Technorati Tags: payments
My favourite new acronym is PEP: not the Personal Equity Plan familiar to the British middle classes but a Politically-Exposed Person. It turns out that banks have to screen for PEPs because such PEPs (eg, members of the European parliament and deposed African strongmen) after often involved in corruption. Anyway, the money laundering regulatory framework is very complicated. As a mere technologist, they look to me more like a backdoor full employment act for lawyers rather than a rational mechanism for reducing crime, but that’s a rant that doesn’t belong on this blog (I’m just jealous). One of the guys there did tell me that some piece of AML (I don’t remember which) cost more than $20 million for banks to implement and in it’s first two years in operation froze only half a million dollars in accounts. That doesn’t seem like a particularly good return.
Why do I keep going on about AML regulation? Because it raises costs. And the rate of increase shows no sign of slowing. The cost of banks has risen by almost two-thirds in the last three years. In addition to raising the cost of banking, it also raises the cost of electronic payments. If it is indeed European Commission policy to get customers to use other instruments (ie, cards) instead of cash — as was stated in the presentation about SEPA — then surely one obvious step toward this goal would be to lower the cost of the alternatives. You should be able to pick up a prepaid card with a maximum balance of, say, 500 euros with no form filling, passport photocopying or anything else.
As an aside, forum friend Dominic Peachey of the Financial Services Authority was at the seminar and he made a typically experienced and perceptive observation about the extent to which regulation in the pre-paid space is evidence-based. Quite. I’ve noted this before. There are many beneits to society that follow from increased commerce, and both physical commerce and retail e-commerce would be stimulated significantly if prepaid products were more widely available. But if the cost and complexity of prepaid products are inflated by overly broad AML, the surely the net welfare is a long way negative.
These opinions are my own (I think) and presented solely in my capacity as an interested member of the general public [posted with ecto]