Uber is considering offering banking services in the form of prepaid credit cards or assistance in signing up for bank accounts to its US drivers, according to Quartz, which spoke to sources close to the ride-hailing company and reviewed documents related to the plan. The move would be a significant step in Uber's quest to improve working conditions for its drivers, many of whom complain about draconian tactics and a lack of benefits or job security.
Under the proposal, drivers who sign up with Uber would also be offered help in signing up for a bank account or a prepaid credit card, allowing them to get paid the same day they work rather than weekly. Uber has reached out to financial institutions about partnering on the initiative, sources tell Quartz. The banking services would initially just be available to Uber's 400,000 US drivers; if successful, the startup would extend the plan to its 1.1 million global drivers.
At an event in Washington, DC, Tuesday, David Plouffe, Uber's top political strategist said the company's biggest challenge was "stagnant wages." He also said a "distinct minority" of its drivers work for Uber as their sole source of income. Still, Uber is dealing with problems with loyalty among its driver class, who chafe under the customer rating system and lower rates. While Uber is the dominant ride-hailing service, many drivers say they also moonlight for other startups like Lyft or Gett.
The move comes as Uber tightens its grip on US markets, struggles to maintain its foothold in Europe, and faces new competition in Asia. It also comes amid swirling questions around Uber's decision to classify its drivers as independent contractors rather than full employees, which is being the subject of a class-action lawsuit in California. The company is expected to be hit with another employee misclassification claim in the UK in the coming days, BuzzFeed reports.
Uber dipped its toe into the financial service industry in July, when it launched a pilot program called Xchange Leasing to connect potential drivers to auto dealerships that offer discounts and financing options. The news that Uber is looking to expand those services should come as no surprise, given the company's interests in diverging into food and material deliveries as well.