Weekly Update

TFU | Nov. 11 – 17

Leading Off

Google will begin offering checking accounts to users through a partnership with Citi and a Stanford University credit union; Facebook announced its new Facebook Pay P2P payments service; FinCEN Director Kenneth Blanco discussed the applicability of the “travel rule” to crypto firms; the Fed highlighted the risks posed by stablecoins in its November Financial Stability Report; and Alipay is aiming to serve 10 million European businesses by 2024.

In the News

Google to begin offering checking accounts.  The tech giant’s new project, codenamed “Cache,” is a partnership with Citi and a Stanford University credit union that will offer checking accounts to users through the Google Pay app. The accounts will be co-branded with the partner banks, which will “handle the financial backend and regulatory compliance” aspects of the service.

Facebook announces Facebook Pay.  The social media giant announced its new payments system, which is integrated across its platforms and will allow users across its services to transact with one another. Separate from the company’s Libra project, Facebook Pay is more of a competitor to P2P services like Venmo or Zelle. The service is live for Facebook and Messenger users in the U.S., with expansion to WhatsApp and Instagram coming later.

Libra pushes ahead despite regulatory challenges.  In a blog post titled “5 months and growing strong,” the Libra Association provided updates on its technical infrastructure and highlighted the activities it has undertaken since its founding in June, but notably omitted any reference to the regulatory challenges it has faced or its prospects for achieving its goals for a full-scale launch in 2020.

FinCEN committed to strictly enforcing AML rules for crypto.  Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) director Kenneth Blanco said the government will vigilantly enforce the “travel rule” against crypto firms, as part of its overall commitment to anti-money laundering (AML) enforcement. “You will comply,” Blanco said, regarding crypto firms. “I don’t know what the shock is. This is nothing new.”

Fed highlights risks posed by stablecoins.  In its semi-annual review of the country’s financial stability [full text], the Federal Reserve Board noted that the U.S. financial system could face “potentially severe consequences” if a poorly designed or regulated stablecoin is widely adopted. The Fed previously raised several concerns regarding stablecoins, motivated by recent developments like Libra.

Alipay sets target of serving 10M European SMEs within 5 years.  The Chinese payments giant has set a target of supporting 10 million European small- to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) by 2024. Alipay plans to roll out new payment innovations and partner programs to continue to partner with third party providers and states that it will “focus on travel agencies to seize growth opportunities.” 

China’s digital currency will not seek “full control” of individuals’ details.   According to a senior official from the People’s Bank of China, China’s planned “Digital Currency Electronic Payment” will give users “controllable anonymity” while keeping checks for anti-money laundering, counter-terrorist financing, tax evasion, and other issues. The digital currency’s launch date is still not known.

MAS develops FinTech Research Platform.  In collaboration with Deloitte and S&P, the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) created the prototype of a platform designed to provide “independent and reliable” data about fintech firms to financial institutions and investors. The platform would include data such as company business models, use cases, and funding.

Immersive Labs raises $40M.  The British startup, which uses real-time feeds and the latest cyber attack techniques to build cyber war-games as training tools for organizations, raised $40 million in Series B funding. The company has already achieved “750% year-over-year growth in annual recurring revenue” and will use the funding to grow its presence in the US.

HSBC and RBS to launch digital platforms.  The British banks are preparing to introduce new digital banking platforms in response to growing customer demand: HSBC’s Kinetic was specifically designed for business customers and is expected to launch in the first half of 2020; and RBS’s Bo is aimed at consumers with less than $128 in total savings, and will go live at the end of this month.

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