Uber is making a fintech push with a New York hiring spree

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Dara Khosrowshahi, chief executive officer of Uber Technologies speaks on a webcast during the company’s initial public offering on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, May 10, 2019.

Michael Nagle | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Mobility giant Uber is looking to accelerate the creation of financial products with a new fintech outpost in New York, according to people with knowledge of the plan.

The ride-hailing company is aiming to hire several dozen engineers and product managers this year, and the New York team could eventually exceed 100 workers, said the people, who declined to be identified speaking about Uber’s plans.

Uber, fresh from its IPO last month, is looking to tap New York’s talent pool, which is deeper when it comes to fintech and bank workers than its hometown of San Francisco. By building out its financial ecosystem, the company can increase its lead over rivals like Lyft. The efforts are likely to be focused on ways to increase engagement and loyalty to the Uber platform, according to people who attended a recruitment event earlier this year.

Payments chief Peter Hazlehurst and top engineer Johnie Lee spoke at the event, held at Uber’s New York offices, the people said.

There are many possible payment and lending innovations Uber could come up with: It has 93 million active users globally, most of whom use linked credit cards or fund a wallet called Uber Cash to pay for rides and food delivery.

The two major areas being looked at by its financial products team involve building “payment experiences” that encourage riders and eaters to use Uber or remove costs from the system, and helping contractors manage the funds they earn, according to a job posting.

That’s in line with products Uber has already released, like Uber Cash, which includes discounts when a user funds the wallet, its loyalty program Uber Rewards, and its co-branded credit card. On the other side of the service, Uber allows drivers to get paid as often as five times a day instead of waiting for weekly paychecks.

A more radical possibility is an Uber bank account, according to a person with knowledge of the matter.

Creating a bank account has been discussed at a high level at Uber but may be years away, or the company could decide against it, this person said. Uber relies heavily on the banking system to get paid and pay drivers, and it could potentially cut out middlemen with its own bank.

That’s a similar rationale that another tech giant, Amazon, reportedly had for engaging banks including J.P. Morgan Chase to explore creating a checking account for customers. If it pursued a bank account, Uber would likely partner with an existing FDIC-insured bank rather than get its own charter. Most fintech firms rely on a small group of institutions like Cross River and Celtic Bank to offer banking services.

Uber is currently looking for larger digs in New York, shopping for a block of office space as large as 300,000 square feet, Crain’s New York reported. Noah Edwardsen, a spokesman for Uber, declined to comment for this story.

— With reporting by CNBC’s Steve Kovach

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