Why Zelle won’t be a 'Venmo-killer'

Plus: Panthers sell practice-bubble parking; American mechanic charged with sabotaging flight; Charlotte has nation's least-affordable spicy tuna rolls

Good morning! Today is Friday, September 6, 2019.

Need to subscribe? Sign up for free here (charlotteledger.substack.com).

Like what you see? Forward to a friend or share on social media.


In the battle between payment apps, there’s room for everybody to win

When a group of big banks unveiled their new payment app in 2017, a lot of the media picked up on the theme that it would destroy popular payment app Venmo.

The banks’ new app was called Zelle — short for “gazelle” — and it was touted as a safe and fast way to transfer money to others. Business Insider, Vanity Fair and Bloomberg all called Zelle a potential “Venmo-killer.”

Fast-forward to today, and Zelle is experiencing rapid growth. BofA CEO Brian Moynihan and counterparts at other big banks, including Wells Fargo and JPMorgan, love to tout Zelle’s strong growth on conference calls and at industry conferences.

But the dirty little secret is that as much as Zelle is surging, it is not coming close to “killing” Venmo. While Zelle’s transaction volume grew 56% in the 2Q, Venmo’s grew 70%. (In nature shows, gazelles never seem to kill anything.)

“This is not a winner-take-all type of situation,” says Ron Shevlin, director of research at Cornerstone Advisors, in an interview with the Ledger. “There is no Venmo-killer. There’s plenty of room for growth.”

Payments of the future: At stake is the future of how we will pay for things. Shevlin says there will be plenty of options – there’s not a single method of electronic payments that is on the verge of eliminating all others.

Zelle moves more money than Venmo, but it has the advantage of being linked directly to bank accounts, and established customers tend to use it for bigger transactions. (Source: Mercator Advisory Group.)

Zelle transfers more money than Venmo. But that’s in part because it counts transfers between bank accounts in its volume. Zelle’s average transaction is about $258, about four times the size of Venmo’s average transaction. That indicates people are probably using Zelle to pay for big-ticket items from their bank accounts, like child support or rent. Venmo, which is owned by PayPal, is more likely to be used by millennial roommates to split the cost of dinner at that South End street-taco joint.

That difference “is either a lot of old, rich people sharing really expensive dinners, or it’s something else,” Shevlin says.

For the first time, use of debit cards surpassed cash in 2018, according to data from the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco. Checks are also in decline as electronic payments grow.

What it means: People are using cash and checks less and less. Instead, they are paying with their phones. If you still write checks, that’s cool — if you’re paying bills. If you pay a teenage babysitter with a check, though, odds are she will need to enlist the help of her parents to get the money. Only 6% of payments last year were by check — about half as many as by electronic methods.


Panthers offer bubble parking

If you can’t get enough of the Carolina Panthers’ practice bubble, does the team have a great deal for you!

For just $643, you can park beside the practice bubble at every Panthers regular-season home game. That works out to about $80 a game.

From an email to PSL holders on Thursday:

We are excited to offer you an opportunity to purchase parking passes for the 2019 Regular Season at our new practice dome. This surface lot is brand new and located on Cedar Street adjacent to the dome. This new surface lot is a short walk to the North Gate using the pedestrian tunnel under the railroad tracks. Tailgating is permitted on game days and with less than 50 spaces available this opportunity won’t last long.


Loves me some internet

Man catches a stranger’s phone in mid-air on a roller coaster:


Reader response

Time to dust off the ol’ e-mailbag, chock full o’ reader comments:

In response to “Panthers ticket fiasco ahead?” (Aug. 12):

  • “I wonder what will happen with the whole scalper ecosystem?  This should be interesting and create a whole new complexity. Underground economies tend to move faster than the above-board economies. Will be interesting to watch.”

In response to “The day the bulldozer arrived at Olde Providence” (Aug. 19) and “South Charlotte land crunch limits school sites” (Aug. 23)

  • “Why would CMS consider buying other sites when they own that one already?”

  • “Since there is basically no land, and as a resident of Olde Providence, I’d love to keep the woods. Why don’t they just use the $110 million to build onto the existing high schools?”

  • “Sticking a high school in a flood zone/greenway off of Rea is probably one of the dumbest things ever considered. The infrastructure here can’t support a school anyway. The traffic is already terrible on Elm, and it’s a single lane in either direction with no real room to expand.”

  • “I assumed there was a lot more land available in the south Charlotte area. Either way, I’m glad they're actually planning on building soon. I know how overcrowded South Meck is right now.”

  • “Has anyone considered the fact that the Olde Providence neighborhood residents just incurred a large property-value and tax hike? If this Olde Providence site is chosen, would this be revisited, as we know the high school would cut down on property values?”

  • “As far as the site of the school, how about the Hall Family Farm (or somewhere very close to it)? Seems to support where most of the future growth is going to come from.”

  • “Have they considered William R. Davie Dog Park off 51 between South Charlotte Middle and Calvary Church for the new high school? That seems to be centrally located between South Meck, Myers Park and Ardrey Kell.”

In response to “Heafner: Investment disaster ‘couldn’t have been foreseen’” (Sept. 4):

  • “That he says 1 Global was rock-solid, secured by assets, receivables or ‘something solid’ and was great in the short term flies in the face of offering sound retirement advice. Give me a break!”

In response to “Charlotte CBD takeover continues” (Sept. 4):

  • “The CBD coverage is getting to the point where you need to do all of us non-early-adopters a service and write a first-person on what these things actually supposedly do for your health and well-being.”

In response to “UNC-USC tailgate brawl features Brads vs. Chads” (Sept. 4):

  • “A lot of White Claw was consumed before someone stepped on someone else’s Sperry and the fight broke out.”

  • “‘Gimme back my Juul, bro!’ Thanks for the laugh from Brads vs. Chads.”

  • “I loved the Chad versus Brad video in today’s newsletter. I don’t follow Twitter that often, so I definitely missed that.”


In brief

  • American Airlines sabotage: An American Airlines mechanic in Miami was charged with “willfully damaging, destroying or disabling an aircraft” on Thursday after authorities say he disabled a navigation system on a July flight to Nassau with 150 passengers aboard. The plane aborted its takeoff and was taken out of service when pilots discovered the plane’s system wasn’t working. The mechanic told air marshals he was upset over stalled contract negotiations. (Miami Herald)

  • Ballantyne lease: Telecom company Segra has signed a lease to put its HQ at Ballantyne Corporate Park. Segra is “the rebranded name of the merged Spirit Communications and Lumos Networks Corp.” The number of jobs was not disclosed. (Biz Journal/paywall)

  • Business-newsletter acquisition: Charlotte’s Falfurrias Capital is buying a majority stake in Industry Dive, a Washington company that offers 19 B2B newsletters and websites. (PR Newswire)

  • No guns, please: Harris Teeter is following the lead of corporate parent Kroger and requesting that customers not openly carry firearms into their grocery stores, even in states such as North Carolina where “open carry” is legal. Walmart made a similar request. (Washington Post/Charlotte Agenda)

  • Wells Fargo’s seal of approval: “WeWork co-founder Adam Neumann has a message for anyone skittish about the company’s pending IPO: Wells Fargo backs his business. ‘If Wells Fargo, the largest lender in this country, can get comfortable with this, then everybody should,’ Neumann said Wednesday, referring to a $6 billion WeWork credit facility the bank is participating in.” WeWork has faced “growing investor skepticism” over its “lack of a roadmap to profitability.” (Bloomberg/Reuters

  • UNC tracking student-athletes: UNC-Chapel Hill has contracted with a company that provides attendance-monitoring software to keep tabs on players. “An individual entered [a professor’s] class and requested to install a device on the wall. When she asked him what kind of device he was installing, the man said it was a tracking device that worked with an app to make sure athletes are in their classes.” (Daily Tar Heel)


Food and booze news

A weekly wrap-up of the week’s eating and drinking developments

  • Plaza-Midwood Dairy Queen to close: Ice cream shop that’s been on Central Avenue since 1950 couldn’t agree on lease terms with landlord Aston Properties. Soul Gastrolounge co-owner tells Charlotte Agenda that losing DQ is an “emotional loss” but that at least Plaza-Midwood is “still home to the biggest middle finger in Charlotte: The Thirsty Beaver.” (Agenda)

  • Uptown Chipotle: Uptown’s first Chipotle is headed to the former Rite Aid space in Latta Arcade. (Agenda)

  • Vegan-friendly festival: VegFest, to be held 11-4 Saturday at the Park Expo and Conference Center, features an “all-vegan food court, expert speakers, curated panels, chef demonstrations [and] kids activities.” This year’s “central theme” is “inclusivity in veganism” (but not so inclusive that it includes meat). (CharlotteFive)

  • Pass the loukoumades: Yiasou Greek Festival, through Sunday. Outdoor dessert area includes loukoumades (fried balls of dough with honey and powdered sugar), baklava sundaes and more. Wise Charlotte Agenda tip: “Do not skip this area.” (Agenda)

  • Conveyor-belt sushi: Rockin’ Rolls Sushi Express has opened in Elizabeth. It’s all-you-can-eat. “There is a constant stream of sushi, other Japanese dishes and even desserts coming out of the kitchen on two covered conveyor belts. You just slide open the clear covering and grab what you want. It’s pretty fun.” (Agenda)

Raw data: Charlotte #1 in sushi price increases

Uh-oh, here’s one list of rankings Charlotte doesn’t want to be on — ahead of all other major cities when it comes to the rise in sushi prices.

Bloomberg explains:

Diners in the Charlotte and Houston metropolitan areas — where populations grew more than 10% over the past five years to reach close to 2.6 and 7 million, respectively — are experiencing sticker shock. Average prices for spicy-tuna and California rolls rose at more than double the pace of the national average last year. …

New Orleans remained the lowest-cost metro area for sushi. Average prices for spicy-tuna and California rolls in the “Big Easy” rose just 1.1% over the past year, compared to the 2.9% average gain nationally. Sushi inflation was 6.7% in Charlotte and 6% in Houston.


Got a news tip? Think we missed something? Drop me a line at editor@cltledger.com and let me know.

Like what we are doing? Feel free to forward this along and to tell a friend.

The Charlotte Ledger is an e-newsletter and web site publishing timely, informative, and interesting local business news and analysis Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, except holidays and as noted. We strive for fairness and accuracy and will correct all known errors. The content reflects the independent editorial judgment of The Charlotte Ledger. Any advertising, paid marketing, or sponsored content will be clearly labeled.

The Charlotte Ledger is published by Tony Mecia, an award-winning former Charlotte Observer business reporter and editor. He lives in Charlotte with his wife and three children.