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Mastercard pilots biometric payments, using facial recognition

Mastercard pilots biometric payments

Mastercard has begun to trial a biometric payment system for brick-and-mortar stores, using facial recognition rather than contactless cards, smartphones or memorable PINs.

The company said its Biometric Checkout Program would let a shopper scan their face using a retailer’s smartphone app and assign their likeness to a bank card stored on file. The technology is comparable to how Apple’s iPhone uses FaceID to approve payments or unlock a device.

“When the pandemic happened, we saw that everybody went digital and consumers embraced new technologies,” Mastercard Cyber and Intelligence President Ajay Bhalla said in an interview. “Consumers actually all over the world asked us for that for shopping, for their retail experiences.”

A pilot program began this week inside five St Marche supermarkets in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Mastercard said in a statement. The stores will use an app developed by Brazilian start-up Payface, one of the small businesses Mastercard promotes as part of its Start Path engagement program.  

On the hardware side, Mastercard is working with companies including NEC and Fujitsu General, with plans to roll out internationally soon.

— Bloomberg News

Allianz settles fraud case for $6 billion

Germany’s Allianz agreed to pay more than $6 billion and its U.S. asset management unit will plead guilty to criminal securities fraud over the collapse of its Structured Alpha funds early in the coronavirus pandemic.

Allianz’s settlements with the U.S. Department of Justice and U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission are among the largest in corporate history and dwarf earlier corporate settlements obtained under President Biden.

Gregoire Tournant, the former chief investment officer who created and oversaw the now-defunct Structured Alpha funds, is also being indicted on charges of fraud, conspiracy and obstruction, while two portfolio managers entered related guilty pleas.

Once with more than $11 billion of assets under management, the Structured Alpha funds lost more than $7 billion as the spread of the coronavirus roiled markets in February and March 2020.

Prosecutors said Allianz Global Investors misled teacher pension funds, clergy, bus drivers, engineers and other investors by understating the funds’ risks and displayed “significant gaps” in its monitoring of the funds.

Investors were told the funds employed options that included hedges to protect against market crashes, but prosecutors said the fund managers repeatedly failed to buy those hedges.

The managers also inflated fund performance to boost their own pay, collecting 30 percent of excess returns over relevant benchmarks as a performance fee, prosecutors said.

Tournant’s pay was the highest or second-highest in his unit from 2015 to 2019, including $13 million in 2019, records show.

Tournant, who joined Allianz in 2002 and founded the funds three years later, surrendered to authorities on Tuesday morning in Denver and according to his lawyers will fight the charges.

— Reuters

Investors are piling into cash as the outlook for global growth drops to an all-time low and stagflation worries mount, according to a Bank of America fund manager survey that points to continued stock-market declines. Cash levels among investors hit the highest level since September 2001, the report showed, with the bank describing the results as "extremely bearish." The survey of investors with $872 billion under management also showed that hawkish central banks are seen as the biggest risk, followed by a global recession.

United Airlines said on Tuesday that the Federal Aviation Administration has cleared its Boeing 777 planes equipped with Pratt & Whitney 4000 engines to return to service, while the widebody jets are expected to begin flying next week. Andrew Nocella, United's chief commercial officer, said the FAA issued the final paperwork for the planes late on Monday. Separately, the FAA confirmed it has approved the service bulletins that will allow the Boeing 777-200 with Pratt & Whitney PW4000 engines to return to service.

Earnings: Target.

— From news services