22nd May 2015 Back to top
  • The days of the fully integrated data model are numbered

    The fully integrated data model is not the “silver bullet” that some may claim and there is an alternative, writes Pavel Yakovlev, Head of Solutions Team EMEA at Axiom SL.

  • BBA Brief – 22 May 2015

    Bank customer satisfaction rate high

    Research commissioned by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has shown that only 4% of customers are dissatisfied with their personal current account (Telegraph, B1). The polling was conducted as part of a wider review by the watchdog into competition in the banking market which will reveal its early findings in September this year. A BBA spokesman said: “[Yesterday’s] statement takes a positive of view of recent innovations in retail banking and shows that more than 90% of current account customers are satisfied. Last year we published a series of ideas to help new banks set up and smaller players to grow which we hope will be taken up by regulators and politicians. In addition, there are now even more new and aspiring entrants to the banking market.” Read our full release here.

    France objects to Britain’s exemption

    France has raised objections to a proposed “carveout” for Britain within bank structural reform plans, on the grounds that it is “illegal, damaging to the common market and unnecessary” (FT, £, p10). The exemption from the European Commission’s proposals gave the UK a legal “derogation” on the basis that retail activities are ringfenced from investment banking. The French government made its objections known yesterday at a meeting to discuss the compromise, stating that they saw so-called “Vickers overhaul” as different to, and no substitute for, EU reforms.

    Senior Managers’ Regime “not a witch hunt”

    Andrew Bailey, chief executive of the Prudential Regulation Authority (PRA), has told top bankers to take more responsibility for conduct within their companies and emphasised that new Senior Managers’ Regime rules are “not a witch hunt” (Telegraph, B4). The regime, being introduced this year, is in response to the financial crisis and holds senior bank staff and some non-executives responsible for bad conduct. The PRA published a new set of duties for board members yesterday, and the Government recently introduced new criminal sanctions for “reckless misconduct” on the recommendation of the Parliamentary Commission on Banking Standards (PCBS). Mr Bailey said: “We do want to avoid what the PCBS described as the Murder on the Orient Express outcome when firms get into trouble, which is akin to the ‘everyone and no-one’ is responsible but everyone is connected to the event” (Telegraph, p4).

21st May 2015 Back to top
  • BBA response to the CMA’s updated issues statement

    Reacting to this morning’s announcement by the Competition and Markets Authority, a BBA spokesman said:

    “All the banks have been working with the CMA as part of this ongoing inquiry. There are already substantial changes underway across the banking industry to strengthen competition, which improves choice and service for customers. This includes initiatives like midata that help customers access their data and shop around, as well as a range of new technologies that have changed the way we bank both online and in branch.

    “Today’s statement takes a positive of view of recent innovations in retail banking and shows that more than 90% of current account customers are satisfied.

    “Last year we published a series of ideas to help new banks set up and smaller players to grow which we hope will be taken up by regulators and politicians. In addition, there are now even more new and aspiring entrants to the banking market.”

  • BBA Brief – 21 May 2015

    CMA updates progress of bank investigation

    The Competition and Markets Authority has this morning announced further details of its investigation into personal and small business banking. The updated issues statement summarises the investigators’ current thinking following visits to 11 banks in recent months. The CMA’s work is focussing on three “theories of harm”: the extent to which customers can switch, the extent of market concentration and barriers to entry. Today’s statement takes a positive of view of recent innovations in retail banking and shows that more than 90% of personal current account customers are satisfied. The CMA press release can be read here.

    US authorities impose £4billion Forex fines

    The US Department for Justice has announced that six banks are to pay more than £4 billion to  settle  allegations that their staff rigged foreign exchange markets. Loretta Lynch, the US Attorney General, is quoted in the FT (£, p1) saying the penalties were “fitting” considering the “pervasive harm that was done”. The paper’s Lex column describes the fines as “material, unfinished, unpredictable and possibly ineffective”, adding that “shareholders should be livid”.

    Cashless payments overtake coins and notes

    The BBC reports Payments Council figures showing that the number of cashless payments has for the first time been overtaken by those involving cards, mobile phones and other means. Cash transactions by individuals, businesses and financial organisations were found to now account for 48% of all transactions in 2014. The Council suggested that cash payments are expected to fall by 30% over the next 10 years.

    Garnier sets out his stall to chair TSC

    The MP Mark Garnier explains why he is considering standing as the next chairman of the Treasury Select Committee, in an interview with the FT (£ p2). He pledged to stop “banker bashing” and focus on boosting Britain’s financial services industry. A former Bear Stearns banker and hedge fund manager, Mr Garnier also said that he would prioritise helping indebted households cope with rising interest rates.

  • Leverage ratio a constant conundrum for European and US banks

    David Brierley, Senior Reporter at SNL Financial, considers the issues and challenges that banks face in the wake of leverage and capital rules.

20th May 2015 Back to top
  • BBA Comment on BofE Agents’ Summary of Business Conditions

    Commenting on the BoE Agents’ Summary of Business Conditions, BBA Chief Economist Richard Woolhouse said:

    “From the Agents’ summary we can seea further easing in credit conditions. Medium-sized businesses are benefitting from competition amongst banks and funding conditions available to smaller firms have also eased, which is great news for those looking to borrow and grow. The report says that businesses are also taking advantage of the broader financing with different sorts of lending of offer – from bank finance to alternative forms like crowdfunding and asset finance.

    “With nearly eight in ten finance applications approved, we’d encourage business owners to speak to their bank if they’re thinking about borrowing.”

  • 110th Brussels for Breakfast

    Now that a referendum seems virtually certain, YouGov polling numbers show a major turnaround from 2012 – to give the “Ins” a significant (and now sustained) lead. The Bertelsmann Foundation has produced the first calculations of the possible impact on the remaining EU states.

  • BBA Brief – 20 May 2015

    Business group speaks out over EU referendum

    The CBI has called on businesses to “speak out early” in favour of Britain remaining in a reformed EUBBC News reports. Sir Mike Rake, the CBI’s president, will tell the group’s annual dinner that there are “no credible alternatives” to EU membership. Elsewhere, the FT (£, p2) reports that the Government’s pledge to hold a referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU will be at the centre of next week’s Queen’s Speech. The paper says Prime Minister David Cameron will publish the draft bill on the referendum next Thursday, the day after the State Opening of Parliament.

    Yesterday, the BBA announced that it had asked Sir Hector Sants and management consultants Oliver Wyman to lead a review into the competitiveness of the UK on behalf of the banking industry.

    BBA Chief Executive Anthony Browne told City AM that a swift decision on Britain’s membership of the EU was necessary because uncertainty was discouraging investment in British companies. “One international bank has made a board-level decision to move operations out of London if Britain leaves the EU,” he told the paper. His comments were also reported by ReutersHerald ScotlandInternational Banker, the Economic Times and Arab News, and Mr Browne appeared on CNN last night to discuss the review.

    Frans Timmermans, First Vice President of the European Commission, told the FT (£, p7) that he could only envisage a change in EU rules once he was “completely satisfied that we apply the existing rules and we haven’t done that so far.” There is speculation that Mr Timmermans may be asked by the Commission to work with Britain in its efforts to renegotiate its relationship with the EU. Mr Timmermans said: “I get the impression they [the UK Government] know perfectly well what they want, and we know that they are extremely, extremely efficient and good negotiators. Anything I’d say now would not improve my own negotiating position — if I were in a position of negotiating.”

    Comeback for CDS?

    Wall Street is considering reviving single-name credit default swaps (CDS) – a derivatives contract that tracks the risk of default by a company that sells bonds (FT, £, p15). Regulators clamped down on this market after the derivative was criticised for the role it played in the financial crisis, but today banks and investors are looking for ways to prevent volatility when interest rates rise. Supurna VedBrat, co-head of electronic trading and market structure at BlackRock, is quoted saying: “Single name CDS offers a clean and efficient way to express credit exposure which the current market structure of the underlying secondary corporate bond market doesn’t afford us.”

    UK economy in deflation

    The Consumer Price Index fell by 0.1% yesterday, bringing the UK economy into deflation for the first since 1960, the Telegraph (B1) reports. The paper suggests that cheaper petrol and food have continued to push down the headline rate, despite a pick-up in the price of oil. Chancellor George Osborne yesterday insisted that negative inflation should not be mistaken for “damaging deflation” and the Governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney, said the negative inflation was likely to be temporary.

    The FT (£, p28) adds that the pound responded to the news by falling by 1% to $1.55. Alan Wilde, head of fixed income at Baring Asset Management, is quoted saying the deflation data would offer the Bank of England more time to allow for wage pressure “and may even allow rates to remain unchanged for longer than the market currently prices”.

    BBA denounces calls for bankers’ pay to be capped

    BBA Chief Executive Anthony Browne yesterday responded to suggestions by former Number 10 director of strategy Steve Hilton that bankers’ pay should be capped. Appearing on the BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Mr Browne said there had been an 80% reduction in cash bonuses and the proposals would cause “catastrophic damage” to a leading sector that was one of the biggest contributors to tax receipts. His comments were later quoted by a range of publications, including the Daily Mail, and the Independent.

19th May 2015 Back to top
  • How to reinvigorate the European securitisation market?

    More needs to be done to rehabilitate securitisation structures and secure their place as suppliers of capital, writes BBA Executive Director Simon Hills.

  • BBA Brief – 19 May 2015

    Banks consider issues of EU referendum and competitiveness

    Deutsche Bank has set up a working group to investigate the benefits of moving some activities to the eurozone in the event of Britain leaving the EU, reports the FT (£, p1). The paper notes that much of the bank’s investment banking operation is based in London, whilst the German lender also has an office in Birmingham. The article states that Deutsche is the first big bank to start “formally examining the consequences of a British referendum on EU membership”, and that London hosts more than 250 foreign banks.

    Meanwhile, Sky News reports that the BBA has commissioned a report into the competitiveness of the UK banking sector, to be led by former Financial Services Authority CEO Sir Hector Sants and consulting firm Oliver Wyman. The review will aim to present the government with “progressive and implementable recommendations”, to ensure that the UK retains its standing as an international banking centre. The article notes that the review is expected to report back in the autumn. BBA CEO Anthony Browne said: “We want to make sure that the UK continues to benefit from the hundreds of thousands of jobs and tens of billions of taxes that are currently provided by the banking industry in this country.  It is in no-one’s interest for the UK’s biggest export industry to lose its global competitiveness.” Read the full BBA press release here.

    Former PM adviser calls for limits to bankers’ pay

    Steve Hilton, the former Director of Strategy for David Cameron, has called fortop executives atbanks which rely on an “implicit backstop of state funding” to have their pay limited to that of civil servants, reports the BBC. He added: “The goal here is to create a much more secure financial system where you don’t have these giant companies that pose a threat to the whole economy”. Speaking on Radio 4’s Today Programme, BBA CEO Anthony Browne said that Mr Hilton’s proposals would “cause catastrophic damage to a leading sector of the British economy”. He added that remuneration in the UK banking industry had “changed dramatically” since the financial crisis and that the UK has the most “tightly controlled and regulated remuneration system in the world”. He concluded that the UK government “must make sure that banking remains internationally competitive – it’s not only good for London, it’s good for the whole UK economy”.

    PPI complaints down

    Customer complaints about Payment Protection Insurance have fallen to 204,943 in the year to March, down from 399,939 in the previous year (Telegraph, B4). Responding to the Financial Ombudsman Service’s figures on BBC Radio 5 live this morning, BBA Executive Director Eric Leenders said that banks have put “a lot of energy and resources into improving complaints handling”, and that there has been a reduction in the number of overall complaints at the Financial Ombudsman Service. He stated that banks have sent out letters to hundreds of thousands of customers who may have been mis-sold PPI, and he encouraged customers to deal direct with their banks or with free support agencies, rather than claims management companies. The full BBA press release can be read here.

    Bank bosses’ warning on low interest rates

    The FT (£, p6) writes that a number of leading financial executives have called on authorities from across the world to bolster their use of macroprudential tools “amid fears that ultra-low interest rates have increased the risks of financial instability”. The statement, co-ordinated by the World Economic Forum, states that these tools will help “to address emerging market inefficiencies in the financial system, such as over-exuberance within asset classes, for example in real estate lending”. However, the group also warned that if rules were applied too “narrowly”, that it could push risks into the shadow banking market.

  • BBA on competitiveness of UK and EU referendum

    The BBA has announced that Sir Hector Sants and Oliver Wyman have agreed to lead a review into the competitiveness of the UK on behalf of the banking industry.

  • New figures show complaint numbers down

    Responding to the Financial Ombudsman Service Annual Review 2014/15, a BBA spokesman said:

    “It’s good to see that overall complaints are falling. Banks are determined that there will be no repeat of any of the bad practices which caused mis-selling in the past and have made appropriate changes. Staff are now rewarded for high levels of customer service and not sales volumes.”

18th May 2015 Back to top
  • BBA Brief – 18 May 2015

    Bailey: HSBC review “entirely natural”

    CityAM reports that Bank of England deputy governor Andrew Bailey has said it is understandable for HSBC to review whether it should move its headquarters out of the UK. He said: “It is entirely natural that as an institution your shareholders should demand that you do this assessment. As a private organisation they should do it.” The Sunday Times (£, B1) reported speculation that HSBC’s headquarters review could lead to the Government revising some of the ring-fencing rules which look to split investment banks from retail banks in the UK. However, the article quotes sources playing down the suggestion, saying: “It is hard to see a minister being able to make a good case for watering down what was one of the biggest reforms after the credit crisis”. In a separate article (£, B4) Dominic O’Connell suggests that: “Any minister would struggle to sell such an about-face to the public. The way forward might be a subtle watering-down of the proposals, enough to keep the critics content and HSBC in Britain.”

    Daily Mail launches campaign against technology in bank branches

    Saturday’s Mail (p4) launched a new campaign against “robo” checkouts in supermarkets and self-service machines in bank branches. In its “bring back real service” campaign the paper alleges that customers are increasingly frustrated about having to use banking machines rather than carry out basic banking with branch staff behind a counter. The article quotes the BBA saying: “High Street banks have invested millions in refurbishing their branches to install the latest technology to make them easy and accessible. This is in response to increasing public demand to use technology to speed up their transactions in branches. Branch staff are still an important part of this picture, providing customers with the choice to visit a counter or support customers in understanding the new technology in branches.” The paper runs a number of letters from readers complaining about machines in today’s paper (pp30-31).

    Banks raise fears over Basel review

    The Times (£, p38) looks at fears among investment bankers that new capital rules being drawn up by the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision could force them to make sweeping changes to their business models. The article reports that, “One executive said that his company regarded the work as one of the biggest swing factors in determining its new business model… Under the consultation, investment banks would be required to reapply to regulators for approval of the models they use to value their positions on a desk-by-desk basis, which could present some companies with problems if they were unable to convince supervisors to sign off again on their activities.”

15th May 2015 Back to top
  • The competitiveness of financial services should be a national concern

    BBA Chief Executive, Anthony Browne, considers the post-election environment and impresses the importance of protecting London’s status as a global financial powerhouse.

  • BBA Brief – 15 May 2015

    Carney calls for “appropriate speed” on referendum

    Bank of England governor Mark Carney has indicated that the proposed referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU should happen “as soon as necessary” (Telegraph, p4). Mr Carney said: “We talk to a lot of bosses and there has been an awareness of some of this political uncertainty – whether because of the election or because of the referendum. What they’ve been telling us, and we see it in the statistics, is that they have not yet acted upon that uncertainty. Or, to put it another way, they are continuing to invest, they are continuing to hire”. He went on to say that he was sure that the government would act with “appropriate speed” and that the referendum would be “as soon as is necessary”. Mr Carney also remarked on the positive impact that being in the EU has on Britain’s economy.

    The FT (£) reports that Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond wants a “deal as fast as possible”, signalling a possible 2016 vote. Mr Hammond also said that a major treaty change over the country’s future relationship with Europe was not, in itself, a political goal for the Government.

    Competitiveness is “biggest challenge” for City

    In CityAM (p14) BBA Chief Executive Anthony Browne examines the post-election environment and impresses the importance of keeping London globally competitive. He said: “International league tables show us slipping down the rankings of financial centres. Declining competitiveness is not just a concern for the industry, but for the country. The UK has now lost its number one position as a financial services exporter, overtaken by the US. Banking remains by far the UK’s biggest export industry, creating hundreds of thousands of jobs, and is by some measures the country’s biggest taxpayer. Now is the time to make sure we aren’t throwing out the baby with the bathwater.”

    Lloyds to return to private ownership

    Lord Blackwell, chairman of Lloyds Banking Group, told the bank’s AGM yesterday that the lender could be returned to full private ownership “within 12 months” (FT, £, p21). Six years after their £20 billion bailout by the government, Lord Blackwell said that “it’s possible and would be very desirable” for the government to finish off selling its holdings over the next year. António Horta Osório, the chief executive of the group, also told shareholders that “the group has progressed further towards full private ownership.”

14th May 2015 Back to top
  • BBA Brief – 14 May 2015

    Bank signals that rates won’t rise until summer 2016

    The Telegraph (B1) reports that the Bank of England has signalled that interest rates are unlikely to rise in the UK until next summer as predictions for UK growth were revised downwards. The Bank predicted that the UK would slip into deflation this year before rising above 1% by the end of 2015. The front page of the Mail goes with the line that the Bank has suggested that immigration has suppressed wages. Asked about the recent sell off in sovereign bonds, Mark Carney took a relaxed stance, suggesting it was more likely to be a correction rather than a panic that could affect financial stability (Independent, p55).

    Entrepreneurs backing new challenger banks

    The FT (£, p21) reports that a new wave of challenger banks is set to launch, backed by entrepreneurs who are trying to take advantage of a growing market.  However, the paper also reports fears that challengers will never have enough scale to take on the established players as private equity houses sell down their positions in some of these newer banks.

13th May 2015 Back to top
  • Chief Executive’s newsletter – May 2015

    The British people have spoken, and contrary to most expectations one party has won a majority. Congratulations to the new government – David Cameron’s victory on 7 May was clear.

  • Financial crime remains an international industry priority

    The BBA’s Financial Crime Director, Matt Allen, gives a whistlestop tour of some of the key initiatives on the industry agenda at the moment to address financial crime

  • BBA Brief – 13 May 2015

    Osborne pledges to negotiate better deal from EU

    Chancellor George Osborne arrived in Brussels yesterday, telling fellow EU finance ministers that the UK had “a very clear mandate to improve Britain’s relationship with the rest of the EU,” and “no one should underestimate our determination to succeed”, Bloomberg reports. However, Mr Osborne’s French counterpart, Michel Sapin, said France was not open to renegotiating treaties: “If it’s about discussing the functioning of the EU, this sort of discussion is possible. If it’s about renegotiating treaties, you know the position of France. That’s a completely different matter. In the current context, no treaty change, no constitutional debate.”

    The FT (£, p1) adds that Germany said it would not be rushed into changing the EU’s treaties to meet the Government’s reform demands. Wolfgang Schäuble, Germany’s finance minister, is quoted saying: “The opinion of the German government has always been that we need treaty changes, whenever, the sooner the better. But the realistic assessment of the German government is that it is not at all certain that this can be achieved quickly.”

    Greece pays the IMF

    Greece yesterday made a €650 million payment to the IMF after using funds from its “Special Drawing Rights” account held at the fund, which were provided by the IMF itself, the Times (£, p35) writes. The account, which is a reserve asset created by the IMF, is usually available for short-term liquidity or currency exchange emergencies faced by central banks. The paper quotes one bank official saying: “It was either that or seeing Greece default and joining Somalia, Sudan and Zimbabwe as the only countries currently in arrears with the fund. The downside, now, is that there’s no money left for another emergency situation.”

    Elsewhere, the Telegraph (B3) says Greece is in “the classic throes” of a bank run, and car sales jumped by 47% last month as worried consumers see motor vehicles as the asset of choice.

    Republicans reveal proposals for banking regulation

    The Republican Party has unveiled its first big piece of financial legislation since taking control of the US Senate at the start of this year, the FT (£, p8) reports. The draft Financial Regulatory Improvement Act of 2015 includes provisions to help small community banks by reducing costly Dodd-Frank regulatory requirements – such as exempting them from the Volcker rule on derivatives trading. The Bill also proposes to raise a threshold above which banks are designated as systemically important and become subject to tougher regulation. However, it notes that the Bill’s chances of becoming law remain doubtful and Democrats have refused to engage so far.

12th May 2015 Back to top
  • BBA Brief – 12 May 2015

    Bank Levy “ripe for reform”

    Chancellor George Osborne must “resist the temptation…of milking the banks even harder, via the cash cow of the Bank Levy”, writes Patrick Jenkins in the FT (£, p18). He states that the policy is “so flawed that it may threaten the long-term interests of the banks, the broader business community that they should be serving, and the taxman.” Although a number of European countries have imposed their own bank levies, Germany’s raises a tenth of the UK’s in revenue, with Jenkins adding that banks “cannot be vilified forever”.

    He suggests two reforms to the tax. Firstly, align the levy with ring-fenced entities, thereby removing foreign banks and UK’s foreign operations from the scope of the tax. Secondly, make other financial institutions subject to the levy in order to ensure the “safety and soundness” of the system.

    Cameron’s reshuffle signals era of “blue-collar Conservatism”

    Prime Minister David Cameron continued his cabinet reshuffle yesterday as he looked to replace ministerial positions vacated by the Liberal Democrats. Former banker and Treasury minister Sajid Javid has been appointed Business Secretary, with one of his allies stating that “deregulation will be the top of his agenda” (FT, £, p1). The Guardian Online suggests that he will face pressure from business groups on the implications of an EU referendum.

    Former Parliamentary Private Secretary to George Osborne and Deputy Whip Greg Hands has been promoted to Chief Secretary to the Treasury, former investment manager Harriet Baldwin has been appointed as City Minister and Anna Soubry has moved from the MoD to become Minister for Small Business. A BIS spokesperson told CityAM (p12) that it was unclear whether Ms Soubry would have the same responsibilities as her predecessor, Matthew Hancock.

    PM hopes to bring EU referendum forward to 2016

    The Guardian front page leads with the Conservatives looking to draw up plans to bring the EU referendum forward to 2016 “to avoid a politically dangerous clash with the French and German elections in 2017”. Government sources indicated that key factors which would allow an earlier vote include the Conservatives’ majority in the Commons, the early introduction of the referendum bill and peers not holding the bill up in the House of Lords. The paper suggests that David Lidington – who has held the position since 2010 – will be reappointed as Europe Minister.

    Greece completes loan instalment payment to IMF

    The Greek finance ministry has ordered a payment of €750 million to the IMF, ending speculation that it would use it as a “bargaining chip” with its creditors (FT, £, p7). Eurozone finance ministers welcomed the announcement, but sources close to the negotiations stated that “differences between Athens and its bailout monitors remain on nearly every major issue”. The Times (£, p44) notes that markets did not react positively, with European government borrowing costs rising and the euro falling 0.24% against the dollar.

  • Pension Wise Explained

    Piers Claughton, corporate affairs manager at Which?, explains why the success of the Government’s Pensions Wise service is crucial in the wake of new pension reforms.

11th May 2015 Back to top
  • BBA Brief – 11 May 2015

    Industry concern over Bank Levy, whilst MPs call for reform

    The FT (£, p19) reports that foreign banks operating in the UK are “plotting a managed retreat” from operations that could expose them to the UK Bank Levy, which now stands at 0.21% following a further increase in this year’s Budget. Commenting on the impact of the increased levy, BBA Chief Executive Anthony Browne said: “The levy means it is becoming uneconomic to do some of this business in the UK”, commenting that repo and international trades that have traditionally been booked in London are now being moved elsewhere.Lord Mayor Alan Yarrow has told the Times (£, p42) that businesses moving their headquarters overseas would “seriously damage Britain’s reputation as a good place to do business and to locate banks”.

    CityAM splashes with calls from a number of Conservative MPs to end “banker bashing” and “rein back punitive taxes aimed at banks”. Mark Garnier MP, who sat on the Treasury Select Committee during the last parliament, said: “Getting stuck into the Bank Levy every so often to demonstrate that our bank bashing is as good as their bank bashing is not the way forward… We need to give the City the space to implement changes we made over the last five years.” Mark Field MP echoed Mr Garnier’s sentiments, warning that the UK is nearing a “tipping point” with the Bank Levy. “I would very much hope that insofar as we have future levies, we aren’t looking to squeeze a little bit too much out of the banks,” he added.

    City’s attention turns to EU referendum

    Following the market’s strong performance on Friday after a definitive election outcome, the FT (£, p23) writes that the “euphoric market reaction “could fade quickly as investors start considering the risks associated with potential “Brexit” and an EU referendum. According to the front page of today’s Telegraph, the Prime Minister has already started making calls to European leaders as officials are considering bringing the referendum forward to 2016.  Writing in CityAM (p19) Mark Boleat comments that while “Europe was the dog that didn’t bark in the election”, the business view is clear – that Britain needs to be in the EU.  He notes that what is needed now is quick negotiation focussing on reform for the EU itself, not just British terms.

8th May 2015 Back to top
  • What can we expect from Luxembourg’s upcoming EU presidency?

    Financial services are likely to form an important part of Luxembourg’s EU presidency agenda. BBA EU Policy Advisor Claudia Trauffler travelled to the country to find out more. 

  • BBA Brief – 8 May 2015

    Conservatives will be biggest party as results continue to come in

    The Conservative Party look to be on course to form a majority government as the results of the UK general election continue to come in (BBC). Ahead of a final result, BBC Political Editor Nick Robinson writes: “Personal triumphs for David Cameron and Nicola Sturgeon will not just reshape British politics but could perhaps reshape the future of the United Kingdom itself” (BBC). CityAM writes that the feeling amongst economists is that “a Tory government without a formal coalition will bring more stability to the economic outlook.” The Telegraph reports on the market response, saying “sterling storms at the prospect of five more years of Conservatives.”

    No agreement on derivatives rules

    The FT (£, p30) reports that US and European regulators have failed to come to a consensus over recognition of each other’s rules on clearing houses. The European Commissioner for Financial Stability, Jonathan Hill has been in discussions with Timothy Massad, chairman of the US Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) in order to harmonise rules to prevent banks and hedgefunds from moving jurisdiction according to where they receive the most favourable treatment. Talks have been continuing for two years now with no sign of a resolution, the EU arguing that the CFTC’s approach is “less stringent”, according to the report.  Both said that they hope to come to an agreement on approach by the summer.

    Optimism grows for Greece agreement

    The Greek deputy prime minister, Yannis Dragasakis, has said that his government is approaching “common ground” in talks with creditors (Guardian, p29). He is reported as saying: “Talks, so far, have shown that there is common ground in changes and political measures and, therefore, I believe a deal is possible in the interests of everyone”. The country’s government are putting together a package of reforms to present to the European Union and International Monetary Fund (IMF) in order to unlock €7.2 billion in rescue loans. The Telegraph reports the suggestion from one of the board members of the European Central Bank, Yves Merch, that Greece could use a “parallel currency” to pay civil servants, should then run out of euros. He told Spanish newspaper La Vanguardia: “”There are intermediate solutions circulating, such as the issuance of a parallel currency or IOUs. All these measures are among the exceptional tools that any government can consider if it has no other options. But all of them have a high cost.”

7th May 2015 Back to top
  • Model Risk Management: Quantitative and Qualitative Aspects

    The use of advanced risk models in banks and financial institutions has caused a revolution in the way firms conduct their business, writes Ruben García Moral and Juan García Cascales from consulting firm Management Solutions.

  • midata brings more power to consumers

    The midata initiative aims to give consumers access to their data to help them find a better deal, or help them understand their spending habits. BBA Policy Adviser Walter McCahon explains the new midata service for personal current accounts.

  • BBA Brief – 7 May 2015

    Warnings sounded over impact of uncertain election result

    Reuters reports concerns in the City over whether the uncertainty over a tight general election could impact on business, particularly if the country does not have an effective government for a prolonged period of time.  It says that senior bankers have warned about the dangers of a “period of ‘drift,’ that no outright winner will produce a lack of confidence and uncertainty that will last for weeks.” However it cites the BBA saying that it would be uncertainty and caution among borrowers that would be more likely to affect lending volumes, rather than any reluctance by banks to lend. “As we stand now I don’t think that there’s any evidence that the supply side of the lending equation has been impacted at all by the political uncertainty,” said the BBA’s Chief Economist Richard Woolhouse.

    In a roundup of what business leaders want to see from the political parties after the General Election, CityAM (p4) reports that most wanted to see a greater focus on entrepreneurship and cites BBA Chief Executive Anthony Browne’s call for greater focus on financial education in schools.

    Sell-off in government bonds spooks markets

    The FT reports that European stocks have fallen this morning because “investors remain spooked by the battering meted out to government bonds”. The value of sovereign bonds has fallen by £223 billion this week and Bill Gross, the bond trading veteran, has said that German 10-years, or bunds, look to be “the short of a lifetime”. Today’s FT leader (£, p12) is worried “that bond markets no longer have the capacity to behave rationally”.

    The New York Times (p23) says that senior figures from across the financial markets are warning that “the world’s bond markets… are in danger of breaking down.” The Telegraph (B4) quotes Federal Reserve chair Janet Yellen saying that there could be sharp adjustments in global bond markets when US rates rise.  The falls in bond prices are said to be caused in part by steep rises in the oil price, which is now at $68 a barrel. Timothy Adams, the chief executive of the IIF, has warned about the lack of liquidity in bond markets, saying that “there’s just less capacity for making markets”. Hamish McRae (p67) says in the Independent that “if European bond prices crash, other bond prices are likely to fall as well and I suppose you could go on to argue that equity and property markets are likely to be hit, too.”

    The BBC reports that Ms Yellen has also raised the alarm over the record high levels of stock markets in the US and the UK, which she said presented “potential dangers”.

    Standard Chartered “listening carefully” to investors over HQ move

    Standard Chartered chairman Sir John Peace has told investors that the bank is “listening carefully” to them over whether it should move its headquarters.  He said that the board would be monitoring the “impact on group costs” of further expected rises in the Bank Levy The Times  (£, p44) reports that Aberdeen Asset Management, the bank’s second biggest shareholder, has said that a move away from the UK should be considered

6th May 2015 Back to top
  • BBA Brief – 6 May 2015

    Polls open tomorrow

    Less than 24 hours remain until the polls open for the general election, as party leaders make their final campaign push. City AM reports that the gap between the Conservatives and Labour has narrowed, according to the latest national polling by Lord Ashcroft. The poll found that the Conservative lead fell to 32%, placing the party two points ahead of Labour on 30%. Labour leader Ed Miliband yesterday told the BBC that his plans to abolish non-dom tax status were non-negotiable, and he did not accept an assessment made by the Institute for Fiscal Studies which said debt would be £90 billion higher in 2019-20 under his plans.

    In the FT (£, p3), constitutional expert Vernon Bogdanor explores how each party would attempt to form a minority government, and says that if either is unable to command support for its programme in the Commons, there could be a second election. Professor Bogdanor stresses that today there is “no reason to believe that a second election would yield a notably different outcome”, and suggests that the multi-party system is perhaps a permanent feature of the landscape. “If that is so, our institutions, include the first past the post system, will have to accommodate themselves to that transformation and the Cabinet Manual will have to be rewritten.”

    In its leading article, the Times (£, p35) said this election is “certainly the first test of a new era of multi-party British politics and could be the last in the history of a truly United Kingdom”.

    IMF and EU “implacable” over bailout negotiations, says Greek government source

    The Guardian (p21) quotes a senior Greek government source claiming that serious disagreements and contradictions between the IMF and EU are creating obstacles in negotiations over bailout talks. The source adds that both lenders were digging in their heels and effectively enforcing “red lines everywhere”. The paper also quotes Greece’s health minister, Panagiotis Kouroumblis, saying the creditors were “implacable” and made Greece feel as though “they are impossible to satisfy”. Greece’s bailout programme ends in June and if an agreement cannot be reached then its economy could collapse.

    Yesterday Greece announced that it is to levy a €1 fee for every €1,000 withdrawn from its ATMs in a bid to raise revenue and stop money from leaving the country, the Times adds (£, p37). The paper quotes a senior finance ministry official saying: “The surcharge is just one of a grab bag of measures we are considering if things get tough. We need cash fast.”

    HSBC HQ review will “take months not years”

    HSBC chief executive Stuart Gulliver yesterday said that the bank’s headquarters domicile review would “take months not years”, the FT reports (£, p1). In a call yesterday to discuss quarterly results, Mr Gulliver said the bank’s UK strategy would depend on the final rules on ringfencing regulations, control of its dividend and the accountability rules in the new Senior Managers Regime. The Guardian (p21) adds that Mr Gulliver cited the Bank Levy as one key concern over keeping HSBC’s headquarters in London. More information on the methodology in comparing HQ locations will be set out on a strategy day on 9 June.

    Growth forecast cut

    The National Institute of Economic and Social Research (NIESR) has cut its forecast for Britain’s economic growth this year from 2.9% to 2.5%, the Guardian (p21) reports. The paper says the move comes after weaker than expected GDP figures for the first quarter of this year, and the biggest single uncertainty facing the economy is how quickly productivity can be improved. Elsewhere, the Independent (p57) reports that growth in new orders in the construction industry has fallen to its weakest level since June 2013, figures from financial data firm Markit have suggested. “The uncertain general election outcome appears to have put some grit in the wheel of decision-making,” said Markit’s senior economist, Tim Moore.

5th May 2015 Back to top
  • BBA Brief – 5 May 2015

    Global regulators to focus on risk and conduct

    The FT (£, p20) writes that international bank regulators will shift their focus away from repairing banks’ balance sheets and towards conduct and risk-management issues. Bank of England Governor and Chair of the Financial Stability Board (FSB), Mark Carney, wrote to G20 finance ministers and central bank governors stating: “The scale of misconduct in some financial institutions has risen to a level that has the potential to create systemic risks.” The FSB will also develop an international response to the UK’s Fair and Effective Markets Review, whilst also addressing the withdrawal from correspondent banking by some lenders in markets which are viewed as too risky.

    A “golden age” for UK private banking

    The Telegraph (B6) discusses the UK’s “booming” private banking industry, stating that the market has enjoyed a “renaissance” as wealthy individuals are attracted by a stable legal system and a well regulated and transparent financial centre. The article quotes extensively from the BBA’s report on private banking A Wealth of Opportunities, which states that foreign residents who bank in Britain are “six times more likely to invest in the UK, and 10 times more likely to set up a business relationship in the UK”. The report also highlights that the sector pays £1.2 billion in income tax per year. The Telegraph concludes that the industry is “one of the bedrocks of the country’s modern capitalist system”, but will only stay in the ascendance if the UK “remains attractive to those with the deepest pockets.”

    Use of tax credits to bolster capital defended by EU banks

    A number of southern European countries have defended their banks’ use of deferred tax asset schemes to strengthen their capital position, reports the FT (£, p6). The move comes after the European Commission signalled a possible probe into whether the schemes – which allow lenders to accumulate future tax credits from credit losses – were illegal state aid.

    An official at the Spanish economy ministry said: “The guarantees on deferred tax assets cannot be considered state aid because they are not applied in a discriminatory way to a single sector but to any Spanish company”. Meanwhile, Giovanni Sabatini, chief executive of the Italian Banking Association stated: “I find it bizarre to think that a measure that is intended to level the playing field between Italian banks and those of other countries should be considered state aid”.

1st May 2015 Back to top
  • BBA comment on BoE Bankstats – Business lending could be turning a corner

    Responding to the Bank of England Bankstats, BBA Chief Economist Richard Woolhouse said:

    “Though it’s early days, it is starting to look as though borrowing by businesses is turning a corner. In particular, we can see from these figures that small and medium-sized businesses are taking on more finance which suggests that confidence is up too.

    “In terms of mortgage lending, homeowners seem to be taking advantage of competitive pricing with an increase in borrowing each month this year.”

  • NEDS: regulators should clarify expectations

    BBA Executive Director Simon Hills welcomes regulators’ move to tighten the activities that NEDs may be involved in, before being subject to the Senior Managers Regime. However, he says they should clarify expectations around NEDs’ executive responsibilities.

  • BBA Brief – 1 May 2015

    US regulator asks for small bank Basel exemption

    US Federal Reserve governor, Daniel Tarullo, has said that the country should try to help community lenders – which he defined as those with assets of $10 billion or less – by simplifying the capital requirements required by the Basel Committee (FT, £, p7). Mr Tarullo was referring to the Basel III risk weighting rules, finalised at the end of 2013. According to the report, one Basel official said that it wouldn’t matter if smaller banks were exempted as the rules were designed for internationally active banks that could jeopardise global financial stability. For smaller banks, Mr Tarullo suggested alternative measures that would be the equivalent of a return to Basel I.   

    Shadow chancellor looks to reassure City pre-election

    Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls has told the FT (£, p2) that his party understands the vital role played by financial services in the UK and won’t seek to drive them away, saying “you don’t cut your nose off to spite your face”. Mr Balls also said that his party “would not insist that banks dispose of branches once they exceeded a certain market share”, saying that instead it would trigger a competition review. He added that he hoped HSBC and Standard Chartered would remain headquartered in the UK.

    Eurozone upturn

    The eurozone has seen petrol and food pricing rising after four months of deflation (Times, £, p47). Inflation was at zero in April, up from -0.1% in March and lows of -0.6% in January. According to reports, this pick-up led some economists to question whether European Central Bank chief Mario Draghi needs to continue with his quantitative easing programme, though Mr Draghi has intimated that he intends to push on with his plan. The FT (£, p1) reports that European share prices saw their first monthly decline of 2015 in April as “enthusiasm for Europe’s quantitative easing programme begins to fade”. The Guardian (p32), however, reports that uncertainty around the forthcoming UK election has led to a record £1 billion being withdrawn from funds investing in UK shares in March as cautious investors “switched their focus to continental Europe”, encouraged by quantitative easing measures.

30th Apr 2015 Back to top
  • Is your firm ready to comply with the Consumer Rights Act?

    The Consumer Rights Act comes into force in October 2015 and will apply to financial services. Rosanna Bryant, a partner in the Financial Regulation Group at Addleshaw Goddard LLP, explains how the law has changed.

  • BBA Brief – 30 April 2015

    Poor growth figures expected to delay US rate rise

    The Federal Reserve revealed yesterday that the US economy only grew by 0.2% in the first quarter, falling short of the 1.0% that economists were predicting. The front page of the FT (£) reports that the deterioration has been blamed on a surge in the dollar and falling investment in oil related industries. Commentators are predicting that this will push back the date at which the Fed will look to increase interest rates.

    House prices rise lead to calls for increases in supply

    Nationwide’s house price index finds that house prices rose at their quickest rate in April since last summer (Reuters). The FT (£, p4) reports that the building society’s chief economist Robert Gardner has said that there needs to be an increase in the supply of homes as well as demand.  He warns that the house building sector is “subdued”. The article quotes from the BBA’s statistics, which shows that “mortgage approvals rose for the third month running in March to a six-month high. But this is still well below the long-run average and 20 per cent below early 2014.”

29th Apr 2015 Back to top
  • BBA Brief – 29 April 2015

    IFS warning over bank tax increases

    The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) has warned that rising taxes for the banking industry could put City investment at risk, the Telegraph (B4) reports. In its pre-election analysis of Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrat proposals for tax and benefits, the IFS said that using the banks to fund giveaways risked giving the impression that further arbitrary taxes on the sector might be expected.

    The article quotes Stuart Adam, an economist at the IFS, saying: “If the aim is just to raise revenue then there is certainly a danger of relying on this as a cash cow and just giving the impression that there are just going to be everlasting increases almost every year almost as long as they can get away with it.” The IFS is quoted saying: “Yet another proposed increase, this time from the Labour Party, adds to the uncertainty and reinforces the damaging impression that further increases are to be expected on an arbitrary basis.” Read the BBA’s response to the latest Bank Levy rise here.

    Meanwhile, the FT (£, p1) leads with news that David Cameron will today promise a law banning any rise in income tax, VAT or national insurance in the next parliament if the Conservatives win the election.

    Businesses start to borrow more from their bank

    The BBA’s March 2015 High Street Banking Statistics are widely reported in today’s papers. Figures released by the BBA yesterday revealed that borrowing by businesses has been positive in two of the last three months, and lending has improved across many sectors. The Times (£, p46) says the flow of credit to non-financial firms rose by £1.6 billion, after a fall of £345 million in February and an average drop of £1.3 billion over the past six months. BBA Chief Economist Richard Woolhouse is quoted saying: “We’re starting to see signs that businesses from many sectors are starting to borrow more from their bank. While it’s still too early to predict, these figures and the latest data from the Bank of England suggest that business borrowing has turned a corner.”

    Coinbase given FCA approval

    Bitcoin company Coinbase has gained the “green light” from the Financial Conduct Authority to launch its UK services, the FT (£, p4) says. Coinbase has created a “wallet” that allows customers to store, send and accept payments in the digital currency. Following the FCA’s approval, British customers will now be able to access Coinbase’s exchange and convert pounds into bitcoins. The Government and the Bank of England have made recent moves designed to allow more bitcoins to flow through the UK.

    The paper quotes Brian Armstrong, chief executive of Coinbase, saying: “It’s really just early stages for bitcoin; you can’t use it easily in every country in the world. It wasn’t possible until recently to store it securely, and now we’re seeing all sorts of new applications being built on top.” The paper also says the BBA has warned that bitcoin could be helping to fund terrorism.  Read the BBA’s response to the Government’s call for information on digital currencies here.