This week’s tech news, filtered for financial services execs

February 21

Hello and welcome to Insights Distilled, a weekly email briefing that curates tactical technology news for financial services execs. Every Tuesday morning, we send you the top five stories you need to know – and explain why they matter. Our tech news roundup helps you stay on top of the innovations driving business agility in your industry. To get next week’s edition in your inbox, sign up here.


For US readers coming back from a long weekend, we hope it was restful.  

Our latest edition includes several stories of digital transformation in progress, from US Bank’s plan to upskill thousands of its employees to a new solution for banks’ fintech integration woes.  

Let’s dive in:

  1. Azure army: US Bank recruits internal volunteers to drive cloud certifications
  2. Infrastructure innovation: Why Credit Suisse has championed this digital asset firm
  3. Evaluating AI: A case study on the investment needed for successful deployment
  4. Integration update: Sandbox helps banks connect to fintechs more easily
  5. Fading threat: Moody’s says big banks can sleep easier this year

US Bank is deploying internal volunteers to help train its 7,000 tech employees in cloud skills, in a very “fintech-y” bid to shift its enterprise mindset.  

As US Bank moves its apps to Microsoft’s cloud, it’s dedicated to upskilling all its tech workers through a cost-effective training strategy that takes advantage of grassroots enthusiasm and talent.  

US Bank has tapped a small group of internal advocates to spread the gospel of the cloud among their coworkers.  

The bank, which committed $600 million to moving 1,300 apps to Microsoft’s Azure cloud, wants all its 7,000 technology employees to get cloud-certified over the next two years, and, to get there, it’s given support to several dozen volunteer coaches to train their peers, according to a feature in American Banker.  

Over six months last year, 30 volunteers guided 1,200 people to complete a certification. Each cohort spent 70 to 80 work hours over six weeks with a blend of employee coaching and Microsoft-provided classes. It intends to continue this strategy to train its entire team.  

US Bank’s approach is “very fintech-y,” according to PwC banking lead Peter Pollini: “Teams collaborating together and saying, ‘Hey, there’s a problem. Let’s now shift as a team and figure out how we can solve that problem together.’ That’s not the way that you would necessarily think of a bank upskilling their talent in the past.” 

As US Bank makes the transition to the cloud, it needs its existing workers to be knowledgeable and well-equipped for its new reality. And it aims for the process – dubbed Certfest – to feel “inspiring,” according to US Bank head of enterprise architecture Madhu Rao: “We have created an ecosystem where we are shopping within our closet to look for people that are already experts, and then we are providing them the opportunity to go and impact people.” 


At a time when banks are generally breaking up with crypto, a digital asset infrastructure firm just won funding from Credit Suisse and Deutsche Bank.  

Involvement with crypto is spooking banks, but digital assets more generally remain attractive: Banks are still interested in letting their clients issue, transfer, settle, and safekeep tokenized equities, and startups are jockeying to provide infrastructure. 

Digital asset infrastructure firm Taurus has raised a $65 million Series B led by Credit Suisse, with participation from Deutsche Bank, Arab Bank Switzerland, and others.  

Taurus’ platform is built to issue, custody, and trade any digital assets, including tokenized assets and digital currencies, and its funding highlights how cryptocurrency’s issues haven’t dampened all blockchain-based projects. As Bain’s Thomas Olsen put it to Distilled recently: “Large financial institutions are seeing a window of opportunity” for Web3 this year because of crypto’s problems. 

Taurus says it works with more than 25 financial institutions and corporate clients, including Credit Suisse. 

Credit Suisse expects “to soon launch several digital asset services for clients both on the issuing and the investment side,” exec André Helfenstein said.  

Taurus cofounder Lamine Brahim tells Insights Distilled that one of Taurus’ advantages is that it’s regulated – its T-DX platform for trading tokenized securities obtained a license from Swiss regulator FINMA in 2021 – and that its platform’s tech stack allows it to execute quickly: 

“Taurus controls the full technology stack – software, hardware, cryptography, distributed systems – where others assemble,” Brahim said.  

It plans to use the fundraising to fuel international expansion. Meanwhile, Citi, BBVA, BNP Paribas, and DBS work with infrastructure firm Metaco, while State Street has a partnership with Copper.


AmeriSave built an AI underwriting system that allowed it to scale its business 1,200%, but there’s a catch.  

AmeriSave’s story offers a case study on how companies clamoring to integrate AI run into the reality that successful projects take significant time and investment – and they need to prioritize carefully. 

The CIO of AmeriSave – one of the largest privately owned mortgage lenders in the US – can’t keep up with all the requests for AI apps within the company.  

While the proffered ideas would tackle various cost issues, Magesh Sarma has seen firsthand that building machine learning algorithms isn’t quick’n’easy. CIOs need to be judicious in selecting projects that will drive significant business value, and use past experiences to resist the temptation to say yes to every request. 

For example, Sarma’s team spent $20 to $30 million each year for several years building one complex algorithm to perform some parts of the loan-underwriting process, according to The Wall Street Journal. Ultimately, it helped AmeriSave fund $24.2 billion in loans, up from $1.86 billion just two years earlier.  

That’s a big reward, but it took significant time and investment.  

There’s so much AI excitement that CIOs need to be measured, lest costs and commitment exceed the final impact.  

“In general, there’s so much work to be done that there are often competing priorities,” according to the CIO of insurance firm Aflac, Shelia Anderson. One of the key factors she uses to determine which AI project to tackle next is time-to-value. For more on evaluating potential tech experiments, check out advice from former Credit Suisse CIO Radhika Venkatraman.   


Investors say this startup is the Stripe of fintech integrations for banks.  

The challenge of integrating with fintechs is one of the biggest slowdowns of digital transformation, according to bank CIOs. A startup aims to make collaboration much faster and easier.

Sandbox Banking just raised seed funding for its low-code integration platform, Glyue, which helps banks connect fintech products into their existing systems.    

Making legacy core banking systems compatible with new technology can require a tremendous amount of work, but Sandbox says it can reduce development times of common integrations by 80%.

Customers are using APIs built with Glyue to integrate chatbots, balance sheet optimization tools, or banking-as-a-service solutions, which can contribute to top-line revenue growth for them via the interchange revenue from fintech end-users, CEO Ravi Balasubramanian told Insights Distilled.  

Sandbox counts United Bank, Bank Newport, and Silicon Valley Bank – which uses the Glyue platform to move data in real-time between its commercial lending systems and its core servicing platforms – among its customers. 

Just as Stripe has made it dead-simple for apps to accept payments, Sandbox makes working with fintechs a breeze, according to Tuesday Capital investor Patrick Gallagher.  

“What Stripe did for accessibility, Sandbox is poised to do with fintech integrations,” he said. “They are the ‘Glyue’ (pun intended) required to connect the banking sector to the fintech innovations required to compete over the next decade.” 


Fintechs’ competitive threat to big banks has diminished, according to a new Moody’s report.  

A combination of factors has decreased the threat that banks face from fintechs: Tighter conditions have squeezed digital upstarts while incumbents have been rigorous in making their own investments. 

Big banks can sleep a little easier, according to a new report from Moody’s.  

Sluggish funding and a slower growth environment have kneecapped many startups while big banks are seeing the fruits of their digital transformation efforts start to pay off. 

“The fintech threat has faded amid reduced funding and tighter regulations, while incumbent banks have stepped up to the challenge,” the ratings agency said. After all, incumbents have “been aggressively defending against [fintech] risks, either through increasing their spending in technology or through partnerships.” 

The current climate presents refreshed opportunities for partnership instead of competition, and the report points to the possibilities of acquisitions, too, as experts predict that 2023 will likely be a big year for bank M&A.  

Remember, however, that careful due diligence and a specialized approach to retaining talent are crucial to making a purchase successful instead of a flop, according to Bain analysts.   

Quick Bits:

Personnel news: A JPMorgan vet who defected to Meta in 2021, Albert Eskenazi just joined Goldman Sachs in its fixed income strats technology division, while Binance hired Noah Perlman from rival Gemini as its chief compliance officer. 

Also, Fidelity Investments intends to hire 4,000 staff for new roles in the first half of this year, concentrated in customer service and technology, to “elevate digital capabilities,” and Lael Brainard’s departure from the US Federal Reserve may impact the progress of CBDCs and upcoming projects like the CRA and FedNow. 

Also, cybercrime groups are offering six-figure salaries, bonuses, and vacation benefits to entice in-demand developers.  

Money moves: DBS Bank’s digital exchange (DDEx) saw trading volumes grow by 80% while Barclays has reported a 49.7% surge in contactless payments.

Investment-wise, Franklin Templeton contributed to the $11 million funding round of crypto index platform Alongside, while a JPMorgan exec chipped into the seed funding of ModernFi, a deposit marketplace.

Partnership power: BNP Paribas Cardif is partnering with fintech Lemonade to offer renters insurance, while Citizens Bank has linked up with Paymentus to provide bill pay for its retail customers.  

Through the partnership, Citizens users will get “a seamless, streamlined, centralized digital hub for bills, subscriptions, and financial obligations that enables customers to take control of their financial world,” Paymentus chief innovation officer for banking and fintech, Marcell King, told Insights Distilled.    


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