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Instant real-time payments: Banks need to embrace real-time payments as soon as possible to beat back encroachment from virtual currency, according to Yves Mersch, an executive board member of the European Central Bank, who was speaking at a bank industry event in Rome, Reuters reports. Many banks have become inefficient and may not be able to innovate to meet the changing needs of users, giving technology startups, alternative payment companies and cryptocurrencies even more of an advantage, according to Mersch, who added the ability to provide real-time services and payments will be essential if banks want to retain and gain consumers. In that environment, "instant" payments become of particular importance (the Sepa transfer scheme, for example, processes payments in about 10 seconds). There are are also regulations pending in Europe, such as the new Payment Service Directive (PSD2) that will also strongly encourage real-time payments as a way to accommodate mobile commerce and an increasing volume of international payments.

Bloomberg News

Mastercard looks at health care, blockchain innovators: Fresh off expanding its New York technology hub, Mastercard has added its largest class to date to its Start Path program. The program, which provides support to later stage startups, added 11 companies from five countries that are working on relatively new technologies. There's a particular focus on blockchain, digital identity, health care and ways to digitize donations. In each case, there's a tie into broader trends in payments technology, as fundraisers often are early movers on payments innovation to make donations more efficient. Also, digital identity has become a major concern for retailers as payments speed up and become more multi-channel; and blockchain has taken the spotlight as a major technology to handle cross-border transactions and fraud prevention. The Start Path is three years old, and evaluates about 1,600 startups per year. Past participants include NetPlusDotCom, which joined the company in April 2016 and recently partnered with Mastercard to build an e-commerce platform for Nigerian consumers and businesses.

Pot payment publishers: Fintechs have long made legal cannabis a target for payments innovation, hoping to win business in a high-risk market where traditional banks are reluctant to tread. In an effort to differentiate itself, payment gateway GlobalPayout and its subsidiary MoneyTrac Technology will launch a publication covering the pot industry. Called PotSever Biz, it will be released before the end of the first quarter 2018. The publication's founders say that while there's a lot of services out there for the legal weed industry, there's not a lot of news and information. The publication will be a way to extend that information as well as the brand of GlobalPayout and MoneyTrac, which will target businesses and brands in the pot industry for paid distribution. "This publication will provide many of these owners, who are operating virtually every type of business in the industry, from lighting equipment to security services, an effective platform to market their products and services to the specific owners of other businesses in the industry that are in need of exactly what they have to offer,” said Vanessa Luna, MoneyTrac's COO, in a release.

Bitcoin ATMs in Atlanta: While there isn't a huge number of Bitcoin ATMs, the numbers are starting to pick up. Coinsource, one of the world's larger ATM networks, has made its largest single deployment yet, installing 20 machines in Georgia. It has placed 18 in Atlanta and two in Athens, making Atlanta, with 101 total bitcoin ATMs, the third-largest Coinsource ATM city after New York and Chicago. Most of the machines are near Georgia State University and Emory in Atlanta; and the University of Georgia in Athens. While bitcoin is primarily an investment asset right now, Coinsource said it has reported payments in bitcoin at restaurants, gyms, car dealerships and graphic design companies near the ATMs. Coinsource is also positioning the ATMs as an alternative to pawn shops, check-cashing and payday loan companies for the Atlanta area's unbanked population.

From the Web

The age of cash is almost over, says tech entrepreneur
CNBC | Fri Dec 1, 2017 - A world without paper payments is rapidly approaching, the co-founder of the Sohn Conference Foundation said Thursday. Evan Sohn told CNBC that paying for things with traditional bank notes is increasingly dwindling as the appetite for contactless payments and digital currencies grows. Though most payments are still made with cash, Sohn said a demonetarization is taking place. According to the 2017 World Payments Report, global non-cash transaction volumes rose 11.2 percent between 2014 and 2015 to reach $433.1 billion — the highest growth of the past decade and above forecasts. The same report added that debit cards and credit transfers were the leading digital instruments in 2015, though the use of check continued to decline.

Now you can pay your rent in bitcoin
CNBC | Thu Nov 30, 2017 - While you still can't buy a meal at many restaurants with bitcoin, you can now pay your rent with it. ManageGo, a Brooklyn, New York-based rental platform that offers landlords and tenants payment and maintenance scheduling services through online and mobile applications, is now adding bitcoin to the list. Starting early next year, a tenant can pay in bitcoin through the mobile app.

Bitcoin Goes to the Big Four: PwC Accepts First Digital-Currency Payment
The Wall Street Journal | Thu Nov 30, 2017 - Accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers said it accepted a payment in bitcoin for its advisory services, its first in a virtual currency. The announcement Thursday came at a hot time for cryptocurrencies, as bitcoin this week blasted through $11,000 for the first time. The rally has prompted questions over whether the currency is a true store of value that can be widely used in transactions, or merely a day trader’s plaything.

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