Data Dive

Data Dive: New Things Edition – Wells Fargo, Amazon And Bitcoin

As always, those keeping up with the mainstream news cycle are likely feeling the normal Monday morning nervousness today — though perhaps given the rather militaristic flavor of the last few days, today’s butterflies are a bit more unsettling than normal.

The weekend kicked off with a 50 tomahawk missile strike on Syrian military targets and ended with U.S. warships moving into position in the general vicinity of North Korea.

But for those who like their news less explosive and anxiety-producing, the payments and commerce ecosystem had plenty on offer that just might do the trick this week. Wells Fargo found yet more fraud problems in its organization; Amazon announced some hi-tech staffing expansions and bitcoin finally found a government with the will to recognize it as a currency.

Ready to make the leap?

More Wells Fargo Woes

It seems the harder Wells Fargo tries to shut the door on its recent issues, the more the issues keep finding a way to keep that door open.

Reports in The Wall Street Journal last week indicate that Wells had to overhaul its credit card processing business after an internal inquiry turned up evidence that employees were falsely reporting customers’ sales and steering small businesses into contracts that were expensive and confusing.

Unnamed sources told the WSJ that Wells Fargo has fired two dozen or more employees in its Merchant Services during the course of the past two years because of those practices and that these violations have not previously been made public.

Reports also indicate the card processing problems were discovered in the aftermath of its accounting scandal last year after a broad inquiry into the bank’s practices was ordered by its board.

Merchant processors earned $18.15 billion in debit and credit card fees last year, according to Nilson, and Wells Fargo, JPMorgan Chase and Bank of America are among the largest players in that area. Wells Fargo told the WSJ in a statement that the bank has taken “significant steps” to improve Wells Fargo Merchant Services, its merchant-processing unit for credit and debit card payments.

Amazon Adds (Lots of) Staff

While the world probably didn’t need much confirmation in the way of Amazon’s growth-oriented ambitions, it got some nonetheless this past week, as the company released plans to notably grow its workforce.

The online retail giant just announced a plan to create over 5,000 new part-time roles over the next year as part of its Virtual Customer Service program — a program that essentially allows employees to work from home in customer service.

“There are lots of people who want or need a flexible job — whether they’re a military spouse, a college student or a parent — and we’re happy to empower these talented people no matter where they happen to live,” said Tom Weiland, Amazon vice president for Worldwide Customer Service, in a company statement.

According to Amazon, part-time remote employees receive competitive wages, and those who clock in 20 hours per week or more receive employee benefits.

Amazon said many of the jobs will be in the company’s new fulfillment centers that are currently under construction in Texas, California, Florida, New Jersey and other states around the country.

Japan Gives Bitcoin a Big Thumbs Up

After some setback in the U.S. at the hands of the SEC, bitcoin world was looking for some good news.

Japan stepped up to the plate to deliver some: On April 1, the country recognized bitcoin as a legal payment method.

Yes, we checked. A few times. It wasn’t an April Fool’s prank.

But the deal has some conditions.

Japan’s Financial Services Agency has established capital requirements, along with cybersecurity and operational stipulations, as part of the deal with bitcoin’s new status as a “legalized” payment method. Additionally, bitcoin exchanges in Japan will now be required to conduct employee training programs and submit to annual audits.

The news was clearly the bit of spring sunshine bitcoin was looking for: The price had slumped some since the SEC said no to bitcoin, and two warring bitcoin factions made the possibility of a “hard fork” seem more likely.

Bitcoin’s price was up $1000 over the first three days of April. At the time of writing, one bitcoin was worth a little over $1,200, according to CoinDesk.

The government of Japan’s move to legalize and regulate bitcoin could set a precedent internationally among nations looking to work digital currency regulation into their respective legal and financial systems.

Switzerland has become a highly bitcoin-friendly nation as of late by way of FINMA’s plans to clarify regulation, railway ticketing systems’ recent adoption of bitcoin ATM functionality and Ernst & Young’s Switzerland office adding a publicly accessible bitcoin ATM. Additionally, the government of Australia set out to create accounting standards for bitcoin in November of last year, said CoinDesk.

In the U.S., the SEC still sits on one remaining bitcoin ETF proposal, though given the outcomes for the prior two, things look grim for the viability of Grayscale Investments, LLC’s Bitcoin Investment Trust.

So what did we learn this week? Spring is really here — which means it’s time for new things and reset buttons. Wells Fargo desperately needs to hit one; Amazon is determined to hit yet another one — and bitcoin got one hit this week, thanks to its friends in Japan.

Until next week.

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Latest Insights: 

Our data and analytics team has developed a number of creative methodologies and frameworks that measure and benchmark the innovation that’s reshaping the payments and commerce ecosystem. Check out the February 2019 PYMNTS Financial Invisibles Report

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