Daily Dash: Block To Cut 1,000 Staff By End Of 2024

November 10, 2023
US fintech giant Block has revealed plans for sustained job cuts through 2024, India has mooted Japan as the next country to link up with its instant payments system, and Hong Kong is bringing e-CNY to Octopus payments.

Block To Cut 1,000 Staff By End Of 2024

US fintech giant Block has revealed that it plans to lay off 1,000 staff by the end of 2024.

In its Q3 earnings report, Block said it will impose an “absolute cap” of 12,000 on the number of staff at the company — down from 13,000 currently.

Jack Dorsey, co-founder and CEO of Block, said the cap will remain “until we feel the growth of the business has meaningfully outpaced the growth of the company.

Amrita Ahuja, chief financial officer, added: “We believe constraining team size will enable us to be more effective in how we drive performance and service of our customers and accountability on our business strategies.”

The company will aim to centralise teams and functions, reduce duplication and introduce “strict prioritisation” to meet the head count target.

Japan Could Be The Next Country To Link Up With India’s UPI

The governor of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has revealed that Japan could be the next country to connect with India’s Unified Payments Interface (UPI).

Speaking at the Tokyo Chamber of Commerce and Industry this week, Shaktikanta Das said that a linkage of India’s UPI with Japan’s Zengin system “may be” explored.

He added that a linkage would aim to “leverage the power of fintech and make cross-border payments more efficient and less costly.”

In February this year, a similar linkage between UPI and Singapore’s PayNow system went live.

Hong Kong’s Octopus Payment System To Integrate e-CNY

Tim Yang, CEO of Hong Kong’s Octopus payment company, has confirmed that e-CNY top-ups will soon be available within the Octopus mobile wallet.

Speaking with CNBC, Yang said the move will allow mainland visitors to Hong Kong to use e-CNY to pay at over 180,000 merchants and all means of transport that accept Octopus.

“Essentially, pay like a local,” he said. “Today as a visitor to Hong Kong, it’s a pretty manual process. You have to go to the MTR station, you have to physically top up and exchange for Hong Kong dollars.

“But with the mobile Octopus solution, you’ll be able to get an Octopus card and top up anytime, anywhere.”

Caribbean Nations Join Pan-African Payment And Settlement System (PAPSS)

The central banks of all 11 nations that make up the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) have unanimously adopted PAPSS as their preferred settlement system for intra-regional trade.

“In adopting PAPSS, the central banks in the Caribbean region have recognised its immense potential for unlocking new opportunities for trade growth and cooperation within their respective jurisdictions,” PAPSS said in a statement.

“By streamlining and expediting the settlement process, PAPSS will eliminate the complexities and inefficiencies that often hinder intra-regional trade, promoting monetary stability and economic development across the Caribbean.”

Operational in the six countries of the West African Monetary Zone (WAMZ), PAPSS is gaining traction on the African continent as a cross-border payment solution.

In June this year, five multinational African commercial banks, with a presence in almost 40 countries, committed to implementing PAPSS in all their subsidiaries across Africa.

Russia, Myanmar Thrash Out Interbank Agreement To Bypass Sanctions

Russia and Myanmar are reportedly working on an interbank agreement that will allow the two countries to bypass sanctions and use their own currencies for bilateral trade.

Following a meeting with the Myanmar central bank governor, Russia has selected Evrofinance Mosnarbank to handle transactions on its side; the Myanmar partner is yet to be confirmed.

According to Myanmar’s Irrawaddy.com news site, the two countries are also working on a valuation agreement for the use of the rouble and kyat in bilateral trade.

At present, Myanmar’s military junta uses the Chinese yuan to make purchases of goods, such as oil, from Russia.

In September, Myanmar also confirmed that six of its commercial banks would join Russia’s Mir card payment network.

Ripple, Onafriq To Launch Digital Asset-Enabled Cross-Border Payment Solution

Ripple has partnered with Onafriq, formerly MFS Africa, to launch a digital asset-based cross-border payment solution between Africa, the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), the UK and Australia.

Onafriq will use Ripple crypto-enabled technology to open up three new payment corridors between Africa and the rest of the world.

Customers of PayAngel in the UK, Pyypl in the GCC and Zazi Transfer in Australia are now able to send remittances and business payments to recipients in 27 countries across Onafriq’s pan-African network.

Onafriq has the largest mobile money footprint in Africa. It connects over 500m mobile wallets across 40 African countries and operates across more than 1,300 payment corridors on the continent.

“Using Ripple’s crypto technology, Onafriq is eliminating the traditional problems associated with cross-border payments such as lengthy transfer times, unreliability and excessive cost,” the company said.

Thailand, Hong Kong QR Code Linkage Launch Date Confirmed

The Hong Kong Monetary Authority (HKMA) has confirmed that the launch date for its instant payments linkage with Thailand is scheduled for December 4, 2023.

The linkage is set to connect Hong Kong’s Faster Payment System (FPS) with Thailand’s PromptPay via QR code.

Hong Kong users will be able to scan and pay at over 8m PromptPay merchants in Thailand, and Thai visitors to Hong Kong will be able to use PromptPay at around 50,000 FPS merchants that accept FPS QR payments.

“The new service will provide an additional safe and efficient payment channel,” said the HKMA, “enhancing customer experience in retail payment and fostering economic development and entrepreneurial prospects in the two economies.”

In September last year, Vixio covered the build-out of the bilateral payments linkage.

Afterpay Expands Subscription-Based BNPL Offering

Afterpay has expanded its subscription-based buy now, pay later (BNPL) product to Australia after launching in the US in September.

Afterpay Plus is a subscription service that gives customers the option to pay in four interest-free instalments almost anywhere Apple Pay, Google Pay or Samsung Pay is accepted.

After registering for Afterpay Plus, subscribers receive an upgraded virtual card that allows them to use Afterpay in more places than the standard Afterpay Card.

In Australia, Afterpay Plus is available only to existing customers on an invitation-only basis, and comes with a monthly fee of A$9.99 (US $6.50).

Organised Crime Group Sentenced After £1m Bid To Defraud

A group of UK fraudsters have been sentenced after they conspired to access customer accounts and steal their money, leading to just over £1m in known fraudulent transactions.

Organised crime group members recruited bank employees, creating a sophisticated criminal network whereby they were able to target numerous victims.

The criminal network unlawfully accessed customer accounts to steal their money, using individuals pretending to be genuine customers to attend branches, conduct withdrawals and transfer funds to bank accounts under the group’s control.

The sentences — which include custodial terms and community service — follow an investigation and arrest by the UK’s specialist banking industry sponsored police unit, the Dedicated Card and Payment Crime Unit.

“Fraud like this can have a devastating impact on victims, both emotionally and psychologically,” said detective Andrew Hammond.

“Thankfully, by working with the banking and finance industry, we were able to put a stop to this criminal activity and return the stolen money to the victims.”

All victims have now been fully reimbursed.

US Firm Settles Probe Over False Cash Advance Promises 

Brigit, a personal finance app provider, has settled a case with the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) that it tricked Americans into hard-to-cancel subscriptions through deceptive marketing practices.

According to the FTC complaint, Brigit deceptively promised “instant cash advances” of up to $250 for people living paycheck-to-paycheck and locked consumers into a $9.99 monthly membership they could not cancel.

The settlement requires the company to pay $18m in consumer refunds, stop its “deceptive marketing promises” and end tactics that prevented customers from cancelling.

“Companies that offer cash advances and other alternative financial products have to play by the same rules as other businesses or face potential action by the FTC,” said Sam Levine, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection.

Bug Fixed After ACH 'Processing Issue' Cancels Out 900,000 US Salary Payments

The US Federal Reserve has announced that all services are operating normally again following issues with the Automated Clearing House (ACH) that left 900,000 salary payments undelivered.

On November 3, the Fed said that a “processing issue” at Electronic Payments Network (EPN), a private-sector ACH operator, resulted in a number of ACH entries having certain data elements obscured.

The error was contained in a single interoperator file that was distributed by EPN to its participants during the November 2 processing window.

The Fed said the entries contained valid syntax, but obscured account information and recipient information, leaving receiving depository financial institutions (RDFIs) unable to process them.

The EPN instructed its participants to initiate returns, and originating depository financial institutions (ODFIs) were then asked to initiate new items to complete the payments.

Majority Of Merchants Want To Cap Number Of PSPs They Use, Survey Finds

A new survey from UK payments firm GoCardless has found that two in three merchants wish to “consolidate” the number of payment service providers (PSPs) they use.

In a survey of 1,250 merchants in the US, UK, France, Germany and the Netherlands, GoCardless found that half of merchants currently use three PSPs or more. Almost one in ten use at least five PSPs.

Due to challenging macroeconomic conditions, a third of merchants said they will end a relationship with a PSP over the next 12 months.

On average, reducing costs was cited as the most important motivation for merchants over the next 12 months.

This is despite the fact that nine in ten merchants reported being “satisfied” with their current PSPs.

Russian Payment System Hacked By Pro-Ukraine Group

Pro-Ukrainian activists claim to have breached Russia's national card payment system, obtaining its user data.

This included hacking the website of the National Payment Card System (NSPK) and reportedly gaining access to the internal systems of the retail payment network Mir, Russia’s domestic alternative to Visa and Mastercard. 

NSPK has confirmed this to the Russian media, although the agency denies that any personal data was leaked. 

"The NSPK website is developed and maintained by a third-party contractor,” it said.

“It is only a business card with information about the company’s activities and does not contain any confidential data, and is also not related to the payment infrastructure.” 

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