JPMorgan Chase may soon be in a position to exclusively provide banking services, including automated tellers, in leased space at post offices across the United States. Although the talks are described as "preliminary", the dialogue between the country's largest bank by assets and the US Postal Service (USPS) began in early spring, before the lockdowns began, according to media reports. With USPS operating over 31,000 outlets nationwide, such a deal would dramatically increase retail banking unit Chase's offline presence, even while the firm has invested heavily in digital channels over recent years. "Partnerships between banks and postal services can be a neat solution to the digital disruption both parties are facing", commented David Hickey of Verisk Financial Research. "Banks are looking to cut down on expensive branches and postal networks to add more services."
Not for the first time, Facebook is rethinking its approach to payments. The social media giant's cryptocurrency effort, Libra, having raised the ire of central banks and regulators last year, Facebook is now focusing on less revolutionary initiatives: mobile-based payments in existing currencies, including cross-border transfers. A new division, Facebook Financial, is being created, headed by the firm's stalwart in the field, David Marcus. At the heart of the new strategy is Facebook Pay, which can currently be used in the United States across Instagram, Messenger and Facebook itself; outside the US, users of the latter platform alone have that access as things stand. Mr Marcus will be seeking to introduce more cohesion globally, with the Novi digital currency wallet (known as Calibra until three months ago) still central to the social network's goals.
It is starting off small, but the new lending feature in Square's Cash App being tested with around a thousand users could look like a major development in years to come. At the moment, there is an upper limit of $200 on offer, repayable in four weeks. A week beyond that deadline, 1.25 percent of interest will begin to be added on a weekly basis, though it will not compound, thus reaching no more than a 60 percent APR. Zelle and Venmo have demonstrated an appetite among young Americans in particular for sending money to each other by mobile. Accessing loans through the same kind of interface should be a straightforward matter for users, if they have an appetite for taking on the responsibility.
New figures from government sources in the United States and the United Kingdom starkly reveal the historic shift to online commerce that took place during the lockdown period. The question now is, how much of that change is permanent? Certainly the initial spike was nothing if not dramatic, with Britain seeing a rise in e-commerce penetration from a fifth to almost a third in a little over eight weeks, a shift perhaps exaggerated by that rise being accompanied by a simultaneous drop at bricks-and-mortar outlets. According to a series of charts drawn up by mobile industry commentator Benedict Evans, the UK's rising trend has continued strongly, even as restrictions ease on the population. Chiming in with confirmatory results from the private sector is Walmart, which posted record online sales during the lockdown according to newly released results for the second quarter.
To end, links to some other stories of interest this week...
Canada: Central bank extends oversight to Interac's e-Transfer service
Europe: EU approves Mastercard takeover of Nets' units, subject to concessions
Global: IBM expands its financial services-ready public Cloud
US: Kabbage sells to American Express
The Weekly News Digest from Argus Advisory Research highlights significant developments 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 often missing from the rolling news cycle.
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