This week’s payments roundup comes from Payments Insider, the daily briefing delivered first thing every morning exclusively to BI Intelligence members.
‘UNPRECEDENTED’ — PUTIN DEMANDS $US3.8B FROM VISA, MASTERCARD
As was widely anticipated, Russian President Vladimir Putin this week signed a law establishing a national payments network and demanding, among other things, massive “security deposits” from Visa and MasterCard totaling $US3.8 billion dollars.
The law, effective July 1, comes in response to U.S. economic sanctions over Russia’s military actions in Ukraine. Both Visa and MasterCard told the Moscow Times that they would work with the Russian government to continue doing business, but Visa had harsh words for the new law in a statement. “Several provisions in the law are unprecedented and will have a severe impact on the payments market in Russia — particularly cardholders, financial institutions and merchants.”
VISA AND MASTERCARD INTENSIFY COMPETITION IN JAPAN
Surprisingly, Japan, the world’s third-largest economy, is still largely cash-based. Overall payment card penetration is a measly 14% for consumer expenditures, according to Visa. That means plenty of opportunities for the main global card networks to make inroads.
MasterCard hopes to carve out payments volume with a new pre-paid card it announced this week. Offered in partnership with Japanese mobile operator KDDI, the card allows users to pre-load value online, or at the mobile carrier’s retail locations. Card users also win points that can be redeemed as credits against their phone bill. MasterCard says its prepaid card business grew 40% last year across Asia, the Middle East, and Africa.
Meanwhile, Visa is aiming for the Japanese debit market. The company launched Visa Debit in Japan last quarter. “While debit is still considered in its infancy stage, there is a meaningful opportunity for growth given the large deposit base which exists in the banks from which to grow a debit business,” Visa CEO Charlie Scharf said during an investor call last week.
‘HEY BIG LENDER’ — P2P LENDING ATTRACTS MORE THAN JUST PEERS
Earlier this week, VCs were rushing into P2P lending. Two companies — Prosper and Kabbage — separately announced funding rounds totaling $US120 million.
There’s nothing new about peer-lending platforms, which allow individuals to issue small loans or “microloans,” at lower rates than typically available. What is new is the downpour of institutional money — in the form of venture capital, but also, the New York Times reports, in the form of investor money flowing through the platforms themselves.
The P2P lending model has seen explosive recent volume growth. Last year, Prosper and Lending Club (another U.S.-based platform) issued loans totaling $US2.42 billion — a 177% jump from 2012.
Much of that loan volume originated from pension funds, asset managers, and even sovereign wealth funds. The U.S. consumer arm of Spanish bank Santander has a deal to buy up to 25% of Lending Club’s loans, according to Amy Cortese’s NYT piece.
“The original P2P investors — the dentists, dabblers and stay-at-home mums who helped establish the market — are finding themselves outgunned by the cash-rich, algorithm-wielding arrivistes,” Cortese writes. The appeal to big investors makes sense — unlike Bitcoin, many of the regulatory kinks have been ironed out.
RETAILERS SCRAMBLE TO AVOID BECOMING THE NEXT TARGET
The latest fallout from Target’s data breach underscores how high the stakes are in payments security for big retail.
Gregg Steinhafel, a nearly 35-year-veteran of Target, resigned this week in the wake of the late 2013 data breach that compromised the credit card and personal information of tens of millions of Target customers. CIO Beth Jacob also resigned earlier this year, but this is the first CEO resignation to follow a major data breach.
“The Target CEO getting let go was kind of unprecedented,” says David Kennedy, CEO of TrustedSec, a security consulting firm that works with national retailers. “It’s started to jolt folks.”
Payments security, once a second-tier issue, has become a top priority in retail executive suites and boardrooms. “Since the breach there’s been a huge uptick in companies trying to gather risk assessments,” says TrustedSec’s Kennedy.
“It’s a new era for boards to take a proactive role in understanding what the risks are,” security expert Cynthia Larose was quoted as saying in the Associated Press. Steinhafel had reportedly been meeting monthly with the Target board following the breach, rather than quarterly, as was customary.
GOOGLE GLASS TO ADD GOOGLE WALLET — REPORTS
Citing a source close to the company, TechCrunch reports that Google is testing an integration of Google Wallet and Google Glass, which will allow users to send money with voice commands. The service is said to be launching “in the near future.”
PAYPAL CEO BLASTS EX-EXEC
PayPal CEO David Marcus this week took to the company blog to fire back at recently departed PayPal executive Rakesh “Rocky” Agrawal, who went on a Twitter tirade last weekend, firing off a litany of misspelled tweets insulting PayPal executives. Agrawal later deleted the tweets and blamed an unfamiliar phone, but they were captured by Business Insider.
In his blog post, Marcus dismissed Agrawal’s tweets as “mad rants,” and said PayPal should put the entire affair behind it. “I think the world of the people you’ve insulted,” Marcus added. Agrawal joined PayPal in March 2014 as director of global strategy, but says he had put in his resignation as the episode began to unfold.
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