Facebook is reportedly planning to take a step into financial services, allowing users in select regions to store money online to use for making payments and transferring funds to others. According to the Financial Times, Facebook could obtain regulatory approval in Ireland to begin offering these services as an “e-money” institution within a matter of weeks. This approval would apparently allow it to operate throughout Europe.
But despite moving forward in Europe, Facebook’s eventual goal seems to be offering financial services in developing countries, where the social network has a chance to become an integral part of the financial infrastructure. “Remittances are a gateway drug to financial inclusion,” one person with knowledge of Facebook’s plans reportedly tells the Times. Facebook is reportedly also speaking with several international money-transfer startups about partnerships, though it’s unclear how these would factor into the alleged service from Facebook.
Facebook did not provide a comment to the Times on its report. It’s been aggressively exploring new business models ever since it went public though, and many tech companies have already been trying to let smartphones take over for wallets and credit cards for a few years now. Facebook, it seems, may have a similar idea, and with a robust network of people already using it, that may allow for easy transfers between friends and businesses. There would of course be major privacy and security issues for Facebook to mitigate, but Facebook has rarely been shy about trying new services to see what sticks.