New Friends: Amazon, Amex, Santander, Ripple



This week, the World Cup reminded us all that friendships can emerge in the strangest and most unexpected ways. In a testament to how truly confusing the World Cup rules are, Germany was bounced from competition as the result of the surprise defeat at the hands of South Korea.

Hooray for South Korea? Well sort of.

South Korea was also not able to move on to the next round of the competition due to its performance in the tournament so far. However, because Germany went down in flames to South Korea, Mexico was able to move on to the next round of competition, even though it lost its game to Sweden.

Like we said, the rules of tournament soccer are confusing — and we can’t explain any of that any better than the above statements. Perhaps, though, even more surprising than how FIFA rules work is the spontaneous love affair that broke out between the people of South Korea and Mexico over the turn of events. As the results rolled in, soccer fans gathered outside the South Korean embassy in Mexico City, chanting “Corea, hermano, ya eres Mexicano,” which translates to “Korea, brother, you’re now Mexican.” Accounts of South Koreans being spontaneously hoisted onto the shoulders of crowds of enraptured Mexicans also became common across the U.S. and Mexico in the hours that followed the surprising series of events.

We can’t say we understand soccer any better for any of these events — at least we at PYMNTS got even more fired up about the World Cup — and it got us thinking about friendships — likely or not, well-advised or not.

Wouldn’t you know it, the week in payments and commerce news was a friendly week.

Amex And Amazon Show SMBs Some Love

This week, American Express (Amex) and Amazon announced their intended team-up on the release of a new commercial card product designed for small businesses (SMBs) buying on the Amazon platform. The co-branded card for SMBs in the U.S. comes as the latest phase of a multi-year partnership for American Express and Amazon, according to both firms. The card solution will include integrated spend management features, enabling small firms to gain insight into purchasing activity.

According to Glenda McNeal, president of enterprise strategic partnerships at American Express, the co-branded card is part of Amex’s efforts to support growth for SMBs as Amazon becomes increasingly likely to be their shopping destination online.

“We’re delighted to expand our partnership with Amazon by offering a new co-branded small business card, and by also harnessing the collective insights and expertise of our companies to deliver tangible value to our mutual customers who use Amazon’s services,” McNeal stated.

Amazon also touted the partnership as a best-of-both-worlds arrangement for SMBs.

“Offering the best of both brands, the co-branded small business credit card program will combine the buying power, convenience and value small businesses have come to know and love from Amazon, backed by the world-class service, benefits access and security of American Express,” added Amazon Vice President Max Bardon in another statement.

The collaboration with American Express is Amazon’s first step into small business commercial cards. The move is also a bit of a surprise, given reports last month that Amazon and Chase would be expanding their consumer card relationship to offer small business credit care solutions as well. That status of that effort remains unknown.

The new card partnership, however, is not Amex and Amazon’s first collaboration — they had previously worked together on an earlier initiative to enhance small businesses’ access to spend data when making purchases on Amazon Business, Amazon’s B2B eCommerce unit. That solution provides businesses, making purchases on Amazon Business with their American Express commercial cards, with line-item information on their buys for greater visibility into spend practices and more efficient reconciliation.

The new card product will expand that functionality when it hits the market. When that will be, however, remains unknown as neither firm has revealed when the SMB card will launch officially.

Spanish bank Banco Santander said in early June that it would be working with Ripple to offer the first mobile service focused on payments rendered across borders via the blockchain.

The service, Santander One Pay FX, allows for payments to be processed in seconds and settled the same day, a feature newly available to millions of the bank’s customers throughout the continent. Via the One Pay service, consumers will be increasingly able to send funds worldwide and in their currency of choice without hassle or excessive cost. Spanish users, for example, can easily move funds from euros to dollars when they want to send to the states, while Polish users can easily transmit pounds to the U.S.

According to Santander, One Pay FX allows speed and safety in cross-border payments. The company said the mobile-first user interface (UI) and blockchain infrastructure ties together the total cost of sending payments, bank fees, foreign exchange rates, delivery time quotes and payment receipts — then uses all that streamlining to offer nearly instant transfers that otherwise might take a series of days.

The firms have said that the Santander app uses Ripple’s xCurrent technology to underpin payments and tracking.

Head of Innovation Ed Metzger at Santander U.K. said the motivation to bring One Pay FX to market comes as the firm has taken note of the growing expectation from consumers that sending international payments be easier and less friction-filled. The blockchain stood out as a way to alleviate some of those frictions, he said, and after a pilot with Ripple two years ago, the firms began rolling out this service to Santander’s customers.

“Blockchain or distributed ledger technology covers a wide range of new technology approaches, but using some of the same building blocks and concepts [of other approaches],” he said. “The key is choosing the most appropriate of the different approaches and technologies with the particular problem being solved.”

When asked by PYMNTS about the rollout’s progression (where One Pay FX is debuting in the U.K., Brazil and Poland), Metzger noted that Santander’s largest markets by profits are Brazil, Spain and U.K.

“We expect to roll the service out across more countries in the coming months,” he said.

In payments, who doesn’t want to make new friends all over the world? Of course, it’s not just about making friends: It’s about making the right friends.

BoA’s Ponzi Scheme Headache

Tough week for Bank of America (BoA), which has been accused in a lawsuit of opening more than 100 accounts that it allegedly used to perpetrate a $102 million Ponzi scheme. The class action suit, Heinert v. Bank of America, N.A., was filed in U.S. District Court, Middle District of Florida (Ocala) on behalf of people who lost money to the scam.

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) also filed a complaint, alleging that that those same five men and three companies defrauded more than 600 investors in this scheme. The two plaintiffs, a brother and sister duo looking to recover their late father’s investment, accused Bank of America of enabling the scheme, noting that the fraudster “could not have perpetuated their scheme without the knowing assistance of their primary banking institution, Bank of America, which lent the scheme an air of legitimacy and provided critical support, including at times when the scheme would have otherwise collapsed,” according to the complaint.

According to the suit, BoA ought to have been able to spot suspicious activity, including a series of deposits worth hundreds of thousands of dollars into otherwise small dollar accounts. The transfer activity — which was frequent — was also highly suspicious, correlated to investors in the Ponzi scheme looking to cash out.

The Ponzi schemers promised investors that their money would be placed in a profitable and, perhaps, dividend-paying investment — instead they used the collected funds of around $20 million to enrich themselves, according to the SEC. In addition, they made $38.5 million in “Ponzi-like payments” and transferred most of the remaining funds away from the companies that were supposed to receive it.

So far, Bank of America spokesman Bill Halldin had no immediate comment on the lawsuit.

So, what did we learn this week about friendship? Some are natural extensions of mutual interests (i.e. Amazon, Amex and SMBs), or a mutual passion (Santander, Ripple and the blockchain). Some relationships, however, should never develop past the getting-to-know-you phase — as BoA is learning this week as they confront the Ponzi scheme that seemed to fail to get to know those depositors well enough.

Have a nice week.

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Join The Conversation:

Has the problem of fraud by identity theft gotten too big for humans to handle? Socure would say, “Yes.” That’s why the company is spearheading the movement to hand this job over to artificial intelligence (AI). Socure Founder Sunil Madhu and PYMNTS CEO Karen Webster will discuss this topic in an upcoming digital discussion taking place July 19, 2018 at 1:00 PM (EDT).

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