The $22 billion acquisition of leading payment processor First Data Corp. by financial technology giant Fiserv is complete, and Bank of America Merchant Services, which has operated as a joint venture with First Data for decades, will strike out on its own in 2020. This would make BAMS the sixth largest merchant acquirer in the United States, absent any new mergers and acquisitions in the acquiring space, said Mercator Advisory Group's Raymond Pucci.
Mobile technology continues to challenge brick-and-mortar stores on multiple fronts, forcing retailers to adapt to digital-first consumers. A March 2019 survey of 3,200 Asian shoppers by Transcosmos Inc. found 62 percent of respondents examine products in physical stores before ordering them online. Retail analysts have noted the practice, known as showrooming or webrooming, initially threatened to turn physical stores into warehouses, but retailers fought back with price-matching; buy online, pickup in store; and various omnichannel strategies. However, cashierless technology platforms pose a new threat to brick-and-mortar merchants, according to Richard Crone, CEO at Crone Consulting LLC.
The ETA/TSG U.S. Spending Snapshot, published Aug. 6, 2019, by the Electronic Transactions Association and The Strawhecker Group, cited strong consumer spending in the first quarter of 2019, particularly in the retail and restaurant sectors. The bellwether report found year-over-year electronic transaction growth continues unabated, despite "political uncertainty, lower consumer confidence and a higher overall personal savings rate," according to Jared Drieling, senior director of business intelligence at TSG. Drieling expects the upward trend in electronic payments to drive nationwide economic growth across all regions.
Village Capital, a global venture capital firm focused on helping fledgling businesses, joined with PayPal Holdings Inc. and the MetLife Foundation to cultivate early-stage entrepreneurs. The joint program, called Finance Forward, is rolling out in select regions in the United States, Latin America, Europe, Middle East and India. Its mission is to democratize the system by improving access to funding and education to startups everywhere. Finance Forward will provide participants with $25,000 to $75,000 through grants and direct investments, funding millions of dollars to program participants over the next five years.
The Federal Reserve Board stated it plans to develop FedNow, a real-time payments and settlement scheme. Federal Reserve Board Governor Lael Brainard called making and receiving payments a basic right for banks and individuals. "FedNow will permit banks of every size in every community across the country to provide real-time payments to their customers," she said. The initiative is receiving mixed reviews from the private sector. The National Taxpayers Union suggested the program would pose a conflict of interest for the Federal Reserve.
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