Week In Brief - January 14, 2022

January 14, 2022
A short roundup of some of the week's payments news you may have missed. This week we look at a new initiative between U.S. banks to issue a stablecoin, the highest valued UK payments start-up, J.P. Morgan's latest actions to improve cross-border payments through blockchain, and the latest GDPR guidance on data breach notifications.

United States: Banks Form Consortium To Mint USDF Stablecoin

U.S. banks have teamed up in a new association called USDF Consortium with the goal to issue USDF, a bank-minted stablecoin.

The USDF stablecoin aims to facilitate “the compliant transfer of value on the blockchain, removing friction in the financial system and unlocking the financial opportunities that blockchain and digital transactions can provide to a greater network of users.”

The new stablecoin will be minted exclusively by U.S. banks and will be redeemable on a 1:1 basis for cash from any consortium member banks.

“USDF addresses the consumer protection and regulatory concerns of non-bank issued stablecoins and offers a more secure option for transacting on blockchain,” the consortium said.

The founding banks include New York Community Bank (NYCB), NBH Bank, FirstBank, Sterling National Bank, and Synovus Bank. Figure Technologies and JAM FINTOP are also founding members and will facilitate and promote the adoption of USDF.

Later on, the group expects to expand its ranks with more Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC)-insured banks.

"USDF opens up endless possibilities for the expanding world of DeFi transactions," said Figure CEO Mike Cagney.

"The ease and immediacy of using USDF for on-chain transactions was demonstrated this fall when NYCB minted USDF was used to settle securities trades executed on Figure's alternative trading systems. We are tremendously excited that NYCB expects to be minting USDF on demand and on a regular basis in the coming weeks," he added.

The announcement follows a multi-agency report on stablecoins, which recommended Congress adopt bank-like regulations for stablecoins. This would include a requirement for stablecoin issuers to obtain deposit insurance from the FDIC.

UK: Checkout.com Becomes UK’s Most Valuable Start-Up

If ever evidence was needed to highlight the growth of online payments around the world, the latest funding round secured by digital payment platform Checkout.com is a good place to start.

The $1bn (£741m) Series D funding round values the London-based company at $40bn (£30bn), making it the most valuable UK start-up.

The previous holder of this title was Revolut, which back in July raised $800m (£593m) in Series E funding led by Japanese investment company Softbank, valuing it at $33bn (£24bn).

Checkout.com, which provides e-commerce services for the likes of Netflix, Farfetch, Grab, NetEase, Pizza Hut, Shein, Siemens and Sony, operates across 19 different markets around the world.

The latest funding round will help the company further expand its operations in the much coveted US market.

Through a focus on fintech, software, food delivery, travel, e-commerce and crypto merchants, noted its US-based CFO, Céline Dufétel, “we’re looking to help our US customers grow domestically and internationally, and to help our non-US customers expand into the market here. We’re excited about the potential, and expect our North American employee base to grow by 200 percent this year alone.”

Bahrain: Central Bank Tests JPM Coin In Cross-Border Payments

The Central Bank of Bahrain (CBB) has successfully completed a test with J.P. Morgan’s JPM Coin system.

The test saw Bank ABC sending real-time payments for Aluminium Bahrain (ALBA) counterparties in the United States, leveraging JPM Coin system, a permissioned system that serves as a payment rail and deposit account ledger, enabling participating entities to transfer US dollars held on deposit with J.P. Morgan.

“Through our work with ALBA, Bank ABC and Onyx by J.P. Morgan, we aspire to address and eliminate the inefficiencies and pain-points which exist today in the traditional cross-border payments arena,” CBB governor Rasheed Al Maraj said.

Despite being one of the world’s biggest correspondent banks, J.P. Morgan has been looking at the use of blockchain technology in cross-border payments for years with a view to improving the lengthy and costly process.

Earlier in November, a joint research report by J.P. Morgan and Oliver Wyman found that global corporates could save $100bn in cross-border transaction costs if they replaced the correspondent banking system with a multi-central bank digital currency (mCBDC) network.

European Union: EDPB Publishes Data Breach Notification Guidelines

The European Data Protection Board (EDPB) has released new guidance to help data controllers in deciding how to handle data breaches and what factors to consider during risk assessments.

The Guidelines 01/2021 on Examples regarding Personal Data Breach Notification supplement the board’s general guidance on data breach notification issued in October 2017.

However, due to its nature and timing, the 2017 guideline could not address all practical issues in sufficient detail, hence “the need has arisen for a practice-oriented, case-based guidance, that utilizes the experiences gained by SAs [competent national supervisory SAs authorities] since the GDPR [General Data Protection Regulation] is applicable”, the document says.

The GDPR requires businesses to report certain personal data breaches to the competent authorities and to communicate the breach to the individuals whose personal data has been stolen.

The new guidelines provide “fictitious” but “typical” cases the authorities came across during their supervisory activities to help businesses in assessing their own data breaches.

India: UPI Went Down For An Hour

Indian customers have been the latest in line to experience a brief outage of payments services when the Unified Payments Interface (UPI), the country’s instant payment network, went down for about an hour on January 9.

The National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI), the operator of UPI apologised for the outage on Twitter, saying that they “[r]egret the inconvenience to #UPI users.”

They said the disruption was caused by an “intermittent technical glitch” and they are now monitoring the system “closely”.

The latest data shows that UPI had a record year in 2021. In December 2021 alone, the service recorded 4.6bn transactions, or around 6m transactions per hour.

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