Tag Archives: banking

Ant Financial rips up rule book as Big Tech targets banking sector

Ant Financial rips up rule book as Big Tech targets banking sector Alibaba spin-off Ant Financial is making history. The four-year-old Hangzhou-based fintech ‘lifestyle platform’ is purported to be raising funds that would value the company at $150bn, making it the world’s most valuable startup – bigger, even than Goldman Sachs.

As traditional financial models are giving way to digital disruptors, there’s plenty of scope for agile, tech-based companies to change the way people think about banking services. Enter Ant Financial, the brainchild of Alibaba founder Jack Ma.

Established in 2014, the company is a hybrid internet business, bank and payment platform that evolved from a payment service (AliPay) originally conceived to bridge the gap between shoppers and sellers on Alibaba’s Taobao marketplace. At Ant’s last funding round in 2016, the company commanded a valuation of around $60bn.

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Libor interest rate to be axed following a series of scandals

Libor interbank borrowing index to be phased out by 2021Libor to be phased out

In the wake of news that a US court has overturned two former Rabobank traders’ convictions over a conspiracy to fix yen and dollar Libor rates, comes an announcement from the head of the Financial Conduct Authority, Andrew Bailey, that it has become ‘not only unsustainable, but also undesirable’ for Libor to continue in its current form.

The decision was taken because banks no longer want to participate in setting the rate, which, at its peak, was used to price more than $350tn of financial products around the world. Plans are currently being made to move to alternative benchmarks by the end of 2021.

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Is the Bitcoin bubble about to burst?

As crypto-currency Bitcoin continues to rise in value, is a bubble forming?Are we on the cusp of a Bitcoin bubble?

What goes up must come down – or must it? Bitcoin’s recent stratospheric rise has helped push the value of crypto-currencies through the $50 billion-mark, triggering concerns over the creation of an unstable asset bubble in what is a largely unregulated market.

The rapid growth in alternative digital currencies — so-called ‘alt-coins’ — as well as in Bitcoin itself is without precedent; the value of Bitcoin alone has risen by more than 50% in a month and is currently worth more than gold. It’s an astonishing trajectory for a virtual, non-fiat currency.

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Hard Brexit could result in British banking crisis

Head of Germany’s central bank warns that UK could lose its status as the financial centre of EuropeThe Brexit dilemma

More than three months have now passed since the British public voted to leave the European Union but there’s been no clear indication so far of how – or when – the British government intends to effect the political and economic split. In order for the process of Brexit to begin, Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty must be invoked but because that will set the clock ticking on a strict two-year timetable for negotiations, no-one seems in much of a hurry to push the button.

There’s much that is still unclear – and it’s this uncertainty that’s vexing not only the British public but also the businesses that have a lot riding on whether or not Brexit will allow them to continue to have access to the single market. Britain sells almost half of its exports via the common market, and any change to this process is likely to be expensive.

A ‘soft’ Brexit would minimise the economic impact on the UK but is likely to come at the expense of limiting the number of migrants – an area of concern for many who voted to leave the EU. On the other hand, the ‘hard’ Brexit favoured by some leading Conservative eurosceptics could have disastrous consequences for businesses, most notably for the City of London.

Passporting rights are at stake

The head of Germany’s central bank recently warned that London’s position as a financial centre would come into question if the UK left the single market. In this scenario, it’s likely that banks would automatically be stripped of their ability to conduct business across the EU, which would open the door for other European financial capitals to annexe business from London.

In an interview with the Guardian, Bundesbank president Jens Weidmann pointed out that banks’ passporting arrangements are ‘tied to the single market and would automatically cease to apply if Great Britain is no longer at least part of the European Economic Area’ (EEA).

Passporting rights allow firms to use London as a hub for serving clients from across the EU, without having to negotiate licences in separate countries. Because of this, international banks with affiliates in the UK actually account for a large share of international banking activity in London. Bullish Brexiters like Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson have reassured banks that the UK will retain passporting rights even if it leaves the EEA, but Weidmann negative this assumption, saying that business would reconsider relocating their headquarters.

UK-based businesses feeling the pressure

According to a survey of 100 business leaders from large companies by accountancy firm KPMG, more than three-quarters of chief executive officers are considering moving either their headquarters or some part of their operations outside of Britain following the referendum. The CBI and PricewaterhouseCoopers have also reported a deterioration of confidence in the financial services sector in the three months to September.

The surveys suggest Prime Minister Theresa May faces a challenge to retain businesses and jobs when Brexit negotiations finally get underway, and that talk of a hard Brexit is already causing companies to consider – or even accelerate – their own exit strategies.

‘CEOs are reacting to the prevailing uncertainty with contingency planning,’ commented Simon Collins, KPMG’s UK chairman.

Wells Fargo faces hostility over unethical conduct charges

Wells Fargo CEO John G. Stumpf under the spotlight as bank castigated for unethical conductIllegal banking practices come home to roost

A year ago, the city of Los Angeles sued Wells Fargo for unethical customer conduct, alleging that the bank had covertly opened unauthorised accounts on behalf of customers. Twelve months on and the bank has been forced to reach settlements with city and federal officials totalling almost $200 million.

At a September hearing before the House Financial Services Committee, Wells Fargo CEO John G. Stumpf announced he was forfeiting at least $41 million in pay, at the same time vowing to immediately drop the banks sales incentive programme that was to blame for inciting bankers to set up the illegal accounts.

But it seems that few of his interrogators were impressed, with lawmakers from both sides of the house taking turns to tear into Stumpf over a period of four hours, labelling the bank’s actions as ‘theft’ and commenting that the fallout from the scandal had dealt a devastating blow to the entire banking industry.

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