Uber Announces Deeper Push Into Financial Services With Uber Money

Date :  Thurs, Oct 24 2019

Source : cnbc.com

Author : Hugh Son


Ride-hailing giant Uber is making a deeper push into financial services.


On Monday, the company made an announcement on the formation of a new division called Uber Money to house its plans, which includes a digital wallet and upgraded debit and credit cards. Initially, the emphasis will be on expanding Uber’s efforts to give its 4 million-plus drivers and couriers around the globe access to a mobile bank account so that they can get paid after per ride, according to Peter Hazlehurst, who will be leading the new division.


“We wanted to help everybody understand that there’s a new part of Uber that’s focused on financial services and that has a mission of giving people access to the type of financial services they were excluded from,” Hazlehurst said in a phone interview


Under pressure to transform a profit amid competition from new ride-sharing entrants around the world, Uber is pretty certain that by building out its financial ecosystem, it can keep their drivers and riders loyal to its platform. The company topped 100 million monthly active users, just this year. Many of whom that utilize their credit cards to make payment for rides and food orders. Future products could remove costs related to financial middlemen or generate new revenue streams. In June, CNBC was first to report that Uber was ramping up the creation of financial products by hiring engineers for a fintech outpost in New York. Globally, Uber is rolling out a debit card with an enhanced “instant pay” feature it has been testing in the U.S. and a few other markets. The feature has taken off in the U.S, with more than 70% of driver payments made using instant pay, according to Hazlehurst. It is essentially a no-fee banking account, with the debit card in the U.S. linked to an account provided by Green Dot.


“Not only do you get access to your earnings in real time, it doesn’t cost you anything to keep the money there and you can spend it whenever you want to,” Hazlehurst said.


 Cash-Strapped Drivers


 These payment innovations highlight the reality that many in the gig economy are struggling to make ends meet. Another popular feature, no-cost $100 overdrafts, helps cash-strapped drivers pay for gas to kick off a working day. It is, however, a better alternative than high-interest payday loans. Uber’s ambitions could bring drivers into the realm of digital finance in various parts of the world where cash is still supreme, like Pakistan and Bangladesh. About 40% of all Uber trips globally are paid using paper currency, Hazlehurst said, and Uber is keen in bringing that figure down.


After equipping drivers with electronic bank accounts — echoing the model of so-called challenger banks like Chime and Varo — would Uber one day look to provide its many millions of riders with an account, too?


“I think so,” Hazlehurst said. “The reality is that the needs of our partners in the U.S. and in Brazil and in Australia and in India mirror in many ways the needs of consumers as well, particularly in the cash-heavy economies. And the opportunity that we have is to expand to help all of those people have access to financial services.”


One upper hand Uber has over other new entrants into banking is its massive scale, which allows the company to negotiate better deals with vendors, he said. “We don’t have to take the traditional fee income model to operate these services,” Hazlehurst said.


Tech Is Coming


Uber’s move is the latest sign that tech giants are looking to make inroads into finance. Recently, Apple launched a credit card with Goldman Sachs, and Amazon has been introducing small business loans to its merchants for several years. Facebook revealed an ambitious plan this year to help remake global finance with its libra cryptocurrency, although that effort lost momentum after the project was abandoned by some corporate partners.


Amidst new products Uber was set to unveil at a payments conference in Las Vegas was a digital wallet called Uber Wallet that riders and drivers can use to store dollars, track their transaction history and make electronic payments. Apple Pay and Google Pay will be integrated with the service early next year so drivers can immediately spend their earnings, even without a physical debit card, Hazlehurst said.


Uber in recent times had surveyed U.S. drivers about whether they would be keen in taking small loans from the company, Hazlehurst said, confirming a report from Recode. It’s too early to say if they’ll do that in the U.S., but in several countries including Brazil, India and Peru, Uber already offers micro loans to drivers, he said. For riders, Uber’s credit card, a joint product with Barclays, will be reintroduced with well-heeled rewards for payments within Uber’s transportation and food delivery services.


In its limited time as a public company, Uber shares have been slammed by scepticism over its prospects and a wider shift in investor sentiment favouring profits over growth. The company’s stock is trading more than 25% below its $45 May IPO price. Uber reports third-quarter results on Nov. 4.


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