Authorities worldwide appear to be moving the danger from criminal activity across cyber channels up the regulatory agenda. In Australia, the head of financial stability at the country's central bank, Jonathan Kearns, told listeners to a speech yesterday that the frequency of cyberattacks was on the rise, with a true picture difficult to paint as companies were reticent about public disclosures. "It is crucial that banks continue to adapt their risk management for these evolving risks," said Mr Kearns, "as those bank risks can morph into systemic risks that have the potential for dire consequences for the economy and people's livelihoods." New figures from AusPayNet, the payments industry's self-regulatory body, show a 9.2 percent rise in fraud over the twelve months to the end of June, with the fraud rate being 57.8 cents for every thousand dollars spent. Needless to say, card-not-present (CNP) scenarios suffer the most from bad actors: CNP fraud was up by 12.3 percent and responsible for 90 percent of all cards-related crime.
Meanwhile an anti-corruption charity in London notes what it calls 'red flags' (ie, risks rather than proven wrongdoing) at 100 of Britain's 261 Electronic money institutions. And, in the US, some merchants are even dropping legitimate neobank cards as acceptable payment methods for fear of fraud, a threat vector intensified by slow back-end interbank settlement systems: several major car rental agencies for example no longer appear to accept cards issued by Chime.
Not all criminal abuse of the financial system takes advantage of digital technology: in Britain, NatWest has been fined £265 million ($351m) for lapses that saw the laundering of almost £400m of cash through its branches, with the court hearing how polythene sacks were used by criminal gangs, on one occasion so stuffed with banknotes that the bags burst. Europe's largest bank, HSBC, was also fined in London this week, in its case to the tune of £63.9m ($85.2m) for being in breach of anti-money laundering system standards for an eight-year span ending in 2018.
JPMorgan Chase saw record highs for daily card payment volumes over the last weekend in November, a four-day shopping spree that has become known in recent years as 'cyber weekend'. At their highest point, the volumes were 50 percent above the average daily total this year. Encouragingly for brick-and-mortar retailers, in-store payments were higher than in 2019, the most recent pre-pandemic comparison; the same data shows that e-commerce grew above the Covid-spurred levels of 2020.
Outside of its domestic market, the firm is continuing its major push across the Atlantic: having successfully launched its digital retail bank Chase UK, it is now recruiting such that its headcount in the country will cross into four figures. Beyond the United Kingdom, the Wall Street giant is looking to establish a market presence in Europe not only in consumer lending but also serving investment and savings needs. Over a million transactions have now taken place through Chase UK, with volumes on the rise as Britons prepare for Christmas.
Underlying the seriousness of the situation there for global cards networks, the Indian government has confirmed that it is willing to spend up to $170 million to incentivise issuers of domestic debit card scheme RuPay : it will pay them a cut of the transaction value for a year, backdating the funds to last April. Less than a month ago, Visa (according to Reuters reporting) complained to Washington about Delhi's backing for RuPay (which still lags the two main American schemes in terms of transactions processed). The Indian prime minister, Narendra Modi, has long been a robust proponent of RuPay, and last year a key minister touted it as "the only card" that lenders should be promoting. As Verisk Financial Research's current market report for India points out, a controversial zero-MDR (merchant discount rate) policy was introduced at the beginning of last year for all RuPay debit cards.
In neighbouring China, the payments industry has been undergoing a time of great change as Beijing reshapes the sector to suit its political ends. A useful CNBC round-up sketches out the burgeoning Buy now, pay later scene in the country, as popular and new players contend for a piece of this fast-growing pie. Both Ant and Tencent have made moves, with the latter testing its Fen Fu offering, which facilitates instalment payments for WeChat users. New challengers include Singapore-based Atome, now present in nine Asian markets, where it has picked up over 20 million registered users.
Other stories of interest this week...
Global: Klarna rolls out BNPL/coupon/cashback browser extension
France: New unicorn Lydia plans superapp and Iberian entry
Italy: Amazon fined $1.3bn for abusing market position
UK: Watchdog bans seven ads in crypto 'red alert'
US: Consumer watchdog asks BNPL firms for products/practices data
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