FU | February 18-24, 2017

Leading Off

The U.S. House of Representatives relaunched its “Blockchain Caucus,” which focuses on issues related to DLT policy; BoA became the first bank to launch mobile payments on the Zelle network; Facebook now offers cross-border payments in its Messenger app, thanks to a new partnership with Transferwise; China’s largest P2P lender, Lufax, will offer online wealth management tools to China’s retail investing market; Goldman Sachs was named “Most Innovative in Finance” by Fast Company; and Bill Gates argues that governments should tax companies that replace human workers with AI-enhanced robots.

This Week’s News…

115th Congress relaunches the “Blockchain Caucus.” Representatives Jared Polis (D-CO) and David Schweikert (R-AZ) will lead the bipartisan Congressional Blockchain Caucus, aimed at developing “sound public policy toward blockchain-based technologies and digital currencies.” Schweikert will replace former co-chair Rep. Mick Mulvaney, who is now Director of the OMB.

BoA first to launch P2P payments via Zelle.  Of the 19 U.S. banks behind payments network Zelle, Bank of America is the first to roll out payments functionality on the platform. Zelle, which was developed by banks to compete with P2P services like PayPal and Venmo, will allow BoA customers to transfer and receive money from other parties, regardless of where they bank.

Transferwise launches Facebook chatbot.  The London-based money transfer company’s new service allows users to send money internationally from within the Facebook Messenger app. Transferwise customers in the U.S., Canada, Australia, and Europe can use the chatbot to send money to friends and family as well as communicate with businesses when making purchases.

China’s largest P2P lender shifts gears.  Lufax, which has an estimated 13% share of China’s $109 billion small loan marketplace, will offer online wealth management tools for China’s “booming”retail-investing market, pivoting away from its P2P lending model. Lufax is expected to IPO in Hong Kong this year amid a global downturn in investment capital for P2P lenders.

Goldman Sachs named “Most Innovative in Finance.”  Goldman received top billing in Fast Company’s annual ranking of the world’s most innovative companies, highlighting the bank’s expansion into the online lending marketplace with its Marcus platform. In a related video, Goldman’s digital banking head discusses building a startup within a 150-year-old firm.

Should robots pay taxes for displacing human workers? Bill Gates thinks so, and advances the idea of governments imposing taxes on companies displacing workers with AI technology in an interview with Quartz. “You ought to be willing to raise the tax level and even slow down the speed of that adoption [of automation]” to direct productivity gains to fund other types of jobs,” said Gates.

Chinese firms among world’s largest private fintechs.  According to a new list published by the Wall Street Journal, four of the world’s most valuable private fintech companies are Chinese, including Ant Financial ($60B), Lufax ($18B), Zong An ($8B), and JD Finance ($7B). U.S.-based payments firm Stripe ($9.2B) is the only non-Chinese company in the top-five.

Monzo raises $25M.  The London-based Monzo, one of only three exclusively digital, U.K.-licensed banks, raised $25 million from U.S.-based Thrive Capital and London’s Passion Capital. Monzo is also sponsoring an equity crowdfunding campaign, seeking an additional $3 million. Monzo will use the funding to prepare for a full bank launch later this year.

Airbnb finalizes deal for Tilt.  Global home-sharing firm Airbnb announced the acquisition of Tilt, an early pioneer in P2P money transfers. Airbnb plans to incorporate the payments app, which competes with Venmo and Square Cash, into its service as part of its recent efforts to grow its experience- and group-oriented travel offerings.

Have a great weekend!
Joe Oehmke and Austin Tuell

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