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 /  8 January 2021

Weekly News Digest 8 January 2021

08 January 2021
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US: Green Dot to offer digital bank account

California-headquartered financial services innovator Green Dot has announced that it will be launching a digital bank account. Green Dot's original offering, now over twenty years ago, was a prepaid debit card for underbanked or unbanked consumers lacking access to traditional payments cards, an increasingly onerous disadvantage as use of plastic grew. In the past decade, armed with a banking licence and regulated deposit-taking ability through acquiring an FDIC-insured lender, Green Dot became known in the industry for its fintech partnerships with the like of Uber, Amazon and Apple Cash. Now it is moving beyond its target market to appeal to bank customers that might find their traditional branch-based bank's approach antiquated. In another sign-of-the-times move in the long-overdue digitalisation of American banking, peer-to-peer app Venmo has unveiled a new feature that allows cheques to be cashed. As a new wave of stimulus funds are sent out to Americans, in many cases in the form of cheques, the company has said that it will waive fees for the service, which should guarantee a major boost to usage in the first quarter of operation.

US: JPMorgan Chase to take over cxLoyalty Group

American rewards specialist cxLoyalty Group is being acquired by JPMorgan Chase in what is being seen by the financial press as a high-stakes bet by the Wall Street giant on the travel sector roaring back to life once pandemic restrictions have subsided. The company, which employs over three thousand people, has multiple strings to its bow, including gift cards and rewards points operations. It is now set to slot into JPM's consumer lending activities, led by Marianne Lake, a prominent champion of the bank's drive to centre itself around digital channels. Reportedly numbered among cxLoyalty Group's three thousand clients and marketing partners are Mastercard, Citi and Capital One. "Acquiring the travel and rewards businesses of cxLoyalty will provide enhanced experiences to our millions of Chase customers once they are ready, comfortable and confident to travel," noted Ms Lake in a statement.

Global: New stablecoin from Facebook-led consortium accommodates regulatory concerns

In response to the cold water poured on their mooted Libra cryptocurrency by monetary authorities worldwide, Facebook and its partners are busily preparing for the imminent launch of Diem, a new stablecoin tied to a basket of reserve currencies. As with Libra, support for Diem comes from a Geneva-based association of global companies, now numbering 27 in all, including Checkout.com, Shopify, Lyft and Uber. The association, to go by its white paper, believes that "people will increasingly trust distributed forms of governance". Given the public's enthusiasm for social media, that does seem a safe bet, and both consumers and merchants the world over may well be strongly drawn to a new medium of exchange accessible by anyone with a smartphone and 100 percent backed by a reserve of familiar currencies.

Europe: New rules on content may affect Apple Pay and Google Pay

The 2020s seem set to be marked by increasingly intense clashes between Big Tech and lawmaking bodies. On the global stage, the European Union has been the most vigorous, with enormous fines ready to drop for data-handling incidents that might have been deemed business as usual a decade ago. Now fresh content rules are being considered by lawmakers in Europe to address antitrust concerns in digital markets and digital services provision. A pair of legislative draft Acts pinpoint a contention that is as old as the browser wars of the 1990s: platforms must give a fair shake to rivals of the companies that own the platforms, a principle that is material for Apple and Google in particular. (Apple Pay, for example, is pre-installed on Apple platforms, unlike competitor wallets, and users cannot delete Apple's wallet app from their phone.) Should the proposed Acts become law across EU countries, then changes seem inevitable to both Pays.

China: Alibaba's Jack Ma to overhaul Ant fintech business
Ireland: Online shoppers see extra charges due to Brexit
Italy: Cashback incentive for credit card payments
US: Alipay, WeChat Pay and six other Chinese apps banned

The Weekly News Digest from Verisk Financial Research highlights significant developments that have recently occurred in payment cards, digital payments, acquiring, processing, retail banking and consumer credit. Our writers and researchers frame these items in contexts such as historical, sectoral and regional trends, adding a layer of value that is often missing from the rolling news cycle.

About Verisk Financial Research The market-leading online, interactive database and data dashboards covering the global cards and payments industry in detail, plus a range of data-packed country and regional reports. Leveraging financial cards data going back to 2010 – and forecasts up to 2022 – our unique datasets cover 72 countries around the world and feature more than 250 metrics per market.

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