PayPal is going after the big banks

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CBC News | Peter Armstrong ·| April 14, 2018

New ways to bank could do away with the 'antiquated' trip to the branch

It is precisely the kind of thing that keeps the big banks up at night: the Wall Street Journal reported this week that PayPal is quietly piloting a program that would allow users to open traditional chequing accounts.

The online payment processing firm is one of a few technology companies thinking about getting into the banking business with a new model that could fundamentally alter our relationship with traditional banks and erode the simplest and oldest way they bring in new customers.

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If you're a traditional bank, this is the stuff of nightmares.- Alyson Clarke, Forrester Research

"If you're a traditional bank," says Alyson Clarke, principal analyst at research firm Forrester, "this is the stuff of nightmares."

For generations, the bank's best pipeline for new customers was the young people brought in by their parents to open their first account. The parents would take their kids to whichever bank they'd been using for years, and in most cases, Clarke says, those young people would grow up and stay with that bank for the rest of their lives.

But that could be changing.

"A lot of consumers, particularly millennials, think that all banks are basically the same," Clarke told CBC News. "And that old method of going into the branch to open your bank account with your mom or dad just seems completely antiquated."

Which is why PayPal is horning in on the big banks' turf at a time when they may be least able to withstand it.

For now, PayPal is only offering traditional banking services to a select group of its customers, who can get a debit card to withdraw cash from ATMs, deposit cheques by taking a picture and have their pay slips deposited directly into their account.

Chief Operating Officer Bill Ready says PayPal is targeting those who don't have a traditional bank account. That would presumably capture some of those referred to as "unbanked" customers, but would certainly include that younger generation that hasn't made an inaugural trip to a bank branch yet.

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"If you don't have a bank account, you can't take an Uber ride, can't stay in a room on Airbnb," he told the Wall Street Journal.

To do all this, PayPal has had to string together a lot of technology and a series of partnerships. PayPal itself doesn't have a banking licence in the U.S. so it has teamed up with a handful of banks that do: debit cards from a bank in Delaware, cheque deposits through another in Georgia, and even loans from a bank in Utah.

Canadian options

For now, the pilot is only happening in the United States. But at least one expert says that model would be enormously successful here in Canada.

"Banks are not well loved in this country," says Conor Bill, managing director of investment firm Mt. Auburn Capital.  "If you have a reliable alternative that you never have to establish a relationship with a bank, that is incredibly threatening to the [traditional] banks," he says.

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The National Crowdfunding & Fintech Association of Canada (NCFA Canada) is a cross-Canada non-profit actively engaged with both social and investment crowdfunding, alternative finance, fintech, P2P, ICO, and online investing stakeholders across the country. NCFA Canada provides education, research, industry stewardship, and networking opportunities to over 1600+ members and works closely with industry, government, academia, community and eco-system partners and affiliates to create a strong and vibrant crowdfunding and fintech industry in Canada.  For more information, please visit:  ncfacanada.org

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