Tech Companies Acting Like Banks

Digital Citizenship
March 10, 2020

Tech Companies Acting Like Banks

In the near-future, the value of our everyday financial transactions will be eclipsed by the value of our data itself.

Key Insight

Big tech companies are building new services and tools for banking.

Why It Matters

In the near-future, the value of our everyday financial transactions will be eclipsed by the value of our data itself.

Examples

In 2020, Google will begin offering checking accounts. Apple has launched a credit card service with no late fees, and no wait to qualify—notably, the service is optimized for use with iPhones and Apple Watches, rather than a physical card. Uber Money is building a bank for Uber drivers.

Amazon, which already offers branded rewards credit card in partnership with Visa and Chase on Amazon.com, is reportedly looking into its own checking account service.

Facebook made headlines throughout 2019 for its foray into payments: It announced Facebook Pay, a system to transfer money to other users via WhatsApp. That will be separate from Facebook’s new Calibra project, an attempt to build a digital wallet and standardized infrastructure for cryptocurrencies. And, of course, there is Libra, Facebook’s controversial global cryptocurrency network.

There’s a good reason tech companies are moving swiftly into fintech: Our transactions not only offer new streams of revenue, but our sensitive personal data can be used to better understand our financial behavior. Knowing how, when, and why we’ll spend money gives these companies a significant advantage in marketing products and services to us, and strategically targeting us with ads.

What’s Next

To understand the future of big tech’s role in financial services, look to China, where payment apps provided by Ant Financial—the banking arm of Alibaba—are now ubiquitous. Cash is quickly falling out of favor, and so are physical cards as many people in China and beyond now pay using biometric scanning or by tapping their phones against a computer screen. As a result, those consumers are paying twice: once with the money in their bank accounts, and once again with their personal data. Regulators in the U.S. and the European Union, however, are currently debating whether to keep big tech out of finance.

The Impact

Big tech companies have made payments easier, and this will put pressure on traditional companies to upgrade their products, customer service, and terms. It’s possible the entire consumer banking industry could be disrupted before long.

Watchlist

Alibaba, Amazon, Ant Financial, Apple, Citi, Chase, Facebook, Goldman Sachs, Google, Mastercard, Square, Stripe, Tencent, Uber, Venmo, Visa.