Never A Dull Moment: The Wild Week With CurrentC, Uber And Lending Club

The news cycle has apparently not yet gotten the memo about summer being the slow season.

Some of the news was inspiring: “Hamilton” winning all of the Tonys last night (and convincing millions of Americans to actually watch the Tonys). Some of the news was tragic: the senseless shooting in Orlando. Some of the news just made us wonder if we had, at some point, all started living inside of a reality show: pretty much pick any piece of news that talked about the presidential election last week.

But when the temptation to believe one is a background character in the 2016 version of “The Truman Show” grows strong, there is luckily the highlight reel from the payments and commerce news of the week which is ready to keep you thoroughly grounded in reality.

What’s worth watching? CurrentC has announced its curtain call, Uber moved to sweeten the deal for its drivers and Lending Club proved the firm is far from out of surprises.


CurrentC Signing Off

“So long, farewell, auf wiedersehen, goodnight.”

While it remains to be seen if MCX hates to go and leaves the pretty sight of the mobile wallet war for good, it seems, nonetheless, that it will leave, heave a sigh and say goodbye.

On June 28.

After what has undeniably been a strange trip, MCX is officially pulling the plug on the collaborative effort of retailers to create their own, mobile-only, merchant-centric payment network.

Launched nearly four years ago, CurrentC never quite launched. Setback after setback seemed to plague the initiative. It very publicly clashed with Apple when it forced merchants like CVS to essentially unplug their NFC terminals due to the exclusivity deals they had signed with MCX. That looked bad; what looked worse was when MCX had to report a minor hacking incident at the same time.

Half a year later, CEO Dekkers Davidson was out, and new CEO (and Bank of America veteran) Brian V. Mooney was in. But the mobile wallet? Yeah, not so much. CurrentC was still in its hypothetical stages. By the time Walmart Pay was announced late in 2015, the writing was more than on the wall. The only thing left for CurrentC was to cue the Von Trapp family singers.

They showed up on schedule this week, as the world got to say goodbye to a mobile wallet they never actually got to greet.

Well, most customers anyway. CurrentC did manage to roll out into the testing phase in some locations. Those beta accounts will be a thing of the past after June 28.

And those users would be well-served to spend whatever funds exist on gift cards loaded into those accounts because those funds will be officially disappearing into the ether on the 28th as the balance can only be transferred if the user happens to have the original physical gift card.

And while that may seem a bit harsh, CurrentC did make sure to at least thank its beta test participants on its way out the door.

“We want to say a special thank you to everyone who participated in our CurrentC beta test in Columbus, OH! We will be concluding our beta on June 28, 2016.”

The site went on to say…

“We have not yet determined the future timing of CurrentC, but we will keep you posted.”

We will be sure not to hold our breath.


Uber Upgrades For Drivers

After some months of deteriorating relationships, Uber is moving to improve relations with its drivers. The waves of class-action lawsuits, protests, public official outcry, angry think pieces and the unionization of its drivers have apparently convinced Uber that peace might just be the more profitable path here.

As such, the company will be rolling out new features in its app that will extend faster payments and loyalty coupons to its drivers.

To be rolled out throughout this month, the new program is reportedly designed to give more power to drivers and to make their lives easier.

One of the changes will allow drivers to put a hold on incoming rider requests before they finish their shift. Currently, drivers are required to manually decline other trip requests until they finish their trip and drop off the customer.

“We’ve launched a pilot in a few cities to give drivers discounts on Uber rides. Drivers who are part of this pilot get 15 percent off an uberX ride for every 10 trips they complete in a week or 50 percent off an UberBLACK ride for every 20 trips done in a week,” the company said in a blog post. “We’re running these discounts in different U.S. cities over the next several weeks. If they improve the overall experience, we’ll make this pilot permanent. So, go ahead — be a backseat driver.”

The drivers will also have a chance to pocket more money if a rider makes them wait over two minutes. Some of the more tailored options include a new feature in its app which will allow its drivers to look up cheaper gas options as they drive around town.

Drivers will also be able to opt to be paid faster through Uber’s partnership with GoBank. Drivers who apply for a GoBank Uber debit card will be able to redeem payments for rides instantly, the company announced.

The new moves have been praised, though dinged for lack of originality, since many of them seem to be pulled from competitor Lyft’s playbook. For instance, Uber’s platform is now smart about pairing up riders going in the same direction for uberPOOL rides — something which Lyft already has with its Lyft Line service.


Lending Club — Never A Dull Moment

Whatever else historians ultimately say about Lending Club, It will be impossible to deny that it knew how to keep things interesting.

Last week started with a double shot of Lending Club bombshells. Renaud Laplanche — the recently sacked CEO — may be making a run at returning to the helm, if he can find investors to back him. Yes, the same Renaud Laplanche who resigned after an internal probe turned up the fact that Lending Club had falsified the documentation on a package of loans worth $22 million.

That news dropped with the reveal that Lending Club’s second-biggest shareholder and wholesale banking partner dropped its investment in the firm, forcing its board to cancel its annual shareholder meeting.

And that was just Act One.

Act Two kicked off as the week was signing off, when Lending Club’s site was up and down over a 12-hour period, causing panic in some investors that the firm had folded up shop overnight.

One nervous investor tweeted out his concern that “[a]s a long-time investor there, I am worried that they have closed down.”

As of midday Thursday (June 9), the issue had been resolved, and the site has been up ever since.

It does show just how closely Lending Club is being watched. But then again, at this point, how could it not be?


So, what did we learn this week? We learned CurrentC will go out of the world much as it went into it: with a lack of clarity about what it was intended to be. Uber has decided to make love, not war, with the drivers. And Lending Club is one of the most fascinating stories in FinTech but perhaps not for the reasons that its board and investors might have originally intended.