Investment banks eye peer-to-peer lending
The FT (£, p1) reports that Goldman Sachs and Société Générale are amongst several potential bidders for Aztec, an emerging peer to peer financing platform. P2P competitors initially spurned banks, trying to use state of the art technology to match potential investors with those looking for finance. However, this growing sector is now turning to large finance groups to fuel its expansion. The same paper also reports that Arianna Huffington, who leads the Huffington Post Media Group, has joined the board of Payoff, one of the leading US peer-to-peer lenders.
Carney calls for eurozone fiscal union
In a widely reported speech Bank of England Governor Mark Carney has said the eurozone needs to do more to “share risks”, adding that the failure to have a single fiscal authority puts the area in an “odd position” compared with other currency unions (BBC). Speaking in Dublin, Mr Carney said: “European monetary union will not be complete until it builds mechanisms to share fiscal sovereignty.” The Governor’s intervention came a week after the European Central Bank unveiled a €1.1 trillion (£846 billion) bond buying programme to boost growth across the ailing eurozone.
Greek bank shares suffer their worst day’s trading as Athens mulls new debt plan
The Daily Mail (p70) reports that share prices of Greek banks plummetted by more than 27% yesterday, taking losses since last Sunday’s election to 40%. The falls came as Germany’s Bundesbank warned that Greece would lose access to bailout money from the European Central Bank if it reneges on its austerity package. Customers have withdrawn around £6 billion - around 4% of Greek bank assets – since last month when Syriza became the expected winner of the country’s general election.
Basel discusses new bank disclosure rules
Banks will be obliged to disclose the risks on their balance sheets in even greater detail under proposals being discussed by the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision, the FT (£, online only) writes. The moves are part of an ongoing strategy to make it easier to compare the financial health of banks and ascertain whether some organisations should be holding more capital to cover their risks. Stefan Ingves, the committee’s chairman, said: “These changes substantially strengthen the disclosure framework and will help users of the disclosures to better understand and assess the measurement of a bank’s risk-weighted assets.”
Richard Woolhouse, Chief Economist at the BBA talks in his latest video about the high street banking statistics released in December 2014.
Recovery “on track,” Chancellor says
The FT (£, p1) leads with news that Britain’s economy grew at 2.6 per cent in 2014, its fastest in a calendar year since the financial crisis. Chancellor George Osborne told MPs that that the figures showed “Britain has the fastest growing economy in the world in 2014”. However, the fourth-quarter growth figures indicated that the British recovery losing some of its momentum, and highlighted its dependence on the services sector, the paper says. The Guardian (p19) quotes economist Chris Williamson from Markit, who warned that several challenges lie ahead for the economy, including potentially a new phase of political uncertainty in the eurozone arising from Syriza’s election victory in the Greece. “The upcoming general election in the UK also poses a threat to stability in the event on an inconclusive outcome,” he adds.
Yesterday, figures released by the BBA showed that the number of house purchase approvals in 2014 was 9% higher than the previous year. New deposits into ISAs run by banks were also up 57% on 2013 (BBC News).
BBA Chief Economist Richard Woolhouse was also quoted by the Guardian on the figures.
Liquidity squeeze looms in Greece
Shares in Greece’s banks have lost a quarter of their value in two days, as the threat of a bank run and the loss of support from the European Central Bank threaten a liquidity squeeze (Telegraph, B4). Yesterday the Athens Bank Index fell to an all-time low, and the country’s five largest banks have lost €15 billion (£11 billion) in four months. Alexis Tsipras, Greece’s new prime minister, unveiled his cabinet which includes a former communist politician and a left-wing blogger in top economic posts (FT, £, p8). The paper adds that the final line-up is likely to raise concerns among investors fearful Athens will row back on reforms, attack big business and take a tough stance on renegotiating Greece’s debt.
Countdown to the general election
With just 100 days to go until the general election, campaigning kicked off in earnest yesterday. Prime Minister David Cameron told Sky News that a Labour government would “wreck economic progress”, while Mr Miliband charged that the Conservatives would leave the NHS “unrecognisable”. Meanwhile, the FT (£, p2) says the City of London would cease to be a leading global financial centre under Green Party plans for the economy. Green Party proposals also include retaining the Government’s stake in RBS and Lloyds Banking Group and using it to create a “People’s Bank” that would “in effect be a high street branch of the Bank of England”.
BBA figures reflect growing economic confidence
High Street Banking figures released by the BBA today reveal consumer confidence is growing as the economy continues to strengthen. In 2014, there were 2.5 billion credit card purchases, some 8% more than in 2013. Annual growth in unsecured borrowing is currently 3.8%, the highest rate since late 2008. In addition, the number of house purchase approvals in 2014 was 9% higher than the previous year.
BBA Chief Economist Richard Woolhouse said: “The mortgage market has been softening since the spring, but for customers taking out home loans right now there are some great deals and we expect the market to begin to grow again this year. Robust employment data is making many of us feel more secure in our jobs and optimistic about our futures. That’s now feeding through to personal lending and credit card data, suggesting people are happy to finally replace the car or spend on household improvements. Outstanding business lending has been falling as larger firms have used the bond market rather than borrowing from banks. Despite this, outside real estate businesses are generally expanding their lending.”
European banks call for capital rules rethink
Senior bankers at Europe’s largest institutions have warned that the European Central Bank’s quantitative easing programme will be “blunted by tough capital rules designed to curb risks in securitisations”, reports the FT (£, p16). Meeting in private sessions at the World Economic Forum, bankers said that revisions to Basel III would “encourage more securitisation, ease the shift of assets from constrained bank balance sheets to capital markets” and make the ECB’s plans “more effective”.
Syriza forms coalition government
Syriza, victor in the Greek election, has formed a coalition with the right-wing party Independent Greeks after falling two short of an absolute majority (FT, £, p1). Although the parties sit on opposite sides of the political spectrum, the right-wingers are “as fiercely opposed as Syriza to the strict conditions attached to the nation’s €245 billion (£182 billion) bailout”. According to the Times (£, p30), the deal was struck with the understanding that Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras would have “a free hand in charting economic policy and negotiating a new deal with lenders”.
However, the FT notes that Greece’s international creditors have “ruled out any outright debt forgiveness and signalled no let up on economic conditions tied to the bailout”. In a second article, the FT (£, p6) quotes Jeroen Dijsselbloem, the Dutch chair of the eurogroup of finance ministers, who said: ”I don’t think there is support for that [writing down Greece’s debts]”. But Alex Stubb, Finland’s prime minister stated: “We will not forgive loans but we are ready to discuss extending the bailout programme or maturities.”
CityAM (p1) reports that shares in the four largest Greek banks fell by around 10% yesterday. The Mail (p62) cites figures from the Bank of International Settlements which reveals that UK banks have lent £8.9 billion to Greece. However, the paper admits that the biggest banks have reduced their exposure to Greece, with regulators stating that exposure is “spread around the financial system among a number of smaller UK lenders”.
Richard Woolhouse, Chief Economist at the BBA, said:
“The mortgage market has been softening since the spring, but for customers taking out home loans right now there are some great deals and we expect the market to begin to grow again this year.
“Robust employment data is making many of us feel more secure in our jobs and optimistic about our futures. That’s now feeding through to personal lending and credit card data, suggesting people are happy to finally replace the car or spend on household improvements.
“Outstanding business lending has been falling as larger firms have used the bond market rather than borrowing from banks. Despite this, outside real estate businesses are generally expanding their lending.”
Millions of “silver surfers” harness mobile and internet banking
Nearly 2.3 million people aged between 70 and over 100 years old are now using internet banking, new industry figures compiled by the BBA show today (Times, £, p35). The study also shows that more than 450,000 customers over 60 are harnessing banking apps on smart phones, iPads and other tablets.
The figures are the latest part the BBA’s Way We Bank Now work, which has charted the rapid rise of a range of new consumer-friendly banking technologies, including contactless cards and text alerts. CityAM (p8) quotes BBA Chief Executive, Anthony Browne, who said:
“These figures shatter the myth that this technology is only for younger generations – millions of older people are avid users of banking websites and apps. Banking on the move is as much a reality for silver surfers as it is for students.
“Customers of all ages like the fact that they can now make payments, check balances and do other banking tasks from the comfort of their home without trudging into town. It’s precisely because these technologies are so popular with people of all ages that banks are investing so heavily in them.
“Not everyone will want to harness these new services, but it’s vital that no one feels excluded from this easy-to-use technology and that banks continue to give all the support they can to those who want to learn how to join what is fast becoming a banking revolution.”
Cable to call for banks to link-up with Post Offices
Business Secretary Vince Cable is expected to put pressure on high street banks to improve their links with the Post Office and to do more to help rural communities following further branch closures last year (Times, £, p35). When Dr Cable meets with banks tomorrow he will ask them to expand their work with the Post Office, with a particular focus on allowing small businesses to use their counters for banking services. Banks already allow their customers to use counter services at the Post Office’s 11,500 branches across the country. RBS chief executive Ross McEwan said last year that the bank’s busiest “branch” was “the 7.01am from Reading to Paddington” when there was apparently a surge of customers using their mobile phone to access mobile banking.
The BBA’s Way We Bank Now work provides more insight into the changing habits of bank customers, who are increasingly using online services to do their day-to-day banking.
Ex bank boss says “vishing” should be refunded
The Mail (p12) cited the BBA’s Know Fraud, No Fraud campaign as part of efforts being made by the banking industry to protect consumers from predatory fraudsters. At the weekend former Bank of Scotland chairman Sir Peter Burt told The Sunday Times that banks should automatically refund customers who are victims of vishing or similar scams and encouraged customers to sue financial institutions that don’t refund.
A spokesman for the BBA said: “Banks are determined to stop such crimes. It is important cases are handled on a case-by-case basis and banks work with customers.”
Syriza victory in Greek elections
The FT (£, p1) reports that impending victory for the left-wing Syriza party in Greece could mean that the eurozone will see their “most explicitly anti-austerity administration since the financial crisis erupted in 2008”. The paper notes that “Syriza’s victory throws down a challenge to European governments determined to resist its demands for extensive debt relief and an end to austerity”. The Telegraph (B1) writes that the global markets “are braced for an extended bout of extreme volatility” due to the election result, as concerns grow that the country could default on its debts, which are at 175% of its GDP.
Syriza will shortly begin coalition conversations this week after narrowly missing out on an outright majority by two seats.
Nearly 2.3 million people aged between 70 and over 100 years old are now using internet banking, new industry figures compiled by the BBA show today.
The study also shows that more than 450,000 customers over 60 are harnessing banking apps on smart phones, iPads and other tablets.
The figures are the latest part the BBA’s Way We Bank Now work, which has charted the rapid rise of a range of new consumer-friendly banking technologies, including contactless cards and text alerts.
ECB bond-buying “exceeds expectations”
The FT (£, p1) reports that the bond-buying programme revealed by ECB president Mario Draghi yesterday was “far bigger than investors had expected”, with the bank chief saying that the ECB would buy more than €1 trillion of government and private sector bonds by September next year. The measures have no stated end date and can go on until inflation is on a path consistent with the ECB’s inflation objective. The moves came in the face of opposition from Germany (FT, £, p6), where there was concern that it might prevent some European countries from reforming their own economies. These concerns have been shared by George Osborne. The central bank had been under pressure to take action as the eurozone faced deflation and zero growth.
The Times (£, p1) says that the stimulus measures “will herald a new era of cheaper holidays and cut-price imports for Britain”. The paper reports that the pound soared to a six year high against the euro following Mr Draghi’s announcement.
Banking scams and cybercrime continue to evolve
The Times (£, p20) writes that new sophisticated telephone and internet fraud tactics are evolving and “duping even the most cautious consumers”. A report from Which? says that the advanced techniques include posing as technical support experts and bank employees, as outlined in the BBA’s Know Fraud, No Fraud campaign (@BBAKnowFraud). The report urges customers not to be embarrassed about falling for a scam, and to contact the police and their bank. Financial Fraud Action UK figures suggest that the amount lost to telephone-based fraud in the UK last year is around £24 million.
The Telegraph (p8) reports that your bank account is now more likely to be targeted by criminals than your home. This is according to new ONS statistics which show that 212,699 frauds were recorded in the year to September, compared with 204,136 domestic burglaries. The article says that a huge amount of crime has moved online, contributing to a 5% rise in fraud overall. The ONS said that the overall figures do not include the 391,000 fraud offences reported to the financial services industry over the same period.
Meanwhile in Davos, some of the world’s biggest banks are putting pressure on government officials to “pursue cyber criminals more aggressively or let the industry off the leash to fight them directly” (FT). Some bank cyber-attack experts are asking permission to mount an “active defence” against cyber criminals, involving hackers being trapped or misled in a company’s network, though according to the article there are some concerns that pre-emptively striking the computer servers used by hackers might be “going too far”.
Davos experts warn against US tightening monetary policy
The United States Federal Reserve risks inflicting “a deflationary spiral and a depression trap” upon the world if it moves to tighten monetary policy too soon, according to a panel of experts in Davos (Telegraph, B5). Larry Summers, former US Treasury secretary, said that the US should not be fighting off inflation until it “sees the whites of its eyes” and warned that the world economy is heading for “treacherous waters” as US expansion reaches its seventh year – the typical life expectancy for recoveries. His concerns were echoed by Ray Dalio of Bridgewater, who said a “central bank supercycle of ever lower interest rates and ever more debt creation has reached its limits”. Christine Lagarde, head of the IMF, responded to Summers saying “If the US is in a bad place, we are short of any engine at the moment so I hope you are wrong.”
QE announcement expected
The European Central Bank is this morning expect to start buying €50 billion (£38 billion) of government bonds a month for up to two years, in a landmark stimulus package to beat deflation in the eurozone (FT, £, p1). Although a decision is yet to be made, it is widely expected that the ECB will embark on a large scale quantitative easing programme for the first time. The FT adds that monthly purchases of €50 billion would be “at the higher end” of market expectations and imply that the ECB will buy up to €600 billion (£460 billion) of government bonds. BBC News says the strategy appears to have worked in the US and the UK. Japan also has had a sizeable bond buying programme. An announcement is expected to be made later today. The Guardian (p24) quotes Italian prime minister Matteo Renzi saying that the ECB could “help Europe give a message of a new economic direction”.
Read BBA Chief Economist Richard Woolhouse’s analysis of the ECB’s likely announcement today.
“Banks must move on,” World Economic Forum hears
Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, the world’s leading bankers have said that banks must stop looking back at the financial crisis and move on, (Telegraph, B5). The paper says heads of some of the world’s largest banks – including HSBC, Deutsche Bank and Bank of America – yesterday agreed that the sector needs to be forward-looking so that it can continue to grow. The Times (£, p49) adds that the bankers have warned that financial regulation is overshot and is causing “more harm than good”. It quotes HSBC chairman Douglas Flint, saying there is a “disconnect between economic policy and regulation”.
Wages begin to rise as unemployment falls further
Unemployment has fallen to its lower level since 2008 and wage growth is more than three times higher than inflation (Times, £, p4). Figures released by the Office for National Statistics yesterday revealed that the number of people out of work in Britain fell by 58,000 to 1.9 million in the three months to November 2014. Average weekly earnings, excluding bonuses, rose by 1.8%. However, the paper warns that there were signs of a slow-down in the recovery in the latest labour market report. In addition, the minutes of the latest Monetary Policy Committee meeting released yesterday show a unanimous 9-0 decision to keep rates unchanged, and that the two dissenting voices who were voting for a rate rise have fallen back into line. This further delays the likely timing of the first rise.
The details of the ECB’s QE programme will be announced this lunchtime. Expect it to disappoint what are very elevated expectations. The market has been looking for a very large headline number to be attached to the intervention, well in excess of 500 billion and up to 1 trillion Euros.
Concerns grow ahead of ECB announcement
Ahead of the European Central Bank’s expected announcement on quantitative easing tomorrow investors have been buying up peripheral eurozone debt, with countries such as Spain taking advantage by making large bond sales at record low rates (FT, £, p1). The policy still remains contentious however, as a rift between Germany and the rest of the eurozone grows over whether the bonds that have been purchased will remain with national central banks or not. In the Guardian (p19) Larry Elliot warns: “Having ramped up expectations, there is now a danger that the long-awaited plan proves a damp squib. Markets want Draghi to put a figure on the size of his programme (preferably at least €1 trillion) and they want to know exactly how it will be operated. Given the length of time that has elapsed since Draghi’s “whatever it takes” speech, they will be unhappy with anything less.” The Times (£, p35) reports that former Bank of England Governor Mervyn King is sceptical that it will be beneficial. He said: “We have had the biggest monetary stimulus the world must have ever seen, and we still have not solved the problem of weak demand. The idea that monetary stimulus after six years . . . is the answer doesn’t seem [right] to me”.
William White, from the OECD, is extremely critical of the move in the Telegraph (B1) warning: “We are in a world that is dangerously unanchored. We’re seeing true currency wars and everybody is doing it, and I have no idea where this is going to end…We are holding a tiger by the tail”.
FCA criticises rates for savers
The Financial Conduct Authority’s (FCA) criticism of the rates on offer to savers is picked up widely in this morning’s papers. The BBC reports that the FCA has stopped short of banning bonus or teaser rates, but has called for the introduction of greater transparency including a “switching box” that will allow customers to easily compare their saving account with the best on the market.
A spokesman for the BBA said: “These have been frustrating years for savers. More than five years of the Bank of England’s base rate at a record low has fostered a low interest rate environment and that can be hard. Banks have made it easier for customers to find the right savings product for them. The electronic Cash ISA Transfer Service has helped to significantly reduce switching times, interest rate disclosure on savings accounts has improved and a number of providers have recently streamlined their savings ranges to help customers to navigate the market. The FCA’s report identifies a number of proposed remedies which have the potential to make life even easier for customers and we will consider these carefully. We always encourage customers to review their savings regularly and to shop around for a better deal.”
A spokesman for the BBA said:
“These have been frustrating years for savers. More than five years of the Bank of England’s base rate at a record low has fostered a low interest rate environment and that can be hard.”
In the six years since its launch the Faster Payments service has helped millions of customers make payments in real-time. Craig Tillotson, Managing Director of Faster Payments, explores ways to make this revolutionary service even better.
Non-executive directors are more “gardeners than gardener designers,” and the Basel Committee should rethink its proposals to govern them, argues BBA Executive Director Simon Hills.
Bank issuance of debt capital hits a record high
Banks’ issuance of debt capital is at a record high as lenders look to shore up their balance sheets, reports the FT (£, p30). Debt issuance by global banks more than doubled to $274.5 billion (£182 billion), prompted by Basel III rules which have raised the level of capital that banks are required to hold. The paper states that debt capital volumes are set to remain high in the coming years “while regulators debate whether to increase the minimum loss-absorbing capital level for the biggest global banks.”
Tyrie warns against “grandfathering”
Treasury Select Committee Chair Andrew Tyrie MP has warned regulators that the new accountability regime must apply to all senior bankers, writes the Telegraph (B5). The Prudential Regulation Authority (PRA) and Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) have proposed “grandfathering” existing senior staff into the new regime, meaning that they would be exempt from background checks. However, in a letter to both regulators Mr Tyrie said that the “box-ticking, back-covering culture” must not be able to continue, and that “grandfathering could increase that risk”. The FCA responded that it would take his comments “into consideration” but added that it had not published its final plans for moving senior staff onto the new regime (Mail, p66).
Europe prepares for QE
Share prices across the eurozone reached a seven-year high as investors bet on the European Central Bank (ECB) announcing a quantitative easing (QE) programme this week, reports the Telegraph (B1). This came as French president François Hollande told business leaders at the Élysée Palace that “the ECB will take the decision to buy sovereign debt, which will provide significant liquidity to the European economy and create a movement that is favourable to growth ” (Guardian, p24). However, the FT (£, p6) reports that German newspaper Bild warned readers that the euro could be “dramatically devalued” if quantitative easing goes ahead.
The Times (£, p37) writes that the Danish central bank cut its interest rates to -0.2%, their equal lowest level, in a bid to “battle speculation that Denmark could become the next country to abandon its euro peg”. Denmark’s economy minister Morten Østergaard insisted that the euro peg was there to stay: “It doesn’t make any sense to compare the short-term, one-sided Swiss currency peg with the long-term Danish fixed-rate regime”.
IMF cuts global growth forecast
The Times (£, p39) reports that the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has cut its global forecast for 2015 from 3.8% to 3.5%. Despite falling oil prices, the IMF said that effect would be outweighed by weak performances in China, Japan and the eurozone. The pace of economic growth in the UK was second only to the US, but even this was downgraded from 2.5% to 2.4% in 2016, with growth remaining at 2.7% this year. The Telegraph (B4) points to comments made last week by IMF managing director Christine Lagarde. She said that the UK was leading the European growth league “in a very eloquent and convincing way”.
The BBA’s Chief Economist, Richard Woolhouse, considers how the EU will fund European infrastructure in the coming years.
US banks attack Obama’s new bank tax
The FT (£) splashes on the news that American banks have attacked President Obama’s plans to impose a new levy on the US banking industry. The proposals would see the introduction of a fee of 0.07% on the liabilities of 100 or so financial groups with more than $50 billion in assets. James Ballentine, from the American Bankers Association said: “This really comes at a difficult time for an industry that is moving the economy forward. To impose a fee, a flat tax, is certainly not warranted, and I hope Congress will reject this idea.” Along with other taxes on the wealthy it would be used to finance measures aimed at middle America, such as tax benefits for childcare and college education.
Banks raise concerns over virtual currencies
The Sunday Telegraph (B1) reported on concerns raised by the banking industry over the difficulties that virtual currencies cause for banks when trying to comply with anti-money laundering regulations. It notes that banks have to demonstrate that transactions are legitimate and are not supporting criminal or terrorist activity, which is difficult when currencies such as Bitcoin are anonymous. The article quotes BBA Chief Executive Anthony Browne saying: “The reality is that if terrorists and criminals harness these unregulated currencies they will be far harder for the law enforcement and intelligence agencies to hunt down.”
Juncker: “People shouldn’t stay together if the conditions aren’t the same as when things started”
EU Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker has compared the EU’s relationship with the UK to a failing romance. The Telegraph (p4) reports that he told an audience in Paris that: “People shouldn’t stay together if the conditions aren’t the same as when things started. It’s easy to fall in love and more difficult to stay together. I am for the respect of member states, respect between the institutions and member states. I am against all forms of grovelling.”
Bank of England Governor Mark Carney and his senior colleagues this week gave evidence to MPs on the Bank’s latest Financial Stability Report. The BBA’s Government Affairs Advisor, Jonny Suart, gives his views on the discussion.
US and UK cyber-attack simulation plan
During his tour to Washington, UK Prime Minister David Cameron has announced that US and UK security forces will carry out mock cyber-attacks on the Bank of England and commercial banks on Wall Street and the City. He said: “The joint exercises and training of our next generation of cyber experts will help to ensure that we have the capability we need to protect critical sectors… from emerging threats.” (FT, £, p2)
Death of universal banking?
The FT (£, p17) looks at the retreat of the universal banking model as banks look to make their business models leaner. The article states: “the game is also rigged by regulators, who are increasingly worried about the consequences of a megabank blow-up. The more capital they demand of bigger banks – and the US is not necessarily finished even now – the harder those institutions have to work to compete with their smaller rivals”. It quotes Barclays Chief Executive Anthony Jenkins saying that “the universal banking model is dead”.
Swiss currency chaos
The Times (£) reports that the Swiss National Bank’s decision to move the Swiss franc’s peg to the euro caused chaos in the currency markets yesterday with the currency soaring 30% against the euro and the Swiss stock market tumbling by 9%. The move has led to some commentators speculating that the central bank might need to be bailed out by the Swiss government (BBC).
Latvia’s Prime Minister, Laimdota Straujuma, outlined her country’s priorities for its Presidency of the EU in Strasbourg this week. Claudia Trauffler, the BBA’s EU Policy Advisor, looks at what lies ahead in the coming six months.
Osborne: Government “close” to recouping RBS investment
George Osborne has said that a decision will be made soon after the May general election about the timing of selling off the taxpayer’s 81% stake in RBS, the Daily Mail (p74) reports. The Chancellor said “huge” progress has been made with “derisking” and “stabilising” the lender since the £46 billon of state funding was injected into the bank at the height of the financial crisis more than six years ago. Mr Osborne said the bank is “close to the point” at which a share sale could begin, suggesting that a move could be made “early” in the next parliament. The Government has already raised £7.4 billion for the public finances by reducing its stake in Lloyds Banking Group from 39% to 25%.
Mr Osborne’s speech also raised the prospect of a new fiscal rule, obliging future governments to run budget surpluses in “normal” times.
Dimon warns that smaller banks may have less influence
JP Morgan Chase’s chief executive has warned that breaking up US banks would make it harder for the West to compete with large Chinese competitors, the FT (£, p16) reports. Jamie Dimon said: “America has been the leader in global capital markets for 50, 100 years. It’s part of the reason the country is so strong. I would not want the next JP Morgan Chase to be a Chinese company.” Although JP Morgan Chase was announcing its best year of profits, Mr Dimon still faced questions about the bank’s future structure after the Federal Reserve last month said that it wanted the bank to hold more capital because of its size and complexity.
Branches are now a “remote” way to bank, says Atom’s founder
Anthony Thomson, the entrepreneur behind the new digital-only start-up Atom Bank, has described the move to mobile banking as “absolute” and “seismic”. Speaking to the FT (£, p21), Mr Thompson said that Atom will have no branches, adding that to create such a network would be similar to “BT putting phone kiosks in the street”. The article cites figures from the BBA’s Way We Bank Now work showing that mobile banking transactions “rocketed” from 9.1 million to 18.4 milloin a week between 2012 and 2013. The FT also spoke with the chief executive of Hampden & Co, a new private bank that will provide a strong digital offering married with traditional services.
In the first of a series of blogs for BBA Insight, Julie Pardy, a partner at financial services training and consultancy FSTP, looks at the implications of the newly created Certification Regime.
The BBA’s EU Affairs Advisor, Claudia Trauffler, talks to Graham Bishop about the UK’s current account deficit and upcoming legislation on technical standards
ECB bond-buying programme ruled legal
The European Court of Justice has this morning ruled that the European Central Bank’s bond-buying programme is legal, provided certain conditions are met (Guardian). This includes ensuring that the Bank does not provide “direct” financial assistance when it buys debt issued by a eurozone country. The Court was asked to rule whether President Mario Draghi’s proposals to buy government bonds in unlimited quantities overstepped the Bank’s mandate (FT, £, p7).
Governor warns of deflation
The Governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney, has warned that the UK economy is in danger of falling into deflation (Telegraph, B1). Yesterday’s data revealed that price growth fell from 1% to 0.5%, a 14-year low. Dr Carney is quoted by the Telegraph as saying that inflation is “likely to drift a little lower in subsequent months” and deflation in the UK is “possible”. The Guardian (p3) adds that although falls in oil prices and the weakness of producer prices mean it is “quite conceivable” that inflation will soon turn negative, the risk of a prolonged period of deflation is “relatively slim”. Read the BBA’s Chief Economist Richard Woolhouse’s analysis on the figures here.
Global growth forecast revised
The World Bank has cut its global growth forecast and warned that the United States cannot power the global economy alone (BBC News). The BBC quotes the Bank’s Chief Economist, Kaushik Basu, as saying: “The global economy is running on a single engine…The American one. This does not make for a rosy outlook.” The World Bank has predicted global growth of 3% this year and 3.3% in 2016, below its June 2014 prediction of 3.4% and 3.5% respectively. Problems in the eurozone and Japan were the reason why the Bank says it was forced to revise down its forecast, as it warned of the risk of the eurozone sliding into permanent stagnation (Guardian, p21).
BBA Chief Economist Richard Woolhouse said:
“These statistics provide a good view of SME and personal borrowing across Great Britain, allowing people to examine lending habits in their locality.
“The data shows that there is a decent spread of lending up and down the country. That’s good news for individuals, companies and the wider economy.
“Lenders are publishing these figures in a clear commitment to greater transparency. However, these numbers are complex and it remains very difficult to draw firm conclusions.”
It should be noted that period on period comparison is not available since totals for Quarter 2 2014 exclude balances related to TSB Banking Group plc, which was previously reported within the Lloyds Banking Group’s submission.
As StepChange launches a new Action Plan on Problem Debt, the charity’s chief executive, Mike O’Connor, explains why the next government needs to take steps to help consumers manage their finances.
US banks voice concern over clearing houses
US banks have urged the US Treasury to take action after concerns were raised that should a clearing house fail, it could cause a financial crisis. In a letter to US Treasury secretary Jack Lew – seen by the FT (£, p18) – bank trade group The Clearing House Association argues that risks posed by clearing houses have not been adequately addressed. Areas of concern raised by the group include “limiting liability to banks in the event of a collapse, forcing the clearing houses to have more “skin in the game” by injecting their own capital, increasing transparency, specifying what collateral is used and setting resolution plans for what happens in the event of a CCP collapsing.” In response, the largest clearing houses have pointed to tougher new rules and larger capital buffers in the US and Europe, and argue that their “role in the market is to neutralise risk while banks are risk takers”.
Mortgage rates at record lows
Key mortgage rates ended 2014 at their lowest level in 20 years due to an “intensifying price war amongst lenders”, writes the Times (£, p6). According to Bank of England data, the average two-year fixed mortgage fell to 2.08% in December, down from 2.4% a year earlier. The Guardian (p23) states that growing competition is due to the expectation that interest rates will not rise soon, and points to recent products launched by banks including the lowest ever five-year and ten-year fixed-rate loans. Indeed, the Mail (p19) suggests that “now could be one of the best times in recent history to lock into a fixed-rate home loan”.
Inflation falls below target
ONS data published this morning reveals that inflation fell to 0.5% in December 2014, the joint lowest since May 2000. The Telegraph quotes the ONS which states that the slowdown in price rises “came from the December 2013 gas and electricity price rises falling out of the calculation and the continuing drop in motor fuel prices.” This is also the first time that the Bank of England has missed its inflation target of 2% on the downside since it was given control of interest rates. However, Mark Carney will only write to the Chancellor explaining why the target was missed once the Monetary Policy Committee has met on 5 February, with the letter being published alongside the minutes of the meeting on 18 February.
BBA Chief Economist Richard Woolhouse looks at what the significant undershoot in the inflation target means for consumers and the economy.
The New Year brings with it a number of changes, and not just the typical resolutions to have a healthier diet or learn a new skill.
Bonus pools set to be smaller but still likely to cause political headache
The FT (£, p17) reports that bonus pools are set to be smaller on both sides of the Atlantic this year as trading profits are down and some banks deduct conduct fines from the pool. “The trend is that compensation is trending downwards rather than upwards,” said Mike Karp, chief executive of Options Group, a recruitment company. The article quotes from the Office for National Statistics which said total UK financial sector bonuses last year were down about a quarter from their peak in 2007.
In a separate article (FT, £, p2) the paper predicts that bank bonuses could be a contentious issue in the run up to the General Election. It quotes Labour’s Shadow Financial Secretary to the Treasury Cathy Jamieson saying: “Despite the scandals that have emerged over the last year, it looks set to be another bumper round of bank bonuses. This underlines Labour’s determination to repeat the tax on bank bonuses in order to fund a paid starter job for every young person out of work for over a year. We also want wider reform of the banking industry to make it more competitive for the long-term.” The article notes that Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls is unlikely to single any one banker out for personal criticism over their bonus payments.
ECB sets tough new capital targets
The European Central Bank has set tough new capital targets for eurozone banks in recent weeks who have until the end of this week to appeal against the levels they have been set. The FT (£, p18) speculates that this could lead to some eurozone banks to launch a new wave of capital raising. The article quotes analysts from Citigroup saying: “Growing euroscepticism remains the key tail risk in a year of multiple elections… and will likely make for a volatile ride”.
Billions in lost bank accounts
The Sunday Times (£, p1) Money section looked at the billions of pounds stowed in “forgotten” accounts, pensions and shares. The paper includes a BBA estimate of £850 million that could be sat in current and savings accounts and quotes a BBA spokesman saying: “Provided the customer can give enough information to prove they are the rightful owner of the account, and the account is dormant (rather than closed by the customer), they can reclaim all funds including any interest.”
Record numbers borrowing on interest-free cards
The Mail (p13) and CityAM (p10) reported the BBA’s credit card statistics, which showed that interest-free credit card borrowing hit a record high of 43%. The number of card purchases in November was also up 6% on the same month last year. In the Daily Mirror (p61), Tricia Philips also reports the figures and offers some advice to borrowers: “Work out how much you can afford each month, find a card with the number of months you’ll need to clear your debt and set-up a standing order”.
Commenting on the BBA’s Credit Card Statistics, the BBA’s Chief Economist Richard Woolhouse said: “Consumer spending looks well set for a strong year. It’s very interesting to see a record 43% of credit card balances incurred no fees in November – that’s the highest proportion since records began almost 20 years ago. Attractive financial deals are even more appealing when you feel more optimistic about your economic future. With unemployment continuing to fall, many of us seem to believe 2015 will be a year where we can spend with greater confidence – that’s good news for the wider economy.”
Eight things your bank would never ask you
The Telegraph uses the “Eight things your bank would never ask you to do (but a fraudster might)” from the BBA’s Know Fraud, No Fraud campaign to raise awareness of the tactics of scammers amongst readers. The article advises: “…their tricks normally involve pretending to be your bank, whether on the phone or via email. After convincing you that they are genuine, they ask you to carry out various plausible-sounding actions that will result in your account being raided. Here are eight things that fraudsters might ask you to do – but your bank never will.”
China at risk of credit crunch
Bank of America Merrill Lynch (BAML) has warned its clients that China could be facing a financial crisis this year. A report published by the bank referred to a heightened debt default risk and “cautioned investors to focus on the risks of deflation and renminbi devaluation (CityAM, p2). According to the Telegraph (B1) the BAML paper says that the country’s highly-leveraged companies “cannot safely withstand President Xi Jinping’s drive to stamp out moral hazard and wean the country off excess credit”. The article says that loans in China have grown by around 100% of GDP in the last five years. This is twice the rate of growth in Japan over a comparable period before their crash in 1990 and in the US before the Lehman crisis in 2008.
Santander to increase capital
The eurozone’s biggest bank, Santander, has announced that it will be raising €7.5 billion (£5.9 billion) from a share sale. The moves come as chairman of four months, Ana Botin, looks to “finance organic growth” in a departure from the thinking of her late father who resisted pressure from investors to raise capital. According to the FT (£, p17), analysts have said that Ms Botin is putting the interests of shareholders ahead of those of her family, “whose 2% shareholding could be diluted”. Santander shares rose by 3% before the sale announcement. The paper’s Lex column (p16) adds that the bank will also be shifting its dividend payments policy to cash in addition to scrip, meaning that “almost €2 billion (£1.6 billion) of this increase will quickly end up in shareholders’ hands as cash.”
BBA credit card statistics for November 2014
Today’s BBA credit card statistics for November show that the proportion of balances incurring no interest rose to 43% – the highest percentage since records began in 1995. BBA Chief Economist Richard Woolhouse said of the numbers: “Attractive financial deals are even more appealing when you feel more optimistic about your economic future. With unemployment continuing to fall, many of us seem to believe 2015 will be a year where we can spend with greater confidence – that’s good news for the wider economy.” The statistics also revealed that the number of purchases in November was 6% higher than a year before. You can read the release here.
Deflation for the eurozone increases speculation about QE
According to figures published by Eurostat yesterday, the eurozone fell into deflation for the first time in more than five years as consumer prices fell 0.2% in the year to December. The FT (£, p1, p12) reports that following the announcement, the euro fell for a record ninth successive day as prices are expected to decline further in January, due to falling oil prices. It is widely reported that eurozone deflation will increase the likelihood of the European Central Bank launching a programme of quantitative easing, possibly as early as 22 January when the next ECB policy vote is due.
Merkel confirms she is committed to the UK remaining in the EU
There is widespread coverage of Chancellor Merkel’s visit to London to discuss the agenda of the G7 summit which will be hosted by Germany in June. Speaking at a press conference yesterday the Prime Minister said that he is “convinced” he can “fix the problems” in the UK’s relationship with Europe (BBC Online).The FT (£, p2) reports that the German Chancellor only offered limited support for the UK renegotiating its relationship with the EU, however the Chancellor repeated her assurance to keep Britain in the EU, noting that “where there’s a will there’s a way”. The Times (£, p11) writes that Merkel backed the “necessity” to reform migrant benefits but stopped short of explicitly supporting EU treaty change.
Challenges of implementation of ringfencing by 2019
In its submission to the Prudential Regulation Authority on implementing ring-fencing, the BBA spelt out some of the challenges that will need to be overcome if the changes are to be in force by 2019. The Telegraph (B4) reports that the new rules could mean tens of millions of customers being forced to change sort codes. It quotes the BBA on the level of changes required compared to moving customers from Lloyds to TSB, saying “the scale will be much bigger and will involve several banks, increasing risk, concern about systems integrity and customer impact”.
Commenting on the BBA’s Credit Card Statistics, the BBA’s Chief Economist Richard Woolhouse said:
“Consumer spending looks well set for a strong year. It’s very interesting to see a record 43% of credit card balances incurred no fees in November – that’s the highest proportion since records began almost 20 years ago.
“Attractive financial deals are even more appealing when you feel more optimistic about your economic future. With unemployment continuing to fall, many of us seem to believe 2015 will be a year where we can spend with greater confidence – that’s good news for the wider economy.”
Dates for this years upcoming high street banking statistical releases.
Commenting on StepChange’s action plan on problem debt, BBA Executive Director Eric Leenders said:
“StepChange should be commended for bringing forward this action plan. The BBA welcomes its measures to encourage people to build up savings and financial resilience to help prevent them from falling into problem debt.
How will European compliance teams meet the new disclosure requirements needed for CRD IV? Ed Royan, Chief Operating Officer for EMEA at AxiomSL, explores more.
What next for bank structural reform? The BBA’s Head of EU Affairs, Ashley Dorrington, examines Gunnar Hökmark’s latest report.
Influential MEP calls for changes to bank structural reform proposals
Reuters reports that Gunnar Hökmark, the European Parliament’s rapporteur on forthcoming rules to change the structures of larger European banks, has called for the Commission’s proposals to be centred on the overall riskiness of a bank’s trading activities, rather than just its size. He is reported to want recognition that some trading activities are essential to funding the economy and it quotes the report saying that: “This should be reflected in the deliberations around the bank structural reform… It is important to state that there is nothing telling us that trading is more risky than lending, rather the opposite.”
BBA urges speedier action on ring-fencing
In its submission to the Prudential Regulation Authority on implementing ring-fencing, the BBA has spelt out some of the challenges that will need to be overcome if the changes are to be in force by 2019. The Guardian (p28) reports that the changes could cause disruption to payments systems and could lead to millions of customers needing new sort codes. Reuters says that the BBA is calling on regulators to speed up the process as much as possible so that the deadline can be hit. It quotes BBA Executive Director Paul Chisnall saying, “In order to deliver the reforms on time – banks, the regulatory authorities and a number of government agencies will need to pull together to avoid any bottlenecks. In particular we’d like the regulators to try to put in place the new regime as quickly as possible to allow banks to make final decisions about how to structure their businesses.”
You can read the BBA’s full response to the PRA’s consultation paper here.
Bank publishes details of response to financial crisis
There is widespread coverage of the Bank of England’s decision to publish internal papers that detail its response to the financial crisis. The Mail (p8) pulls no punches, criticising what it perceives as “complacency” on the part of the Bank.
The front page of the Guardian reports that the Bank’s governing body – its Court – “was kept in the dark about the scale of the problems at Northern Rock until the central bank was forced into mounting an emergency funding line.”
Credit card spending at highest levels for years
Spending on credit cards reached its highest levels since 2007 in the three months before Christmas according to figures published by the Bank of England yesterday. The number of personal loans also increased and figures on the number of customers defaulting on payments improved as well (Telegraph (B5), Times (£, p2)).
BBA Chief Economist Richard Woolhouse appeared on, BBC Five Live, Radio 2 and Sky News to discuss the survey. In a statement he said: “We have an increasingly mixed lending picture. These figures suggest demand for mortgage lending fell more strongly than at any time for six years, but appetite for personal loans and credit cards is rising consistently. Banks expect the property market to pick up again slightly in the New Year, with lenders offering increasingly competitive offers to attract customers keen to borrow to buy homes and other purchases. There are positive signs on the business lending side too, with a significant increase in demand from medium-sized businesses. The cost of lending is also falling for many businesses. That’s good news for the wider economy as that is the sort of borrowing that can help fuel the recovery.”
The FT (£) reports that German Chancellor Angela Merkel will outline her opposition to a major renegotiation of current EU treaties when she meets David Cameron today. However, the front page of the Times says that Chancellor Merkel is prepared to make changes such as restrictions on welfare as long as they do not threaten the principle of free movement of labour. The Mail (p4) reports that last year, Downing Street dropped proposals to introduce a cap on the number of migrants from the EU after protests from Mrs Merkel 48 hours before he was due to make a major speech on immigration.
BBA Executive Director Paul Chisnall explains why ring-fencing will involve heavy lifting on the part of the ring-fenced banks, the regulatory authorities and other government agencies if we are to meet the 2019 deadline for implementation.
Responding to the Prudential Regulation Authority’s consultation on the implementation of ring-fencing BBA Executive Director Paul Chisnall said:
“The larger UK banks are getting to grips with the nuts and bolts of how to put ring-fencing into place. The banking industry is gearing up to meet the challenge of making the necessary but varied and complex changes by the 2019 deadline.
“In order to deliver the reforms on time – banks, the regulatory authorities and a number of government agencies will need to pull together to avoid any bottlenecks. In particular we’d like the regulators to try to put in place the new regime as quickly as possible to allow banks to make final decisions about how to structure their businesses.”
Customers benefiting from competitive lending
Commenting on today’s Credit Conditions Survey from the Bank of England, BBA Chief Economist Richard Woolhouse said:
“We have an increasingly mixed lending picture. These figures suggest demand for mortgage lending fell more strongly than at any time for six years, but appetite for personal loans and credit cards is rising consistently.
BoE to scrutinise banks’ risk models
According to the Times (£, p43), the Bank of England will set out measures to increase the examination of the way banks calculate risk in order “to prevent lenders from gaming an important indicator of their financial health”. The paper reports that the Prudential Regulation Authority will publish a paper before the end of March on how the regulator will work with auditors to study models used by banks which establish levels of capital reserves against potential losses. The article cites two industry sources who suggest that one recommendation will be for more face-to-face meetings between auditors and supervisors so that “supervisors can be informed directly about any concerns with the way risk weighted assets are being set”.
Banks outline plans for ring-fence
The FT (£, p1) reports on a number of banks’ submissions to the Bank of England on the UK’s proposed ring-fencing regime. The paper writes that both Lloyds Banking Group and RBS are “expected to present plans for a ring-fence that was as broad as possible”. Conversely, according to the article HSBC and Barclays plan to place as little as possible within the ring-fence “to boost the size of the remaining operations and lower their cost of funding”. The paper adds that Lloyds’ submission seeks an exemption from its ring-fenced entity having a different board, arguing that “90% of its operations will be inside the new entity, making a separate board unnecessary”.
Hollande calls for a broader scope for FTT
French President François Hollande reiterated his support for a Financial Transaction Tax in an interview yesterday, stating that such a tax should be put in place next year in willing European countries on “all financial products at a low rate”. EU Business writes that this is a change in stance for France, whose “insistence that financial derivatives products important for French banks be excluded from the products to be taxed led to the failure of talks last month between 11 EU states that was supposed to finalise the initiative.” The article suggests that Hollande has come under pressure from his own party to tax all transactions.
Fall in German inflation raises prospect of QE
Germany’s inflation in December fell to 0.1%, its lowest level since October 2009. The Telegraph (B1) reports that this data is likely to put pressure on the ECB to start quantitative easing, with the central bank’s president Mario Draghi telling one German newspaper that the risk of missing the 2% inflation mandate was “higher than six months ago”. The Times (£, p39) reports that analysts believe that data released tomorrow will show a 0.1% contraction in prices in the eurozone for the year to December. Currency markets reacted to this news alongside the possibility of Greece exiting the eurozone, with the euro falling to a nine-year low against the dollar.
BBA Executive Director Simon Hills explains what the Basel Committee’s recent consultation papers will mean for the way banks calculate the capital they hold against credit risk exposures.
City jobs boom
There was an 18% increase in the number of new jobs in the City last year, the Independent reports (p52). Citing research carried out by recruiter Astbury Marsden, the paper says 33,063 new roles were created in 2014. Adam Jackson, director at Astbury Marsden is quoted saying that the increase is down to better conditions in the City which have enabled firms to spend more time thinking about “modest growth”. City AM (p3) adds that the continuing UK recovery and increased business confidence have generated the new roles.
Ringfence plans face BoE scrutiny
This week banks must present the Bank of England with their proposals to insulate their high street operations from their investment banking activities (Guardian, p25). The proposals are intended to reduce the need for taxpayer bailouts if a bank runs into difficulty. It is likely that many banks will be required to create a holding company as well as ringfenced and non-ringfenced entities, each with their own board, the paper writes. The deadline for complying with the rules is 1 January 2019, but the Bank of England has asked to see evidence that work to implement the new regime is well underway.
Individuals under the age of 25 are more than twice as likely to fall for online bank scams than their parents, according to research commissioned by the BBA (Daily Mail). BBC News adds that one in six of those polled said they would transfer money to a “safe account” if they were asked to do so. BBA Head of Campaigns Fiona McEvoy is quoted as saying: “It will surprise many to learn that younger people could be more vulnerable to the tactics of fraudsters than their grandparents. It is important that people of all ages know the language used by these fraudsters so that they can avoid being scammed. A bank would never ask you to transfer funds into a so-called “safe account”, even if there has been a security breach.”
Regulator doubles the number of “early interventions”
The Financial Conduct Authority more than doubled the number of times it stepped in to alter company practices in 2014, and made 31 “early interventions” (FT, £, p15). Such interventions are conducted without a lengthy investigation, and 12 of the 13 interventions last year related to financial crime issues, such as money laundering. The paper adds that the regulator has made good on its pledge to be a more interventionist regulator that its predecessor, the Financial Services Authority.
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