Daily Dash: Google Starts 2024 By Laying Off Over 1,000 Staff

January 12, 2024
Google has opened 2024 by announcing major layoffs throughout the company, while Commerzbank and Global Payments have announced a new joint venture.

Google Starts 2024 By Laying Off Over 1,000 Staff, Including Executives

Google has begun cutting more than 1,000 staff members across its Ads, Search, Assistant, Maps, Android and Core developer teams.

Zach Vorhies, a former senior engineer at the company and now a Google whistleblower, broke the news on X within hours of Google employees being informed.

Debarghya Das, former software engineer and technical lead for Google Search, also shared testimony from inside the company confirming the layoffs.

Although the cuts were initially reported to be in the hundreds, Das’ source said the final total will exceed 1,000.

“They’ve fragmented the layoffs on purpose to make them seem more localised, but it’s affecting the whole company,” he said.

More than 1,000 layoffs have since been confirmed by WARNTracker.com, a site that tracks filings of Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notifications (WARN) to state regulators.

The news comes after Google already announced plans to cut 12,000 staff in January 2023, comprising about 6 percent of its total workforce at the time.

“I am confident about the huge opportunity in front of us thanks to the strength of our mission, the value of our products and services, and our early investments in AI,” said Google and Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai.

“To fully capture it, we’ll need to make tough choices.”

Global Payments And Commerzbank Announce Joint Venture 

Global Payments, a leading payment technology company, and Germany's Commerzbank have unveiled a joint venture to offer digital payment solutions to small and medium-sized business customers across Germany.

The new entity, Commerz Globalpay GmbH, is expected to launch in the first half of 2024. It will provide a comprehensive suite of omnichannel payment and software solutions at scale, providing a single outlet for merchants to run and grow their businesses more efficiently.

Global Payments will hold a 51 percent stake in the company, which will be based in Frankfurt am Main, while Commerzbank will hold 49 percent.

The completion of the transaction is subject to the approval of the responsible supervisory and antitrust authorities.

European Commission Consults On Generative AI And Virtual Worlds

The European Commission has launched two calls for contributions on competition in virtual worlds and generative AI.

Stakeholders are encouraged to share their insights on how competition law can help ensure that these markets remain competitive. Following a review, the commission has said it may organise a workshop on the topic later this year.

"Virtual worlds and generative AI are rapidly developing," said Margrethe Vestager, the commission's competition chief.

"It is fundamental that these new markets stay competitive and that nothing stands in the way of businesses growing and providing the best and most innovative products to consumers."

The commission has also confirmed that it is investigating some of the agreements that have been concluded between large digital market players and generative AI developers and providers.

Further, the commission is checking whether Microsoft's investment in OpenAI might be reviewable under the EU Merger Regulation.

Indian Fintech Mobikwik Seeks To Raise $84m In New IPO

Indian fintech Mobikwik has submitted an application for an initial public offering (IPO) from which it seeks to raise $84.2m in equity capital.

The application, filed with the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI), is the second that Mobikwik has submitted after an abortive attempt to go public in 2021.

Mobikwik is a financial service platform that offers mobile payments, credit, investment and insurance products.

Since starting out as a digital wallet in 2008, it has amassed more than 146m registered users and 3.8m merchant partners.

In 2020, it also became the first non-bank Indian financial company to join the American Express network and issue Amex cards in India.

KakaoPay Sees 14-Fold Surge In Transaction Value By Foreign Users

KakaoPay, the financial arm of South Korean super app Kakao Talk, has reported that the value of transactions made by foreign users increased 14-fold during 2023.

The firm also noted that the number of transactions made by foreigners and the number of foreign customers on the platform increased eightfold, according to Korea Times.

The surge is attributed to the return of foreign tourists to South Korea following the COVID-19 pandemic, and to the many partnerships that KakaoPay has launched with foreign mobile wallet providers.

These include Alipay from China, AlipayHK from Hong Kong, GCash from the Philippines, Touch 'n Go and Public Bank Berhad from Malaysia, TrueMoney from Thailand, Tinaba from Italy, EZ-Link, OCBC Bank and ChangiPay from Singapore, MPay from Macau and HiPay from Mongolia.

In 2024, KakaoPay aims to process 60 percent of the transactions made by the 1.3m foreign tourists that will visit South Korea.

New EU Cybersecurity Rules Enter Into Force

The EU's new Cybersecurity Regulation, which introduces new requirements for cybersecurity among EU institutions, bodies, offices and agencies, has entered into force. 

The regulation lays down measures for the establishment of an internal cybersecurity risk management, governance and control framework for each EU entity, which includes the European Banking Authority and the European Central Bank. 

It also aligns EU-level institutions with the standards imposed on member states, and sets up a new Interinstitutional Cybersecurity Board (IICB) to monitor and support its implementation by EU entities.

Johannes Hahn, commissioner for budget and administration, said that as cyber threats become more pervasive and sophisticated, achieving a high common level of cybersecurity is ”paramount” for ensuring open, efficient and resilient EU public administration.

"The rapid adoption of the Regulation proves the commitment of the EU towards these objectives,” he said.

“Now I call upon the co-legislators to swiftly engage in negotiations for the parallel Information Security Regulation.”

Cambodia Launches Cross-Border QR Code Payment Linkage With UnionPay

The National Bank of Cambodia (NBC), the country’s central bank, has announced that its cross-border QR code payment linkage with UnionPay International is now live.

In a statement, the NBC said the linkage will facilitate secure and efficient transfers between Cambodia and China.

UnionPay cardholders will be able to use the UnionPay app or their commercial bank app to pay at 1.8m merchants in Cambodia via the KHQR code standard.

Likewise, Cambodians will be able to use their Bakong wallet, an e-wallet operated by the NBC, to make payments to merchants using the UnionPay QR code when visiting China.

The partnership adds to existing QR code payment linkages between Cambodia and Laos, Thailand and Vietnam.

Adyen Builds Direct Connection To UK’s Faster Payments Service In 'Record Time'

Global payments firm Adyen has announced that it has built direct connections to the Bank of England (BoE) and Faster Payments service (FPS) in only eight weeks.

The direct connection to the BoE and FPS allows businesses to pay out to their users 24/7 in less than a minute.

This is useful for businesses that pay out funds to sellers, vendors, gig economy workers or partners in the UK.

According to Adyen, 75 percent of its small and medium business (SMB) platform users say they need same-day settlement or faster.

After securing a UK banking licence in September last year, SMB platform users can also receive cash advances through Adyen Capital.

“Our new direct connections in the UK complement our connections in other markets, such as Instant Payments in the EU and FedNow in the US, helping us ensure fast flow of funds for UK customers globally,” the company said.

G20 Payments Roadmap Poses Crime Risk, New Report Suggests

The Future of Financial Intelligence Sharing (FFIS) has warned in a new report that there "appears to be a lack of joined-up policy thinking" between the push to make payments faster and cheaper and economic crime issues. 

The removal of friction in payments, such as transaction screening, could make payments more vulnerable to criminal activity, the report suggests.

For example, the G20 goals, and related initiatives such as the Bank for International Settlements' (BIS) Project Nexus, fail to take into account economic crime issues. 

To counter this, the report recommends that G20 policymakers introduce "economic crime security by design", so that countries can continue the fight against money laundering and fraud while also enhancing frictionless payments.

Škoda Launches In-Car Payments With New Pay To Fuel Service

Škoda has launched a new in-car payment service known as Pay to Fuel, which allows customers to make refuelling payments via credit or debit card on their vehicle’s infotainment screen.

Pay to Fuel is available for all Škoda ICE vehicles with either an Amundsen or Columbus infotainment system, and is now live in Belgium, Denmark, Luxembourg, Germany, Austria and Switzerland.

The stations supporting Pay to Fuel are listed in the in-car navigation. After choosing one of these, the vehicle automatically recognises the fuel station upon arrival.

The driver then opens the app on the vehicle’s display, confirms the petrol station and enters the pump number.

After refuelling, the amount of fuel is confirmed on the infotainment screen and the payment is processed. The driver then receives a notification and can pull away.

HSBC Completes Sale Of Retail Banking Business In France

HSBC Continental Europe has completed the sale of its retail banking business in France to Crédit Commercial de France (CCF), a subsidiary of My Money Group.

In a statement, HSBC Continental Europe said it will remain active in France but will refocus on its corporate and investment banking business alongside private banking and asset management.

All HSBC branches in France will be taken over by CCF, and all HSBC cards will continue to work as normal until expiry, after which they will be replaced by CCF.

Transfers and direct debits using the HSBC IBAN in France will be automatically transferred to customers’ CCF accounts by June 30, 2024.

Spanish Central Bank Names Partners For Upcoming CBDC Pilot

Banco de España (BDE) has named Cecabank, Abanca and Adhara Blockchain as its three partners in an upcoming central bank digital currency (CBDC) pilot.

The pilot, which will be conducted over the next six months, will focus on interbank payments using wholesale CBDC in a simulated environment.

This will include processing and settlement activities and exchange of multiple wholesale CBDCs issued by foreign central banks.

In addition, the pilot will study the use of wholesale CBDC for settling tokenised bond purchases.

The pilot highlights Spain’s proactive approach to experimentation with digital assets. As covered by Vixio, Spain is also aiming to introduce the Markets in Crypto-Assets (MiCA) regulation six months ahead of other EU member states.

India’s CBDC Transactions Top 1m 

Indian banks have reportedly disbursed some employee benefits through the digital rupee in December. 

This meant that the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) met its target of 1m daily transactions by end-2023, sources have told Reuters.

The RBI's deputy governor said in July that this was the aspiration of the central bank. 

However, in October, transactions were only averaging 25,000, despite being available for use via the country's popular Unified Payments Interface (UPI). 

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