Category Archives: Money

Square Pulls Failed Wallet App as Troubles Mount

Square is shuttering its Square Wallet app for smartphones, a sign the mobile-payment startup is struggling to expand beyond its low-margin business of credit-card readers. Square Wallet was recently pulled from Apple’s App Store and Google Play because the app “didn’t have a lot of the utility value” for consumers, Square director Ajit Varma said in an interview with technology blog Recode.

The company will continue to support the service for customers who have already downloaded the app.In its place, Square unveiled a new mobile app called Order, designed to let customers place take-out orders from local businesses and skip the line when they arrive. “We learned from Wallet that people loved paying with their name and we knew there was more value we could add to the customer experience,” a Square spokeswoman said in an email. “We moved fast on this strategy and decided that the most efficient way to add this value was to build a new technology on a more agile platform, hence we built Square Order.”

Square is trying to appeal to more consumers and create new lines of revenue as losses in its core business of credit-card readers mount. The company charges merchants 2.75% to swipe cards through the readers, but pays about four-fifths of that money out in fees to payment networks like Visa and MasterCard.

Square recorded a loss of roughly $100 million in 2013, broader than its loss in 2012, two people familiar with the matter said last month. The closely held San Francisco company has suspended plans for a possible initial public offering and held talks about a potential sale to Google Inc. and others has losses mount.

The new Order app will eventually charge merchants a higher rate of 8% to take orders and process transactions. The service competes with a growing field of food-ordering apps that includes Grubhub and Eat24.

Square has been adding services that could eventually be more profitable than its main payments business. In the past 12 months it began Square Cash, which helps people send money to friends via email, and Square Market, a digital marketplace for small businesses. It also offers Square Register to help stores track customer data and is testing a lending program for merchants who have difficulty getting a bank loan.

via Square Pulls Failed Wallet App as Troubles Mount – Digits – WSJ Article by Douglas Macmillan.

Square Pulls Failed Wallet App as Troubles Mount – WSJ Article by Douglas Macmillian – PDF

 

Wal-Mart Dives Deeper in Banking

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is taking another step deeper into banking, rolling out a new money-transfer service that undercuts rivals including Western Union Inc. and MoneyGram International Inc. with lower and simplified fees.

The giant retailer on Thursday unveiled the new service, Walmart-2-Walmart, which will allow customers to send and receive up to $900 at a time at more than 4,000 stores. The new service applies only to payments that are sent and received in the U.S.

It aims to take a bite of the roughly $900 billion in so-called person-to-person payments made each year in the U.S., often in the form of cash or checks.
“This is a relatively easy service for Wal-Mart to develop, because it fits with the customer base that they already have, and they don’t have to spend a lot of money to create, implement or market the service,” said Ron Shevlin, a senior analyst at Aite Group, a consulting firm that specializes in the payments industry.

The service launches April 24. Wal-Mart said the service fees – $4.50 for transfers up to $50 and $9.50 for transfers up to $900 – are 50% or more below the cost of existing offerings. For its new service, Wal-Mart is partnering with Euronet Worldwide Inc.’s Ria Money Transfer subsidiary.

The money-transfer business carries substantial regulatory burdens aimed at preventing money laundering. Wal-Mart has been registered with the Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network as a money-services business since 2011, according to FinCen’s public database. The move also could place Wal-Mart under the scrutiny of the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which was set up after the financial crisis to police the lending industry for abusive practices involving consumers. The CFPB already has proposed supervising nonbank providers of international money transfers. The vast majority of U.S. money transfers involve sending money overseas, according to payments experts. The U.S. is the largest sender of such payments, accounting for nearly one-quarter of the $529 billion in remittances that international migrants sent to their home countries in 2012, according to the World Bank.

In addition to competing with Western Union and MoneyGram, Wal-Mart also is taking on banks that allow their customers to transfer money to other customers. In 2011, J.P. Morgan Chase & Co., Bank of America Corp. and Wells Fargo & Co. formed a joint venture to let people use their checking accounts to send each other money with an email address or cellphone number.

“The banks have failed miserably in capturing the person-to-person payments business,” said Mr. Shevlin, the payments analyst.

Walmart transfer pricing

via Wal-Mart Undercuts Rivals With New U.S. Money Transfer Service – WSJ.com – Article by Paul Ziobro & Robin Sidel.

Wal-Mart Dives Deeper in Banking – PDF

How Millennials Are Pushing A Huge Shift In The Retail Banking Industry

Banking institutions are in a race to provide the newest online and mobile features to their users, as retail banking branches lose their relevance fast.

That’s because banks know that these services are how they will win over their next-generation of client. This is particularly important in the banking industry because bank customers tend to be extremely loyal. So, capturing the attention of younger adults — and, in particular, millennials — when they’re first choosing their bank can lead to a long-term market advantage.

  • More adults — of all ages — prefer paying bills online over using any other channel for performing that activity, according to a survey from Nielsen
  • And mobile is already the preferred channel for checking balances among those who are already mobile banking consumers.
  • Among millennials, checking balances, paying bills, and transferring money, were the top digital banking activities, TD Bank finds.
  • More than half of millennials are already transferring money via digital channels.

via How Millennials Are Pushing A Huge Shift In The Retail Banking Industry – Business Insider article by John Heggestuen .

Banks Still Not High on Pot

Banks still not high on pot r1DENVER—Two months after the U.S. government tried to smooth the way for sellers of legalized marijuana to get banking services, many pot entrepreneurs still can’t open a basic checking account.

The Treasury Department and Justice Department in February issued guidance that was meant to reassure banks that they wouldn’t run afoul of federal law—under which marijuana remains illegal—by working with pot businesses in states that have legalized the drug.

But lenders have taken little comfort in the guidelines, saying they don’t go far enough to guarantee that banks won’t face legal repercussions, and add burdensome new requirements that they screen customers for marijuana ties.

As a result, banks have become even more uneasy about accepting marijuana money, pushing state-licensed pot businesses deeper into a financial netherworld.”

Most banks are trying to avoid this and mitigate it if they inadvertently find a customer with a marijuana-related business,” said Chuck Johnston, president of North Valley Bank in Thornton, Colo., which won’t accept customers with marijuana ties.

Pot stores increasingly find themselves in situations other businesses couldn’t fathom, such as hiring armed escorts to help deliver sales taxes to government offices in wads of cash. “What I find most frustrating is that I pay an enormous amount of taxes and licensing and other fees,” said Morgan Carr, co-owner of the Wellspring Collective pot shop in Denver. Mr. Carr said he recently lost his bank account for the seventh time because the bank he was using became uncomfortable with his cash deposits.

With most banking options still closed, Colorado store owners are scrambling for new ways to secure their cash. One Denver-area company operated by military and law-enforcement veterans, Blue Line Protection Group, now specializes in shipping cash from pot stores to several vaults around Colorado by armored trucks. The company also transports marijuana.

via For Marijuana Sellers, Finding a Bank Is Still a Pipe Dream – WSJ.com – Article by Dan Frosch & Robin Sidel.

For Marijuana Sellers, Finding a Bank Is Still a Pipe Dream – PDF

U.S. Banks Prune More Branches

Branch Closings

Bank branch closures in the U.S. last year hit the highest level on record so far, a sign that sweeping technological advances in mobile and electronic banking are paying off for lenders but leaving some customers behind.

U.S. banks cut a net 1,487 branch locations last year, according to SNL Financial, the most since the research firm began collecting the data in 2002.

Branch numbers have been on a steady decline since 2009 and reached a total of 96,339 at the middle of last year, the lowest since 2006, according to data from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.

Since the financial crisis, U.S. banks have been ramping up mobile and online services and moving away from physical locations to avoid overlap. “There’s less of a need to have branches now,” says Sandler O’Neill + Partners analyst Jeff Harte.

Culling branches, with their real-estate, labor and security costs, has become a popular way for banks to boost profits at a time of sluggish revenue and loan growth. No U.S. state or territory logged net bank-branch additions in the cumulative period running from 2010 to 2013, according to SNL.

via U.S. Banks Prune More Branches – WSJ.com – Article by Saabira Chaudhuri.

U.S. Banks Prune More Branches – PDF