Welcome back from what I hope was a relaxing and rejuvenating holiday, even if it meant dealing with an overstuffed inbox this week. Well, there’s always email bankruptcy.
This week we have the changes at one bank in the wake of regulatory action and their fintech partnership, the behind-the-scenes workings of ATM networks, and the ongoing banking crisis in Lebanon, including the practice of robbing your own bank account, often at gunpoint.
1. Fintech partnerships drive regulatory action
This week, Blue Ridge Bank ($2.9B in assets) of Charlottesville, VA, announced the hiring of Kristen Muetzel as president of its fintech division. Blue Ridge is addressing action by the OCC by creating this role and bringing in an executive with experience at the Fed and positions in Fintech companies.
The bank has run into trouble with regulators before. It had to delay its merger with FVCBankcorp in 2021 after the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency raised concerns and called off the deal in early 2022. In September, a securities filing revealed that the OCC required Blue Ridge Bank to make several changes. It must obtain a non-objection from the OCC before it signs any contracts with new fintech partners or adds new products with its existing partners, refine the ways it complies with the Bank Secrecy Act, and explain how it will improve its monitoring of suspicious activity.
2. The old and new business models of ATMs
The always insightful Patrick McKenzie (most recently of Stripe) writes on the infrastructure behind ATMs and the weird history of how the business of cash works. In addition to the past and economics of ATM networks, he also looks at the incentives for retailers offering cash back at the register:
Handling cash is not actually free; it is subsidized for retail clients and very small businesses by the bank. Larger businesses pay market prices, like they do for other banking services. If you deal with commercially relevant quantities of cash, in addition to your own labor costs associated with it, your bank will assess a fee for depositing it. Larger retailers will negotiate their own bespoke rates, but the right ballpark for small businesses above a nominal amount is 3 bps, or $3 per $10,000 transacted.
3. More on the banking crisis in Lebanon
We previously shared the story of activists “robbing” banks to retrieve their own deposits. Vice News has a short video on the growing deposit crisis in the Lebanese banking sector. Frozen deposits are driving people to desperate, if only performative so far, actions. Frustrations are turning to the government to step in.
“The judiciary, the banks, and the government should find a solution. They have the power to resolve this, but they don’t want to come up with a solution. What are they waiting for? This is the 10th raid. Because there’s no blood, you insist on withholding people’s money. You insist on locking them up. You insist on taking their money and the people have no agency.”
The piece includes an interview and follow-up with Salil Hafez, made famous for the Facebook live post robbing her own bank to pay for cancer treatment for her sister.