Facebook's Libra project is growing from an office in Geneva. And how? We've marked Switzerland's card as a world leader in digital assets including bitcoin. The Crypto Valley of Zug is just up the road. The Swiss have the knowhow to attract financial assets and have taken a proactive regulatory approach, including giving a professional fund management licence to Crypto Finance, which also operates out of Geneva — and from the same space where Libra is now setting up. (It's the site which was formerly home to Coutts, the private bank acquired by RBS. In 2015, RBS sold the business to Geneva-based private bank Union Bancaire Privee.) Indeed, it caught our eye that one of Libra's early partners is the global charity Mercy Corps. Now, would it be possible that Libra has looked at China's Red Envelopes and thought: let's launch Libra by getting money to global humanitarian causes through Mercy Corps. We all know there's plenty of humanitarian and ecological crises lining up. The United Nations building is just up the road too, and the boffins there have been exploring things such as decentralised digital identity, something that's also at the heart of the Libra project. And incidentally, David Marcus, Facebook's point man on Libra, has roots in Geneva. ""Our goal is to manage Libra, the technology and the digital currency very much like a public good, so where better than Switzerland to make this kind of global organization and project," said Libra spokesperson Dante Disparte. Read the background notes to this story on Bloomberg.
HSBC will scrap several fees including the minimum balance charge in Asia in order to stay competitive as new digital only banks start to come on stream. "More banks are expected to follow," the South China Morning Post reports "The change, analysts say, is fuelled by competition arising from virtual banks, which are due to come online later this year. Eight licences have been issued by the Hong Kong Monetary Authority since March. They include tech giants like Tencent and Alibaba, the parent company of the South China Morning Post as well as insurance company Ping An and smartphone maker Xiaomi. The virtual banks operate online without a branch network and are not allowed to charge minimum balance fees."
There's a lot to be said for partisan journalism, especially once it's obvious. The New York Times has plenty of reasons to write about Amazon, owner of its competitor the Washington Post and new entrant to the digital advertising business. Amazon acquisition Createspace is a brilliant scheme where authors can upload digital books which Amazon then prints on order and sells to customers. Unfortunately this opens the doors to scammers — but Amazon expects publishers to police their own marketplaces. Anyone operating in the publishing world will be familiar with these problems: songs or publications are easily ripped off or made available on channels where royalties flow to channel owners and not the artists. A nice piece of reporting by the Times.
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