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Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Big banks are pulling back from the heights of their global ambitions for retail banking.

Why it matters: The globalization dogma says bigger is better, and that more markets offer more opportunities for making money. But increasingly, the international mega-bank model is getting clunky, more expensive — and less popular.

Tech disruption is driving competition — and costs — to new levels, especially in payments and lending.

  • Digital competitors like Dave, Monzo and Venmo litter the web and have no costly branches.
  • Investors are paying attention. Banking app Dave, launched in 2017, said on Monday it would merge into a SPAC at an expected equity value of $4 billion.

Meanwhile, traditional banks are unwinding retail banking purchases made in the pre-cloud era.

  • HSBC is the latest, selling its unprofitable U.S. business to Citizens Bank and Cathay Bank.
  • BBVA also recently sold its underperforming U.S. retail business to PNC. And Citi announced in April it's selling its Asia retail business.

What they're saying: "What we’re seeing today would have been a surprise 10-15 years ago," says Greg McBride, chief financial analyst at Bankrate.

  • "There are limited synergies in running a global consumer business. It's all about local scale," says Jan Bellens, EY's global banking sector leader.
  • That's because many products don't translate across national boundaries. Mortgages, for one.

The intrigue: International banks are increasingly looking for cost savings, like shedding underperforming assets, and using that to invest in digital banking platforms, says Wedbush analyst Peter Winter.

  • To adapt, legacy banks have also gotten into bed with fintechs.

Case in point: Signature Bank and Customers Bank both struck deals for their customers to use blockchain-powered real-time B2B payments platform TassatPay.

What to watch: The re-globalization of banking — driven by cloud-based fintechs unburdened by old technology or brick-and-mortar infrastructure. They'll be best positioned for expansion, Bellens says.

The bottom line: Consolidation in traditional retail banking is expected to continue.

  • A former Santander executive told the FT in December that the Spanish bank had been "outmaneuvered" by BBVA’s U.S. asset sale, and that Santander "should have lined up such a favorable exit itself."

Go deeper

9 things to do around the University of Minnesota

Photo by Glen Stubbe/Star Tribune via Getty Images

The University of Minnesota is welcoming droves of Golden Gophers to its campuses over the next several days.

What's happening: The school's Welcome Week starts Wednesday for what could be the largest freshman class in 50 years. The jump in enrollment is likely due to students deferring last fall, UMN Vice Provost Bob McMaster told KARE 11 in July.

  • Thousands of new students will move into their dorms and apartments this week, and attend orientation activities through Labor Day.

Are you a parent staying in the Cities for a few days? A student new to campus who wants to ditch the mandatory school spirit sessions?

  • We rounded up nine things to do near East Bank, West Bank and the St. Paul campus.

But first, a brief explainer to help you get your footing around town:

East Bank: What most people are referring to when they talk about the Twin Cities campus. It's the largest area of campus and has a little bit of everything.

West Bank: The area of campus west of the Mississippi River and closest to downtown Minneapolis. Primarily arts and social science buildings.

Dinkytown: The historic student neighborhood directly north of East Bank. A lot of the area is under construction, but it's mostly made up of student apartment buildings, bars and restaurants, plus the only Target within walking distance

Como: The neighborhood northeast of Dinkytown, primarily large houses occupied by students and families.

Stadium Village: Another neighborhood that begins east of Oak Street on East Bank. Named after the multiple stadiums in the area, including Huntington Bank (formerly TCF Bank Stadium).

St. Paul campus: The U’s smaller campus a few miles away from East and West Banks, primarily accessible via city and free campus busses. Mostly holds farming and agricultural buildings.

How to kick off the semester:
  • Looking for an easy bike ride? The Dinkytown Greenway bike path is just 1-mile-long and runs through West Bank, Dinkytown and East Bank, ending at Huntington Bank Stadium.
  • Head south on the Blue Line to explore Minnehaha Park, a 193-acre city park known for the Minnehaha Falls near the entrance. Tip: The park's seafood restaurant Sea Salt Eatery is one of the best in the Cities.
  • St. Anthony Main: A short walk from Dinkytown, this area has stunning views of the Minneapolis skyline and Mississippi River, an entrance to the Stone Arch Bridge, several restaurants and St. Anthony Main Theatre, a charming independent theater that's also the only one close to campus.
  • Al's Breakfast, a Dinkytown institution that's also the narrowest restaurant in Minneapolis at 10-feet-wide, is a must-try. Prepare to wait in line to squeeze onto one of the 14 stools, but it's worth it just for the experience. Tip: It's cash only.
  • St. Paul has plenty of museums just steps from the light rail or bus, including the Bell Museum (free for students) on the UMN St. Paul campus, the Science Museum of Minnesota downtown and the Minnesota Museum of American Art.
  • Walk, bike or take public transportation to one of the many sports games around the Cities. All the major stadiums, like Allianz Field and U.S. Bank Stadium, are next to light rail stops. Or, if you're a student, attend other University games, like volleyball, baseball and wrestling, for free with your U Card.
  • West Bank's House of Balls is a local sculptor's decades-long passion project and one of the weirdest, most fascinating museums in Minnesota. It's free to visit and truly indescribable.
  • See live performances at one of the many venues within walking distance of campus. Try Varsity Theater in Dinkytown and Cedar Cultural Center on West Bank for music. For theater, check out Mixed Blood Theatre and Theatre in the Round, both on West Bank.
  • The Como Zoo and Conservatory has everything: beautiful year-round botanical gardens, a free zoo and Como Town, a family amusement park with nearly 20 rides. Reservations and masks required.

CCP releases two jailed Canadians after Huawei CFO deal with DOJ

Photo: Sheldon Cooper/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Two Canadians imprisoned by the Chinese government for over 1,000 days have been released and are expected to arrive in Canada on Saturday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Friday.

Why it matters: Their release comes hours after Huawei Technologies CFO Meng Wanzhou reached a deal with the U.S. Department of Justice that resolves the criminal charges against her and could pave the way for her to return to China.

Updated 15 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Arizona GOP's private recount of 2020 election confirms Biden's win

Contractors working on behalf of the GOP examine and recount 2020 ballots at Arizona Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Phoenix in May. Photo: Courtney Pedroza/Getty Images

In an odd coda to the 2020 election, private contractors conducting a GOP-commissioned recount in Arizona confirmed President Biden’s win in Maricopa County.

Why it matters: The unofficial, party-driven recount has been heavily covered on cable news as part of former President Trump's continued effort to sow doubt about the election result.

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