book might help keep everything organized if filing alone isn’t enough. If you’re looking for a way to speed up the process, there are tools that can help calculate your tax liability as well as file all required documents on behalf of their users. You can also generate all your pay stubs in a few minutes using paystub creator and then use it to record all deductibles, taxes, and income.

Couple having a meeting with a debt specialist
ArticlesFinance

How Debt Settlement Works

Couple having a meeting with a debt specialist

That mountain of credit card debt is threatening to ruin your financial life if you don’t make a move – and soon. You’ve been hearing about debt settlement, a strategy that lets you skirt the last resort that is bankruptcy. But you’re unsure of what the approach entails. Well, here’s all about how debt settlement works.

 

What is Debt Settlement?

Also called debt relief, debt settlement is when you pay a firm to go to your creditors – typically credit card issuers – to see whether they’d be down for letting you pay a portion of what you owe to have your obligations marked “settled” on your credit reports. Why would they agree to that? Well, because they know your next move could very well be bankruptcy. If you file that, the companies you owe realize that they very well could wind up with nothing.

 

How Does Debt Settlement Work?

You’ll have a consultation with your debt settlement company during which your financial situation will be assessed, and a payment plan will be created. After that, you’ll be asked to make monthly deposits into a savings-like account that you control. That account will be used for leverage during negotiations with your creditors. Once you’ve saved enough, your negotiators will approach each company you owe for a settlement. After each settlement is reach and approved by you, the creditor will be paid through the account.

 

Doesn’t Debt Settlement Hurt Your Credit?

The process of debt relief will depress your credit scores – temporarily. Your scores will rebound and then some once your debts are satisfied and you’ve begun to rebuild your portfolio.

It’s good to keep in mind that your scores aren’t the best now anyway, are they?

 

How Long Does Debt Settlement Take?

Depending on the company, debt settlement takes between 24 to 48 months. That may seem like a lifetime but it’s not nearly longer than the time it would take you to try to pay the debts off yourself. That could literally take … forever. And remember, your financial slide didn’t occur overnight.

Check out recent Freedom Debt Relief reviews for more insight on this and the benefits of debt settlement.

 

What Kind of Debt Does Debt Settlement Accept?

Again, it depends on the company, but it’s usually any debt that isn’t secured – not attached to collateral such as a car or your house. Usually we’re talking credit cards, personal loans, or medical bills, and the like. Whatever the kind of unsecured debt, you’ll usually need around $7,500 of it.

 

How Much Does Debt Settlement Cost?

You can expect to shell out between 15% and 25% of either your settled or enrolled debt. Don’t pay anyone any fees up front – before settlement are reached. Charging such fees is against the law and a red flag that you might be dealing with a scam company.

 

How Can I Avoid Scams?

Yes, the industry does have a few bad actors who are more than willing to take advantage of your vulnerable financial and emotional state. So, make sure the company you choose is accredited with the American Fair Credit Council and the International Association of Professional Debt Arbitrators.

You also want to give a wide berth to any company that over promises or makes breathless “guarantees” about how it can save you money for pennies on the dollar and by a time certain, particularly if it hasn’t even gone over your financials. While debt settlement has saved scores of people like you from financial ruin, negotiations are by their very nature unpredictable.

 

Now that you know how debt settlement works, you can proceed with eliminating those burdensome debts and getting your finances in order. Just make sure you pick a credible, reputable, and established company to guide you.

Tax
ArticlesTax

5 Income Tax Tips for People Living and Working in Different States

Tax


Having to file your taxes in more than one state can be a complicated process. The first step is figuring out how much income tax you owe for each state. A lot of people think that they only need to pay the higher amount, but this isn’t always true. You may have a credit or offsetting deduction that makes it worthwhile to calculate what you owe for each state and then compare them before filing in both states.

 

1. Differences Between a Resident and Non-Resident Tax Filing Status

The state you live in considers you a resident if your intention to stay there is indefinite. You are also considered a resident of the state where your spouse and kids reside even though it may not be the same as where you currently live (if they’re with you most of the time).

If neither one of these applies, then you are considered a non-resident and only have to file taxes in the state where you currently live.

If both apply, then things get complicated because it doesn’t always make sense for your filing status to be determined by the state where you work or receive income from business activities. You should go with whichever one benefits you more.

 

2. Understand How to Report Income from Multiple Jobs on Your Taxes

If you work in-state and out of state, then things get a little more complicated. The best thing to do is maintain accurate records so that it’s clear which income should be reported where.

In the case that your total taxable wages are higher than $117,000 (married filing jointly) or $73,800 (single) then you will need to file taxes in both states.

In any other case, you only go where the total taxable wages are higher and use that state’s income tax rate when filling out your return there. You can report all of your W-G from outside jobs on a separate Schedule NEC – Other State Income line with the specific amount of income you earned there.

You can also take a deduction for the taxes paid on your out-of-state work as an itemized deduction to even it all out and avoid paying more in one state than another.

 

3. Are You Eligible for Deductibles or Credits that Could Lower Your Taxes?

There are a number of deductions that you can take advantage of on your tax return to reduce the taxes owed. You should compare these with what is available in each state and go with whichever means more money back for you.

Some examples include:

  • Charitable donations (don’t forget about non-cash items)
  • Medical expenses above a certain threshold
  • Moving expenses to a new state for work or study purposes
  • Property tax deductions (for people who own their own home)

Not all of these will be available in every single state, so you should do your research and see if any apply. The more you can deduct the lower your taxes owed are going to be.

 

4. Review What Counts As Income When Determining Eligibility for Certain Deductions

You may think that the amount of money you made in a certain state is what’s counted as income for your tax return, but this isn’t always true.

The most common example would be refunds from overpayments on property taxes or home loans. These are not taxable as long as they were deducted from previous returns and will lower how much you owe.

If this happens, make sure to include it on the required schedule where income from out-of-state jobs should be declared. You can also claim any deductions associated with that money if applicable.

For other types of income like bank interest or dividends, each state might have different rules about how much is counted as taxable income. It’s best to double-check with the Department of Revenue or Treasury in each state you live and work to find out what counts as income, how much it is, and if there are any deductions associated with it.

The more information you have about your total taxable wage for a year can help lower your tax liability when filing returns from multiple jobs.

 

5. Ensure You Have All the Necessary Records Before Filing Your Taxes

Having a record book might help keep everything organized if filing alone isn’t enough. If you’re looking for a way to speed up the process, there are tools that can help calculate your tax liability as well as file all required documents on behalf of their users. You can also generate all your pay stubs in a few minutes using paystub creator and then use it to record all deductibles, taxes, and income.

Home Buyer
ArticlesFinance

Sensible Tips for First-Time Home-Buyers

Home Buyer


Buying your first home is a daunting task that can leave you feeling extremely stressed. However, by understanding some of the best pieces of advice, you can make better decisions and end up with the house you really want without spending too much on it.

 

Work Out What You Need and Can Afford

One of the biggest mistakes when buying a house is in making the wrong choice. When you go out to view houses you might fall in love with a property that isn’t right for you or that you can’t afford. Therefore, the first step is to work out your budget and stick to only looking at properties that you can afford.

Before getting started is also the time to make a list of the different factors to take into account, such as the distance to amenities, number of bedrooms and so on. Bob Vila looks at issues like renovation potential and storage space in this post. Be as clear as you can at the beginning on what you are looking for and it will be a lot easier to narrow down your options as you go.

Hopefully, what you need ties in perfectly with what you can afford. If it doesn’t, it’s time to be completely honest and see whether you need to save some more money before going any further, or else lower your expectations to a suitable level for your budget.

 

Consider Your Mortgage Options

Some people wait too late to find out about their mortgage options, committing to buying a house before they have the finances lined up. The most sensible approach is to find out about your mortgage options and how much you can borrow early on in the process.

Go online to do some research and you can use a trusted fast mortgage broker like Trussle to find the best deals. They take you through a few simple questions to work out your situation and get the most suitable quote. You will then look at fixed or variable rates from top lenders such as Halifax and Virgin Money.  Having an agreement in principle in place for a mortgage makes the whole thing less stressful later on. It means that once you find somewhere you want to buy you can move more quickly and avoid any last-minute hitches with your loan.

 

Calculate the Monthly Costs

By the time you have carried out the previous steps, you are close to knowing exactly how much the property is going to cost you. Now is the time to consider all of the costs that owning a house involves, from electricity bills to repairs, maintenance and anything else that crops up.

The hidden costs of owning a home as explained by Investopedia includes items such as insurance and taxes. You will want to carry out research on the cost of running similar homes in the area to be sure that you can afford it.

Take these tips into account and buying your first house will be more enjoyable and less of a struggle than you have probably imagined it to be.

Mortgage rate
ArticlesFinance

6 Things You Didn’t Know About Mortgage Rates and Why They Matter

Mortgage rate

Mortgage rates are instrumental in determining the affordability of home loans for anyone who wants to get on the property ladder.

While you may understand the basics, drilling down into the details and learning more about interest rates and how they apply to mortgages is sensible. So without further ado, here are handy facts to help you make informed decisions.

 

Interest rates typically rise before they fall

Holding off on securing a mortgage in the expectation that rates will fall in the near future is a bad idea. This is because at any one time it is statistically more likely for them to increase rather than decrease.

It is better to avoid worrying about picking the perfect time to get your first mortgage or refinance. Instead, compare various mortgage rates right now and get the best deal in the current market conditions.

 

Other factors can impact the affordability of a property more than mortgage rates

Obsessing over the interest rate of a mortgage package without also considering the other costs involved in buying a property is a common mistake, and one which can come back to bite buyers.

You need to look at the big picture and not only consider how much interest you will be paying on your home loan, but also other costs like property tax, maintenance, moving fees and commuting expenses where relevant.

 

Rates aren’t directly tied to the economy

While outside economic factors certainly have an impact on mortgage rates, you should not assume that they completely mirror the boom and bust cycle of the broader economy.

The COVID-19 pandemic was a great example of this; while there was widespread disruption in many industries, home loan rates remained low and actually fell in many regions.

 

The prime interest rate can be misleading

Another aspect of the mortgage market which it is tempting to fixate upon is the prime interest rate, because while this may be a seemingly solid indicator of the overall state of play in the lending market, it does not actually tally closely with the general level of the interest rate curve.

Indeed the prime rate can be significantly higher or lower than real world rates that most customers can access, so doing more research and weighing up your options is wise before you dive into any deal with a lender.

 

Interest costs can be overtaken by rising property prices

Over the course of a 25 or 30 year fixed term mortgage, you will clearly see that the interest you pay off each month mounts up to a significant amount on top of the original price of your home.

This can seem daunting and even feel like you are overpaying for the property in the long run. However, since the housing market tends to rise year on year, it is more than likely that your home will increase in value at a greater rate than the interest of your mortgage, so when you sell it, interest costs will be less of a concern.

 

Refinancing costs vary depending on the mortgage you pick

This is one of the trickier aspects, but one which can make a major difference to the appeal of particular mortgage packages.

In essence, the type of deal you strike with your lender may either make refinancing in the future more or less expensive.

Obviously this depends on your circumstances and the state of the market at the time, so get expert advice and be aware of all the terms and conditions which apply to the home loan product you choose.