Facebook Inc. (FB), which has seen its stock quadruple since first going public, is now following Amazon.com Inc.'s (AMZN) lead as it seeks to expand into financial services as a part of efforts to offer more services to its users. The tech giant has been in talks with major banks, including JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo and Citigroup, about offering financial services like card transactions and checking-account balances on its Facebook Messenger platform, which already boasts 1.3 billion users, according to Barron’s.
While Amazon’s move into the sector pits it as a real competitive threat to the big banks, Facebook is taking the approach of partnering with them. But banks, whose market values pale in comparison, are a little skeptical, especially considering Facebook’s data-privacy issues.
Towering Market Value: Facebook vs. Big Banks
|Company||Market Capitalization (billions)|
|Bank of America||$307.04|
Source: Yahoo! Finance
Facebook’s Financial Services Prospects
1.3 billion Facebook Messenger users
bank account balances
Facebook’s proposal to the banks takes the form of an exchange of data for users: Facebook is asking the banks to share the financial information of their customers, and in return, Facebook is giving the banks access to its user base. The move by Facebook is all a part of its aspirations to become more than just a social networking site, namely a platform on which people can buy and sell goods and services. Offering card transactions and checking account information through its Messenger service is just the first step in that direction, according to the Wall Street Journal. (To read more, see: Facebook Asks Banks to Share Customer Information.)
But the recent Cambridge Analytica scandal, a political analytics firm that was allowed access to data on as many as 87 million Facebook users without their consent, has banks concerned that sharing their customers’ private financial information with Facebook won’t go over so well. Facebook has taken a harder stance to protect user privacy since the scandal, like offering users the ability to clear their history thus preventing the browsing details on off-Facebook use from being collected. But it will have to continue these efforts if it wants to clear its reputation enough that users will be comfortable having their financial data filtered through the service.
While Amazon has been in talks with financial institutions about partnering-up to offer customers co-branded checking accounts, it has already made its presence felt in the financial services sector, having found ways to eat into banks’ swipe-fee revenues, offer small-business loans, and compete with prepaid card issuers. (To read more, see: Amazon ‘Well Placed’ to Disrupt Asset Management Industry: Bernstein.)
With Amazon’s massive user base, it could become one of the nation’s largest banks. Thus, while banks face concerns over privacy issues in partnering with Facebook, in partnering with Amazon they face the prospect of enabling the e-commerce giant to eventually eat away at their market shares. Of course, if they don’t partner, another institution likely will.