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India and Mexico Get an Early Taste of the ‘Bank of Amazon’

As Wall Street worries about someday going up against the “Bank of Amazon,” recent moves by the online shopping Goliath indicate it’s already going in that direction overseas.

In places like India and Mexico, Amazon.com Inc. is offering unique payments services and actively approaching finance-technology startups for investments and acquisitions, according to a research report by CB Insights set to publish Thursday. In India, Amazon has a doorstep cash-pickup service that lets customers load money into a digital wallet. It has also acquired or invested in several startups there, including Emvantage Payments and BankBazaar. In Mexico, Amazon has a cash payment service meant to be an alternative to a credit or debit card.

The finance industry is fixated on the idea of Amazon and other technology companies wading into their territory. Keith Noreika, who was acting head of the U.S. regulator for national banks last year, said in November that it’s time to take another look at the separation between commerce and banking. Almost half of banks and credit unions consider large tech companies to be a “significant threat,” according to an Infosys Finacle survey of 300 bankers. Amazon declined to comment.

“Amazon, Google and Facebook own two critically important items when it comes to being successful at consumer payments and loans: 1) the data and 2) the relationship with the customer,” said Brendan Wallace, co-founder and managing partner of Fifth Wall Ventures. “It’s inevitable that they will move deeper into finance to capitalize on this advantage.”

Amazon doesn’t offer traditional banking services at a large scale in the U.S., but it does have an impact on America’s financial system. More than 33 million people use the company’s payment system, and it has lent more than $3 billion to small businesses that sell on its platform since 2011, the research report said. Early last year, the company introduced Amazon Cash, where users can load funds onto their Amazon account.

— With assistance by Spencer Soper, Jennifer Surane, and Selina Wang

Source: Bloomberg