Data Dive

Data Dive: The Reworked, Reversed, Reconsidered Edition

Louis Brandeis, arguably the most quotable judge in the history of the United States Supreme Court, had his doubts about spontaneous acts of brilliance.

“There is no great writing,” he famously said. “There is only great rewriting.”

While the world is full of stories of novelists who wrote timeless prose in one sitting, musicians who laid down their best albums in a single afternoon and artists, seized by their muse, who painted their masterpieces in a single night, most ideas don’t come out fully baked on the first try.

A little editing never killed anyone.

And so, we get this week’s edition of Data Dive, where the theme of the week is reviewing and, in some cases, a resetting of original declarations.

So, what were the big changes of heart?

 

Bitcoin

What story of reversals would be complete without a bitcoin section? But this time we aren’t talking about price.

The reversals this week in the bitcoin world were more in the arena of opinion.

The most dramatic reversal of the week was South Korea’s bitcoin ban that almost was. The excitement kicked off on Monday with word that South Korea — one of the world’s busiest and priciest bitcoin trading hubs — was on the verge of banning digital currency exchanges.

“There are great concerns regarding virtual currencies, and the justice ministry is basically preparing a bill to ban cryptocurrency trading through exchanges,” Justice Minister Park Sang-ki stated.

The reactions were fast and fierce, as massive protests rose among South Koreans who demanded the minister’s resignation. Government officials complained the Justice Ministry had not sufficiently consulted them about the move.

Two days later, South Korean President Moon Jae-in issued word that no ban would be issued.

The likelier outcome, according to experts, is that South Korea will be moving toward a more heavily regulated crypto market, as currency speculation remains a concern among the nation’s regulators.

“The South Korean government has no other choice but to follow the regulatory frameworks and trends established by other leading governments. While there certainly exists a negative reputation attached to the cryptocurrencies, the government’s stance is to allow what has to be allowed, for the benefit of the South Korean market,” the Blue House (South Korea’s president’s residence) noted in a statement.

That was the most impactful reversal of the week in bitcoin land — one that affected the ongoing rollercoaster ride that is the price of bitcoin the most — but the most surprising bitcoin change of heart came from U.S. soil.

JPMorgan Chase Head Jamie Dimon officially stated that he regretted calling bitcoin a fraud. Dimon clarified this week that, while he still doesn’t have that much use for bitcoin, he regrets using the words he did, as he does believe in the blockchain underlying bitcoin.

Bitcoin, however, remains a sideshow in his opinion.

“The bitcoin [issue], to me, was always what the governments are going to feel about bitcoin as it gets really big,” he said. “I just have a different opinion than other people. I’m not interested that much in the subject at all.”

Not exactly a ringing endorsement, but nicer than calling it a fraud.

 

Google Rethinks Payments (Again)

Google may be having some trouble getting its payments ambitions to ignite. Android Pay is still struggling to crack the 2 percent use mark according to PYMNTS/InfoScout data, but it’s certainly not giving up.

Google announced that Android Pay and Google Wallet will now officially exist as a single product: Google Pay.

The rebrand comes as part of Google’s larger push to expand the availability of its payments powers with  Google Pay everywhere.

In October, the company announced online checkout would allow users with registered Google credentials to use Google Pay across apps and devices. Users transact using credentials linked to their Google accounts, spanning Gmail, Google Play, YouTube and Chrome.

By clicking the “Pay with Google” button, Google Pay will allow consumers to check out with any card housed in their Google accounts. The payments functionality comes via the API announced in May, which is now available to retailers and developers.

In a blog post, Pali Bhat, VP of Product Management, Payments, at Google said that the company is bringing together all the different ways to pay with Google in an effort to streamline the customer experience.

“With Google Pay, it’ll be easier for you to use the payment information saved to your Google account, so you can speed through checkout with peace of mind,” wrote Bhat. “Over the coming weeks, you’ll see Google Pay online, in store and across Google products, as well as when you’re paying friends.”

 

The Trump Administration Rethinks the CRA

The Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) was first enacted in 1977 to make it easier for low-income and minority borrowers to access the financial system. The law was originally written to stop the practice of redlining but has become a contentious topic in recent years as advocates want to see its protections strengthened, and opponents argue it’s behind the time and punishing bankers’ activities that are only minimally connected with banking.

Now it seems the law may be heading for a major revision, as the Trump Administration has signaled its intent to take a new look at the law — possibly with an eye toward changes that would make it easier for banks to meet certain lending requirements and lower penalties for compliance issues.

The news comes as a point of some concern for supporters of the law, who worry that the long-term cost of any CRA revision could be poor and working-class customers having less access to necessary funds. But supporters of the change have noted that almost no one really wants the law to remains the way it is.

“Community groups don’t like the way [the] CRA is today, the banks don’t like the way [the] CRA is today and regulators don’t like it,” said Comptroller of the Currency Joseph Otting, whose agency is also planning changes to the way it regulates banks’ compliance with the law. “I have a very strong viewpoint of how to fix this.”

“Banks spend billions and billions and billions of dollars fulfilling their CRA obligations,” said Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin at a congressional hearing last June. “I want to make sure [it] is absolutely going to help communities and isn’t just a ‘check the box’ to satisfy regulators.”

It is still unclear what many of the administration’s proposed changes will be.

So, what did we learn this week?

Some reversals seem to be practical, as South Korea, Jamie Dimon and the army of angry bitcoiners demonstrated this week. Some changes are resets aimed at getting a new lease on life: Perhaps Google Pay will succeed where Android Pay failed across the many emerging digital ecosystems in which Google would like to capture its fair share of commerce.

And some reversals are unclear. For example, any time the federal government says it’s going to change … something … somehow.

We’ll keep you posted.

Have a good week.

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