Citi rethinks tech branches and Santander’s blockchain first
Let’s regroup: Citibank, which for two years has been testing compact, tech-heavy branches featuring ATMs and self-service kiosks but only a few employees, is scrapping the idea. It has come to realize people do want to talk to other people after all, according to Dena Roten, head of the U.S. branch channel. “We were not satisfied with the customer utilization trends we saw there. So we're regrouping," she said. "Walking into a space where you can't access a human is not something we're sensing customers want. If it's too slick or the way to get it done is too hidden, our experience is they'll go somewhere else where the experience looks more familiar to them.”
Priming for partnerships: Banks always say to keep up with innovation their best bets are to build, buy or partner with competitors, ranging from fintech startups to retailers like Amazon. JPMorgan Chase has demonstrated a particularly aggressive partnership strategy over the past five years — acquiring the company WePay, investing in Bill.com, partnering with OnDeck for small-business loans and fostering even younger startups through its in-house incubator. But the bank’s size can be overwhelming for startups looking to scale their businesses, according to its chief information officer, Lori Beer. "In some cases, we saw in the fintech ecosystem that one of their challenges is the size, scale and complexity of a company like JPMorgan Chase,” Beer said. "If you're trying to build out something in the wholesale payment ecosystem, you're talking about 200 regulators, $5 trillion dollars we process a day, over 120 currencies and countries. There are multiple layers of complexities considering anti-money laundering rules, fraud requirements and new sanctions. How do you understand that complexity if I'm a startup in the payment space in wholesale? … Sometimes, we'll make a decision to invest because we want to be able to influence the product design and work together.”
Desperately seeking data: Elizabeth Warren is on a mission to change the way Wall Street firms rely heavily on arbitration in cases of sexual harassment, but she’s having trouble finding the data to even get started. She began last month with letters to the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority and the Securities and Exchange Commission asking for information on terminations tied to sexual misconduct. Warren wanted to illustrate the situation and take steps to ensure the industry doesn’t dodge the #MeToo movement. But the data is thin – FINRA said of 1.1 million terminations at brokerages between 2010 and 2018, four “appear” to reference sexual harassment. There are several reasons why that is likely to be way off, one of them being Wall Street’s nondisclosure agreements. Most victims' allegations stay hushed.
All give and no get: PSD2 — the European regulation created to force banks to give up the monopoly they have on their users’ data — is good in theory, but unfair, according to Ana Botin, executive chairman of Santander, who said the approach “needs to be reviewed for the digital age.” The rule requires banks to give third parties like merchants and fintechs access to customer data, with the customer’s permission, so that these other companies, some of them competitors, can use it to offer their own services. But the reverse isn’t the case. “We like competition, but what we like is fair competition,” Botin said. “The value of PSD2 is everyone knows how we’re using it, but anyone [else] with data on, say, more than 50,000 customers should have the same rules.”
A blockchain first: Santander has launched the first blockchain-based retail payments service, an app for same-day international money transfers that competes with fintech companies like TransferWise. The app uses Ripple’s technology, and the partnership with Ripple has the potential to be problematic for a bank with the size and scale of Santander, due to the capacity limit of its network. But Ana Botin isn’t worried. “For FX payments, that is not a limitation,” she told the Financial Times. “With this new initiative we cover 50% of all FX payments Santander Group does annually. It works well because the rails we use we’ve been testing for two years, with our own employees. It works, it’s safe and it’s compliant.”
Where in the world is Meredith Whitney?: The Wall Street Journal this week recounted the big impact of Meredith Whitney, who is credited with forecasting the difficulties of Citigroup and other major banks during the financial crisis. “By the end of the trading day, a woman whom basically no one had ever heard of, and who could have been dismissed as a nobody, had shaved 8% off the shares of Citigroup and $390 billion off the value of the U.S. stock market,” Michael Lewis later wrote of her in "The Big Short." The once-anonymous analyst, who began working on Wall Street after receiving a bachelor’s degree in history in 1992, has since gone radio silent in an effort to put the experience behind her. Whitney left Oppenheimer & Co. in 2009 to start a consulting and research firm that closed in 2013, then moved on to a short-lived hedge fund that lost money and closed in 2015 amid a legal dispute. Today she works as a senior vice president at Arch Capital Group, which she joined in 2015, managing about $1 billion in equity holdings. Her name is still invoked whenever local debt looks shaky.
A new approach: Tala, a Santa Monica, Calif.-based lender that targets borrowers in developing nations where credit scores are hard to come by, is changing its approach to evaluating loan applicants. Chief Executive Officer Shivani Siroya, who spoke last year about the company’s opportunity to mine data from users’ mobile phones, said its stance has shifted and it relies more heavily on behavioral data now, like how quickly prospective borrowers fill out a loan application. “What we’ve said is that we know there are certain features that can create an explicit bias,” she said. “We’re willing to actually leave money on the table to stand for something that is a lot more equitable and a lot more fair.” Tala raised $50 million in new equity funding this week to develop new products for customers in Kenya, Tanzania, the Philippines, India and Mexico, along with $15 million in debt capital that it will use to fund loans.
The girl stays in the picture: Fearless Girl, the statue that has been staring down the famous Charging Bull on Wall Street for the past year, is moving. Her many picture-taking fans will be able to find her three blocks away, facing the New York Stock Exchange instead.
Breanne Madigan, Goldman Sachs’ head of institutional wealth services for the Americas, has accepted a job at Blockchain as its head of institutional sales and strategies. Madigan has worked at Goldman for 13 years, having joined straight out of college.
Deutsche Bank’s chief operating officer, Kim Hammonds, will leave the company next month as part of a management reshuffle. Hammonds oversees the IT systems at Deutsche, whose outdated technology has proven a core challenge in a multiyear turnaround. The day after news of Hammonds’ departure came out, Deutsche said an “operational error” caused it to accidentally transfer €28 billion — about €4 billion more than its entire market value — to one of its accounts at a German stock exchange shortly before Easter. The bank said the error was identified within minutes and rectified.
Nerves of steel: The Internet is praising Tammie Jo Shults, the pilot of the Southwest Airlines plane whose engine had blown out, for her “nerves of steel.” On Wednesday Shults calmly landed the plane, which was quickly descending with just one engine, carrying 149 people to safety. One person on board didn’t survive: Jennifer Riordan, a community relations leader in New Mexico for Wells Fargo. Shults was one of the first female fighter pilots in the U.S. Navy.
Victory plan: Stormy Daniels said she will donate $130,000 to Planned Parenthood in Donald Trump’s and Michael Cohen’s names if she wins her legal case against them.
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