The headline reads : 'Visa acquires control of Earthport', and sounds very Star Wars and exciting, and features a planet. Earthport turns out be a UK firm that specialises in cross-border payments. One of the ironies about the "global financial system" is that it doesn't really exist in the way most people imagine. It's a whole lot of different systems stuck together with tape and wire. People still talk about wiring money as if dollar bills are zinging along the telegraph wires. So there's plenty of room for players like Earthport. "Currently, Visa enables payments to be sent to or from Visa cards," says a Visa statement. "The acquisition will make it possible for Visa clients to enable individuals, businesses and governments to utilize Visa to send and/or receive money through bank accounts around the world. With the acquisition of Earthport, Visa expects to be able to reach the vast majority of the world's banked population and allow them to easily, quickly and securely move money worldwide." Visa said the move will allow it to go "beyond the card". Mastercard has gone further down this route and the entire 'About Mastercard' section on its main website hardly mentions cards but has plenty about electronic payments and connecting things together. It will be interesting to watch what Visa does with Earthport, which has worked with Ripple for several years and lists Ripple prominently as a partner on its site. Ripple, incidentally, announced a partnership this week with Ria, which Tearsheet lists as the third biggest money remitter in the world after Western Union and Moneygram. Ria is a subsidiary of Euronet Worldwide.
CaixaBank's strategic changes continue as the Spanish bank starts to close two out of five of its ubiquitous urban branches while shedding staff through voluntary redundancies. "Like other large European banks, CaixaBank has been looking to shift away from small, teller-filled urban branches to fewer, larger 'stores' that specialise in financial products and high-margin advisory services," reports the FT. "During a November investor day in which it presented its 2019-2021 strategic plan, CaixaBank said it was looking to reduce urban branches by about 40 per cent from the 3,100 it had at the end of last year. As part of the deal with its unions, Spain's largest bank by market share will increase the number of Store and Business Bank flagship branches from 285 at the end of 2018 to about 700 by the end of 2021."
Has GAFA gone out of fashion? People have stopped stuffing all the big tech players in to the same brackets, with good reason. As TechCrunch points out, privacy issues have become centre ground, and that's going to leave some players in the dust. Compare and contrast: "Mark Zuckerberg: 'The future is private.' Sundar Pichai: 'The present is private.' While both CEOs made protecting user data a central theme of their conference keynotes this month, Facebook's product updates were mostly vague vaporware while Google's were either ready to ship or ready to demo," writes Techcrunch. "The contrast highlights the divergence in strategy between the two tech giants."
Today's comic relief comes from consultants McKinsey, who keep knocking out predictions that look like the work of a clever five-year-old. A new report suggests that bank workers who survive the roboticization of the workplace will be higher paid in the future. Why? "'The really successful folks will be able to bring together the technical capabilities along with those traditional sales capabilities,' Matthew Steinert, one of the authors of the report, said in an interview. We can guess that Matthew doesn't read Dilbert. Getting paid extra to do two jobs instead of one doesn't seem like a big step forward, to be honest.
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