Does Elon Musk want to make Twitter a bank?

By Amelia Isaacs on Monday 14 November 2022

Digital Banking

It looks like Musk wants to bring debit cards, automatic payments and, for some reason, cheques, to Twitter.

Does Elon Musk want to make Twitter a bank?
Image source: Elon Musk/The Royal Society CC BY-SA 4.0.

In the latest confusing turn on Elon Musk’s meandering path of chaos, the billionaire CEO told employees he wants Twitter to offer debit cards, loans and cheques.

Musk held a last-minute meeting with the entire staff of Twitter late last week, spending almost an hour answering questions in the wake of mass layoffs and exec resignations. 

As first reported by The Verge, which obtained a recording of the meeting, Musk brought up the idea of making Twitter a platform for payments in his introduction, saying he sees a “transformative opportunity” in the space.

“Payments really are just the exchange of information,” he said.

“From an information standpoint [there’s] not a huge difference between, say, just sending a direct message and sending a payment. They are basically the same thing.”

While it might be true that in terms of logistics and information there might not be that big a difference, there is arguably a pretty big difference between sending someone a message and sending them money.

With questions mounting about the security of the platform given the chief privacy officer, chief information security officer and chief compliance officer have all just resigned, it seems unclear who would trust the social media platform with their money, or why.

But Musk seemed steadfast in the move, explaining that Twitter could, in theory, use a direct messaging stack for payments.

“That’s definitely a direction we’re going to go in, enabling people on Twitter to be able to send money anywhere in the world instantly and in real-time,” he said.

So just how exactly does Musk plan to make Twitter into a payments service?

He said the company has applied for transfer licences and that it would have to establish a “high-yield money market account”, removing the complexity and expense of traditional bank accounts.

“If you can simply have one balance on Twitter that can simply go positive or negative, and when it goes positive, the interest rate is better than what you could receive elsewhere, and when it goes negative, the interest rate is lower than what you see elsewhere, now you have a much simpler system,” Musk said.

He added that he would attach a debit card that is automatically sent to people when they reach “a certain balance”, enabling “backward compatibility” to the “existing financial infrastructure”, though it’s unclear what that infrastructure is.

Musk also said that Twitter would send “a small number” of cheques to those that need them and then add automatic payments, over time addressing “all the things that you’d want from a finance standpoint”.

When one employee followed up to say this sounds like more of a bank and asked if he sees Twitter loaning, Musk said “if you want to provide a comprehensive service to people, then you can’t be missing key elements”.

So should we expect to move our funds into Twitter anytime soon?

At the rate Musk has barreled changes through, perhaps. 

But his journey has not been without plenty of u-turns, so even if the feature is there next week, it might be gone the next.

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