Saturday, June 15, 2024

EXCLUSIVE: “Glittering Success” – Jason Cozens, Glint in ‘The Fintech Magazine’

We ask Jason Cozens, CEO of Glint, what’s next for gold-backed challengers?

Seen as a reliable commodity for millennia, many increasingly believe gold has untapped potential in the modern payments sector. Jason Cozens, the founder of the UK-based gold-backed savings and payment app Glint, even goes as far as to say it’s right up there with Bitcoin as a genuine ‘alternative to banking, payments, and money itself’.

”Bitcoin is a friend of Glint,” he declares. “We are both dealing with the same problems in the monetary system. Personally, I think people should have some Bitcoin and some gold.” An oversubscribed first crowdfunding campaign that reached £3.1million in November 2022 and a 100 per cent increase in registered Glint users last year to 190,000 – leading to double the amount of gold (two tonnes, or $110-120million-worth at the time) that it had stored in a Brink’s vault in Switzerland – suggests that many are already keen to get their hands on it.

The self-styled ‘goldfi’ (as opposed to altfi) challenger has come a long way since we last spoke with Cozens, soon after the app’s launch, in 2020. At the time, pandemic-panicked investors were fuelling a gold rush, the flight to bullion-backed assets a typical response to economic uncertainty. From a £1,517.61/ounce high in August of that year, gold has continued a staggered rise – as it has done for a few thousand years. Neither Bitcoin nor gold, of course, is immune to price swings. But, as Cozens points out, they are at least immune from the whim of government monetary policy.

An ounce of gold would have bought a Roman senator a very nice toga; an ounce today would get you’re average MP a long way on Savile Row. Bitcoin, meanwhile, since its launch in 2010 has more than held its value, despite the well-publicised highs and lows. If you’d bought $1,000 of Bitcoin in 2010 and done nothing with it, it would be worth more than $350million today.

Compared to the fiat currencies whose value evaporates in our pockets as a result of inflation, gold holds up pretty well. Its value has grown by more than 500 per cent over the last 50 years, while the dollar and the pound have lost 85 per cent of theirs.Bitcoin hasn’t yet lived up to its promise to be a democratising influence on finance, though: it’s been estimated that 95 per cent of its value is in the hands of just two per cent of investors. Gold’s ownership, on the other hand, is much better distributed. Even central banks only own 17 per cent of it.

Glint wants to extend that ownership even further, to ’100s of millions of customers worldwide’ (and, just as an aside, the platform doesn’t need the energy requirements of a large country to make that happen, as crypto mining does). However, like crypto, it must use the very financial system it seeks to disrupt to reach the mainstream as a payment utility.

As one Bloomberg article put it: “Many digital-asset companies need traditional finance firms to help provide customers with a reliable on-and-off ramp between their platforms and the world of hard currency.” Goldfi is no different in that regard. Glint is a market leader in this niche, providing a payment app and a Mastercard

to customers who can use their gold deposits to make payments anywhere in the world. They can invest in as little as a gram in a gold bar that’s co-owned with other Glint users, or amass their own private horde of reserved gold.

The app allows them to transact in USD, Euro or GB pounds at will, so they can choose fiat currencies or gold at any given moment, whichever is the most advantageous at the time and so long as they hold sufficient in their account.If achieving Glint’s vision means leveraging mechanisms inside the existing banking system, Cozens is happy to play by its rules. He welcomes, for instance, the introduction of the ISO 20022 standard across the payments industry.

“People need something more reliable. And there’s nothing more proven than gold”

“The ability to be able to share rich information, through the standard, between different financial institutions is going to allow us to do better KYC and combat money laundering,” he says.Cozens continues: “Our back-end is gradually becoming a platform with APIs. We’re already talking to some very big financial institutions about integrating our product with theirs, so they can offer the Glint experience to their customers, and I’d like to think that could expand around the world.”

Ultimately, Cozens says, Glint wants to ‘build a global gold-based financial services ecosystem, making gold payments across the planet’.It recently added a new portal for wealth managers and its crowd investor pitch last year indicated plans to add subscription tiers, business accounts and additional currencies. Cozens teases a further development, too; an invite-only ‘X Account’, that comes with its own card. Meanwhile, the app has had a Version 3 upgrade, which went live in April.

DEMOCRATISING MONEY

Clearly, something is piquing interest in products like Glint, beyond the wider hype in investment apps. Perhaps it’s because a lot of fintech is about making ‘iterative improvements to [products] we already have’, says Cozens, whereas ‘goldfi’ is a true disruptor, but with a pedigree almost as old as civilisation itself – so even traditional investors see merit in it. Well before the crowdfund, Glint had brought in $38million through a slate of institutional and accredited investors, including Sibanye-Stillwater’s BioCube Innovation Fund, Sprott Asset Management, the Tokyo Commodity Exchange, and Craig Dewar, the co-founder of GPS that powers neo banks like Revolut and Starling.

While they might not all share Cozens’ view that gold is ‘the future of money’ they clearly believe it has a big part to play in it.An architect by training, Cozens was motivated to found Glint because he was tired of seeing people without significant wealth or assets forced to rely on financial systems that disadvantaged them.

“Some countries have incompetent central banks, where inflation is over 80 per cent. Even in developed countries now, base inflation is at around 10-12 per cent,” he says. “People need something more reliable. And there’s nothing more proven than gold. With Glint’s technology, it is a viable alternative that can make a difference in their lives.”

THREE GOLDFI PROSPECTORS

The UK-based fintech app allows you to buy, sell and transfer gold and other precious metals seamlessly. The attribution of real physical gold to the customer is a key part of its USP but whilst its gold comes from a London Bullion Market Association (LBMA) approved delivery partner, the specific details are unknown.Each user’s dashboard shows the value of their investment, provides controls over regular savings plans and the sign-up process is seamless.

It also has an API service, allowing other businesses to integrate gold and precious metal trading features, called Minted Connect.Founded in 2018 and regulated by the UK’s Financial Conduct Authority, Minted saw success in the wake of the pandemic and the soaring price of gold.The company is driven by Islamic ideals, although it is not primarily targeted at Muslims. Gold as an asset-backed investment is more compliant with Islamic Sharia banking, so it fits the ethics of the founder whilst serving a wider market.

Championing gold as the ultimate store of wealth and value, Goldex was also founded in 2018, raising more than £1million in initial funding. Founder and CEO, Sylvia Carrasco has previously spoken of the necessity of partnering with business clients and institutions to further their own business success.Aimed at retail investors as well as businesses, its marketplace is accessible 24/7 and it also has a ‘vault’ of informative expert-driven content in its Goldex Academy. It allows other businesses to integrate its marketplace in other products, too.Unlike Glint, it does not hold any gold inventory, but instead routes clients’ orders to a selection of international vaults in the gold market. This, it says, saves money on trades, avoids price manipulation and improves transparency over charges.

Another female-led, gold-backed fintech, Rush Gold is an Australian-based company co-founded by Jodi Stanton. Its services are available in more than 13 countries. Users can pay with gold as well as save, transfer, and send it to others. In 2020, it saw monthly transaction volumes increase by more than 1,000 per cent.Rush Gold has also formally signed the LBMA’s new Global Precious Metals Code of Conduct. And its gold is stored in a Sydney vault, managed by Brink’s Australia. Like Glint, it is insured by Lloyd’s of London.


 

This article was published in The Finech Magazine Issue 28, Page 24-25

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