I am going to have a go at a weekly roundup of the key fintech news which has been collected by my little Twitter bot. It will hopefully be good way of me staying on top of what is going on in this area, it is kind of my job after all, and may also prove useful to others. Here goes…
The Bitcoin story continues to fascinate. It is clearly a very disruptive thing (not sure what it is to be honest…it is so much more than just a crypto currency). As the traditional world of banks and governments struggle to also understand it they try and control it with the rules and regulations of today when it is clearly a product of tomorrow and a world they cannot conceive. The largest Bitcoin exchange, Mt Gox, this week ‘temporarily’ halted US Dollar withdrawals. The company said this had nothing to do with pressure from US banks or Homeland Security following the incident where Mt Gox accounts at Wells Fargo were frozen last month. Getting money out of the new systems involve linking into the old. This is clearly causing a lot of friction. The IRS are now said too be taking an active interest in Bitcoin. The state of California has issued a cease and desist order on the Bitcoin foundation. It’s all kicking off. Wired summarised all this friction nicely.
This reluctance may be fed by the sense that Bitcoin poses a threat to the banking industry. Anyone can transfer Bitcoins anywhere for free and that could put a dent in some banking transaction processing fees.
It is not all bad news for Bitcoin. Stanford University have just released a startup engineering class which has a module on building your own Bitcoin business. New rails that are easier to build on mean we will see some creative uses of the Bitcoin network for a little while yet. Brilliant.
There were other interesting news items last week that had nothing to do with Bitcoin. Stripe is one of the most interesting payments companies at the moment. They are making payments a simple commodity for use with their brilliant st of APIs. They announced some nice numbers around their new payments payout tech (allowing split payments to multiple accounts). Stripe are gunning for PayPal and it seems that some of the founders of that company don’t care, as they are big investors in Stripe too.
PayPal are an impressive tech company in their own right and this week they shared some details of their impressive sounding internal PaaS setup. Meanwhile they were also confident of getting a Chinese payments license. Talking of China, China Merchants Bank have launched banking capability inside WeChat. Instead of SMS control for basic functions e.g. balance request, they can now be requested via the popular social messaging network.
Barclays launched an interesting sounding QR code payments addition to Pingit, which they have called Buyit…I can see where they are going with this branding (heard rumours about a product called Cloudit).
This Vine demo of mobile payment method Paddle is slick.
While there was no direct payments related announcement by Apple at the recent iOS 7 launch there were a few payments like features, AirDrop, iCloud Keychain etc. there were however a number of payment related patents filed. This Quora thread has a great roundup featuring iWallet and some nice biometric features.
Chris Skinner wrote a nice feature on a new digital bank initiative/rebranding/positioning thing mBank by Bre Bank in Poland. It looks lovely. Although the name makes me think of the awful Hanson song.
There was an interesting Reddit AMA (Ask Me Anything) by someone that was a concierge for Amex’s infamous black cards.
We had a gentleman who called quite frequently asking for a massage parlor in Las Vegas or New York that would “feel really good”, and “make his day”. The client knew we legally could not recommend or handle escort or rub and tug locations, but he kept trying to get someone to do it for him. One poor girl, was relatively new, had no idea what this guys deal was. So she spent a good hour researching really nice spas in both locations that had a high customer rating.
The UK TV on demand regulator, apparently there is one, has called for a block on payments to certain pornographic sites including something called PornHub, which is apparently the 23rd most visited site in the UK. It is effectively calling for a payments blacklist…which would be interesting to say the least.
The trailer for the new Martin Scorcese and Leonardo Di Caprio film The Wolf Of Wall Street looks brilliant. You can buy hollowed out coins to store microsd cards and pretend you are a spy. This week I saw a machine that encodes, chips and embosses credit/debit cards. I have never seen one before and it was great.
There you go. First little fintech round up done. Let’s see if I can keep this up.