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Daily briefing - 24 July 2019

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ING has been working with Mastercard and 200 small businesses in Turkey to pilot an on-phone point of sale system, or true Mpos, ten years after Square's dongle launched the original concept. "The app is ideal for smaller businesses without a traditional checkout counter or for businesses with low transaction volumes which are often on the go," says Abidin G├╝rsel Akbatur, project lead and merchant acquiring lead in the payments centre at ING. "It empowers business owners to accept payments anytime and anywhere, without having to invest in expensive terminals." According to Mastercard, there are 1.5 million small-medium enterprises and millions of other micro businesses owners such as taxi drivers, florists and electricians who can increase their sales and lower costs by adopting digital payments. "We are looking forward to launch the pilot in other ING markets with similar needs," says Akbatur. The system uses NFC rather than the ubiquitous QR code. Merchants won't have to purchase a separate point of sale system. What will this mean for companies such as Square and Sumup? Sumup raised $371 million earlier this month from investors including Goldman Sachs. Looks like there's plenty of runway left for card readers.

Big blond men are now in charge of the UK and the US, captains of the respective Titanics of the 20th century. But who should be worried? In this month's investment strategy note, JPMorgan's Private Bank ponders whether "the dollar's "exorbitant privilege" is coming to an end. Witness the threat to the Eurodollar and the related petrodollar: Middle Eastern states are talking to Russia and China about pricing oil in rubles and renminbi. Yikes. Not to mention Facebook openly punting its new currency, normally something that brings the Secret Service crashing through your front door, not an invitation to pitch it to legislators. (More on that shortly). "In addition to China, the economies of Southeast Asia, including India, have strong secular tailwinds driven by younger demographics and proliferating technological know-how," notes the bank. "Specifically, the Asian economic zone--from the Arabian Peninsula and Turkey in the West to Japan and New Zealand in the East and from Russia in the North and Australia in the South--now represents 50% of global GDP and two-thirds of global economic growth. Of the estimated $30 trillion in middle-class consumption growth between 2015 and 2030, only $1 trillion is expected to come from today's Western economies. As this region grows, the share of non-USD transactions will inevitably increase which will likely erode the dollar's 'reserveness', even if the dollar isn't replaced as the dominant international currency."

David Birch pitches an unpopular opinion about Libra following the blasts of hot air produced by US legislators in recent weeks. "If Libra had been announced by anyone other than an internet giant, I think there would be a reasonable presumption against it ever achieving scale, but Facebook may well have the resources to negotiate the regulatory maze to deployment," writes the author of Before Babylon, Beyond Bitcoin. "And it may have something else on its side too. Mr. Marcus also said in his testimony that 'if America does not lead innovation in the digital currency and payments area, others will. If we fail to act, we could soon see a digital currency controlled by others whose values are dramatically different'. When he says 'others' he does not mean Amazon or Google. This might actually be Facebook's strongest card. They are saying, I paraphrase, that you (ie, the US government) can allow people's internet money to be controlled by us or by agents of foreign powers." So, why is Birch's opinion unpopular? "Well I think Facebook can make a good argument that your Facebook profile is a more than adequate substitute, especially for the purposes of law enforcement," he says. "After all, Facebook knows who I talk to on Messenger, who is in my WhatsApp address book, who I hang out with on Instagram, where I go, what news I look at, what groups I belong to... Facebook can tell real profiles from fake and they kill off fake 'identities' all the time. My guess is that if you have had a Facebook profile for (let's say) a year, then that identity is more than good enough to be able to open an account to hold Libra up to $10,000 or so and, frankly, it's beneficial for society as a whole to get those transactions on to an immutable shared ledger. I cannot help but speculate that across large parts of the world Know-Your-Customer (KYC) might well be replaced by Known-bY-Zuck (KYZ) to the great benefit of society as a whole, because the net benefits of social and financial inclusion are so great." This is not to say that Facebook and Libra should happen, of course. What's to stop the rise of an African social network, for instance?

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