Wall Street Journal
Square's IPO underachieved, as the fintech startup was forced to slash its share price to $9 from an initial expected range of $11 to $13. The Journal explained what happened thusly: "Public investors are growing more skeptical of the enormous valuations that venture capitalists are putting on private technology companies." Then there's this point: "The company is yet to prove it can turn the business profitable," said analysts at Susquehanna International Group.
Square's disappointing IPO also means early-round investors like JPMorgan Chase are underwater; JPMorgan invested $11 million in Square, paying $11.01 per share, or 22% higher than the IPO pricing. However, JPMorgan is protected somewhat, at least compared to even-earlier investors and Square employees, because JPMorgan forced Square to include a "ratchet" in its IPO. The ratchet requires Square to provide additional shares to JPMorgan and other investors who are party to the ratchet agreement, if its IPO price didn't hit a specific target. Nice deal, if you can get it.
One of Square's mobile-payments brethren is seeing a booming business in sub-Saharan Africa. MFS Africa has agreements with telecom operators, including Orange and Vodafone Group, to allow users to send payments over run-of-the-mill smartphones. That means customers in certain African nations don't need to invest in expensive smartphones to send and receive payments. That's essential in a region where remittances from abroad comprise a significant portion of income for some residents.
This is how it works: Users text the equivalent of a money order straight to a phone number and then confirm the transaction with a PIN. MFS Africa does business in 17 African nations, including Nigeria, Kenya and Senegal, and counts about 55 million users. MFS Africa's closest competitor is HomeSend, a joint venture between MasterCard, BICS and eServGlobal.
Barclays will pay $150 million to settle a New York banking regulator probe into foreign-exchange trading violations. The New York State Department of Financial Services said Barclays misused its "last look" system that allowed the bank to veto trades at the last second, if it determined the deal was going to be unprofitable for Barclays.
Perhaps the "last look" concept, in and of itself, is not inherently evil. But this internal email snippet is probably what nailed Barclays: "Our Team generally does not share this info with the client." The NYSDFS also required Barclays to fire its global head of fixed income, currencies and commodities automated flow trading. The name of the terminated employee wasn't disclosed.
Banks have long flirted with the idea of providing special services exclusively to VIP customers. The affluent have more money to spend, so why not try to milk that resource for all it's worth? Remember Countrywide's program to give discounts to members of Congress? Card issuers are constantly offering deals to big spenders. Now airports are glomming onto the idea.
LAX plans to convert a cargo office into a new terminal that will be off-limits to paparazzi and fans. You don't have to be famous to use it, just willing to pay an extra $1,500 per trip.
New York Times
Digital wealth advisers, also known as robo advisers, are gaining popularity, as new entries emerge from both the startup world and traditional banks. So-called robo advisers will have $53 billion under management by the end of this year, up from $16 billion at the end of 2014, according to Aite Group.
Sallie Krawcheck, formerly of Bank of America, and Charlie Kroll are backing Ellevest. Bank of America Merrill Lynch is developing an automated portfolio management function for one of its existing platforms. BlackRock has an agreement to buy FutureAdvisor. Then there are startups like Personal Capital, led by ex-PayPal and Intuit CEO Bill Harris.
Crain's Chicago Business: First Midwest Bancorp's deal to buy National Bank & Trust will push it past the $10 billion asset mark, triggering new regulatory requirements, including the Durbin Amendment limit on how much it can charge retailers for customers' debit-card purchases. But the deal will help offset the expected earnings dilution from Durbin. "You need to offset the dilution from Durbin. And these deals kind of fill the hole," said Terry McEvoy, an analyst at Stephens.
TechCrunch: A German startup named Number26 allows users to accept an overdraft fee with one tap of a smartphone. The user can then make a large purchase, even if adequate funds are not available in his or her account, and then turn off overdraft protection after the transaction goes through. The product is currently available in only Germany and Austria. The TechCrunch article does not address the question of whether such a product would be allowed in the U.S., given overdraft-protection laws.
Reuters: Banks in the U.S. and the U.K., charge more than 7% for international money transfers worth $1,000. That's several times higher than the average cost of new online providers, according to a study by FXCompared.com.