Category: Cash Management

Scottish Referendum Vote Heats Up
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Scottish Referendum Vote Heats Up

On 18 September people residing in Scotland, or those who are registered to vote in the country but are living overseas, go to the polls to decide whether to leave the Rest of the UK (RUK). With the latest opinion polls split on the outcome of the vote, businesses, leaders and newspapers are all starting to ramp up their campaigning.

Heartbroken

Yesterday, the three leaders of the UK’s major parties and around 100 other Parliamentary staff descended on Scotland to make a passionate please for a ‘No’ vote. With the clear message that Scotland will be better if stays as part of the Union, Prime Minister David Cameron said that a ‘Yes’ vote would leave him:

“heartbroken”

The PM’s sentiments were echoed by Labour leader Ed Miliband who said that staying as part of the RUK was a case for the:

“head, heart and soul”.

Meanwhile, Liberal Democrats leader Nick Clegg was on a visit to his party’s traditional Scottish heartland of Selkirk. Heckled at length by many in the crowd, with shouts of ‘You’re a liar”, Mr Clegg said:

“This is a momentous event which will affect everybody north and south of the border forever.”

All three leaders and other key figures in the ‘Better Together’ campaign also insisted that party politics was not the issue, urging voters not to throw away centuries of successful union.

Leaders ‘cannot be trusted’

However, the Scottish First Minister, Alex Salmond, urged Scottish voters not to be swayed, saying that the leaders could not be trusted. Also taking to the campaign in response to the Westminster descent on Scotland, Mr Salmond said that they were more worried about losing their jobs.

Clearly wanting to politicise the vote despite the protestations of Cameron, Clegg, Miliband et al, Mr Salmond said:

“Today what we have got is an example of Team Scotland against Team Westminster.”

Split Decision

The Referendum atmosphere has been further ramped up by the showings in the polls.

Over the last few months, most polls have been showing a relatively comfortable victory of the ‘No’ campaign. However, at the weekend, two significant polls showed the ‘Yes’ campaign moving ahead.

Meanwhile, a new opinion poll commissioned by Scottish Newspaper The Daily Record, showed that:

  • 47.6% of voters back a ‘No’ vote, meaning that Scotland will stay as part of the union
  • 42.4% backed a ‘Yes’ vote for independence
  • 10% were still undecided

 

It is that key 10% of indecisive voters that the campaign will now be targeting, with less than seven dates before votes are cast.

Newspapers Take Their Stance

Thursday also saw a number of newspapers in Britain pin their colours to the mast.

The influential newspaper The Scotsman came down on the side of the ‘No’ vote. Under its headline, ‘Scotland’s Decision’ the newspaper declared:

“With exactly a week to go before our historic referendum

The Scotsman gives its verdict on the choice before us: we are better together.”

It then laid out its reasons in a 2,000-word editorial article.

The FT meanwhile took much the same stance. With its editorial claiming:

“the case for union is overwhelming”

Meanwhile rumours are rife that News Corp’s executive chairman Rupert Murdoch is getting ready to declare his backing for a ‘Yes’ vote. Tweeting at the weekend, The Australian media magnate said that it would be a ‘black eye’ for British politics.

Long-time friends, it is not the first time Mr Murdoch has shown his support for Mr Salmond however. Back in 2012 he also took to Twitter to claim his opinion that Alex Salmond was the best politician in UK.

Businesses Take Their Stance

British businesses too are starting to get louder with their opinions.

Already there have been open letters from businesses and business groups coming down on either side of the argument. Today though, the battleground was further widened.

The Royal Bank of Scotland this morning confirmed that, in the event of a Scottish vote for independence, it would be necessary to re-domicile the firm to London. However, in a letter to employees, the bank insisted that this would not mean a closure of Scottish operations or job losses.

Conversely, the manager of Scotland’s largest fund said that independence would be a good venture for Scotland. Martin Gilbert, the boss of Aberdeen Asset Management said:

“I think an independent Scotland would be a big success,

but it is a secret ballot and I will abide by that.”

Meanwhile, major retail chain the John Lewis Partnership said that it may be forced to increase profits in its John Lewis department stores and its Waitrose grocery outlets.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies also issued a warning to voters, claiming that the NHS in Scotland would get less cash overall should it go independent.

With differing opinions across the board, a growing recognition of the debate across the world, the next week will be one of major upheaval for UK politics.

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CBI to Launch Campaign to Restore Trust in UK Businesses

The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) is launching a new campaign in an attempt to restore confidence levels in British businesses.

It is the first time that the CBI, Britain’s largest lobbying group for business, has launched such a campaign, and comes as scandals from major firms and banks have generated much traction in the traditional press and online.

The Great Business Debate will see a number of events take place throughout the country to try and reverse the trend of unfavourable perceptions that such scandals have left many in Britain feeling.

The campaign’s main focus will be to showcase just how business is a force for good in the country. Surveys completed by the lobby group have revealed that only a fraction of people living in the UK believe this the case.

The debate will attempt to extol the virtue of firms in regards to contributing to the country with tax, creating employment and bettering people through training and skill development.

As well as taking the campaign on the road, a major battle field for the initiative will be online. The social sphere will certainly be well-exploited by the |CBI, as it tries to tap into the work already being done to create personal relationships by many leading firms.

Many of the biggest names in business will take part in the drive. Already announced by the CBI are Barclays boss Antony Jenkins, E.ON CEO Tony Cocker and Ruby McGregor-Smith, the head of group Mitie Group.

The CBI is also eager to not just broadcast how business is good for the country. It has stated that it will also listen to and take action on any concerns which are raised.

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Bank of Cyprus Confirms Placing of Retail Offer

The move is part of the national bank’s €1 billion share capital increase drive, while it is understood that the new ordinary shares will be offered as subscription to Existing Shareholders.

In an announcement released by the bank, the placing has been filed with the Department of the Registrar of Companies and Official Receiver. The filing follows the approval by the District Court of Nicosia for a reduction in the nominal ordinary share value.

The statement read:

“With the filing and registration of the court order with the Department of the Registrar of Companies and Official Receiver today, all conditions precedent to the closing of the Placing and Open Offer have been satisfied and, accordingly, the Bank is pleased to announce that the Closing Date for the Placing and the Open Offer will be 18 September 2014 and that it is arranging for the despatch of Placing Confirmations and Open Offer Confirmations,”

The bank also noted that, after closing, the retail offer to existing shareholders will be at a subscription price of €0.24 per unit.

Eurozone Growth Slams to a Halt
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Eurozone Growth Slams to a Halt

 

Eurostat figures have shown a 0.0% growth, with both Germany and France, the biggest economies in the zone, performing far below expectations.

There was worse news for Italy, the third largest economy, as it fell back into recession.

Meanwhile, the annual inflation rate in Europe slumped to just 0.4% for July – the lowest the rate has been for five years.

Combined, the figures are pointing not at an economy in recovery but at an economy in decline.

There are now growing fears as to how far reaching the sanctions imposed on and by Russia will have for the second half of the year.

In particular, there are fears over the future for France and, though the German economy is facing a challenging environment too, it is thought to be much more robust than the French economy.

Many economists are likely to now ramp up the pressure on the European Central Bank to introduce a round of quantitative easing. Many other central banks, including The Bank of England, have taken such action.

There was better news from Portugal and Spain however, with both countries on the Iberian Peninsula seeing a 0.6% growth.

Report Reveals Independent Scots Want to Keep the Pound
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Report Reveals Independent Scots Want to Keep the Pound

According to the Scottish Social Attitudes survey, 68% of Scots would prefer to see an agreement in place with the rest of the UK to keep using sterling. Fourteen percent opted for using a new currency.

The ScotCen Social Research survey also found that the appetite for independence had increased compared to last year’s findings.

A co-director for the survey, Research Consultant John Curtice, said:

“Support for independence has only increased because those who are convinced it would be beneficial for Scotland are more willing to put their cross in the Yes box.”

Financially Worse Off

The report also found that there was more independence uncertainty amongst women living in Scotland.

According to the research, based on opinions captured between May and June of this year, 73% were unsure what it would bring. Sixty-three percent of men were likewise unsure.

The most devastating blow for the ‘Yes’ campaign however came over fears of an independent economy. Last year, 29% thought they would be worse of. This year suggests 39% of people have such worries.

A further 39% did not feel it would affect their personal wealth. Just 10% thought their personal finances would be ‘a little’ or ‘a lot’ better off.

In regards to the overall economy 44% thought an independent Scotland would be less wealthy, a ten point increase from last year.

Very Likely to Vote

The timing of the research means that opinions were taken ahead of the live television debate between Scotland’s First Minister Alex Salmond and the Better Together chief Alistair Darling.

However, they were taken after Chancellor George Osborne and other senior politicians ruled out a pound share agreement.

This year’s report also found that 74% of Scots are preparing to go to the polls on September 18. This is an increase of 13% from 2013’s results. The findings also reported:

• 25% would vote Yes (up from 20%
• 43% would vote No
• 29% were undecided
• 68% wanted a currency union
• 14% backed a new currency
• 6% wanted the euro as Scotland’s new currency

The report also suggested that just 8% of people would support continued use of the pound without a union with the rest of the UK. Four percent said they were undecided.

Bank of England Maintains Interest Rates at Record Low
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Bank of England Maintains Interest Rates at Record Low

The interest rates have been at the record level for five years, but, there was some expectation that the rates could start to rise after Bank Governor Mark Carney hinted at such in June.

Recent figures have suggested growth in many UK sectors, with the service sector having a continued and robust recovery. However, there are concerns that the rate of growth in manufacturing has slowed, with data showing a small increase of 0.3% in June, smaller than expected, after it fell by 1.3% May.

The decision was taken by the Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee (MPC). The minutes of the meeting outlining their decision will not be presented publically until August 20.

The minutes of the July meeting of the MPC showed that all nine members voted to maintain the status quo. There was concern regards the economic situation overseas and the level of exports accordingly, with the committee also saying:

“(while) employment had continued to increase robustly… wage growth had been surprisingly weak”.

If the minutes of the latest meeting reveal that some members voted for a rise, it will be the first split decision in over three years.

Though Mr Carney had hinted at a rise, most economists had been forecasting that an interest rate increase would not be seen before the first quarter of next year.

The Bank also revealed that its quantitative easing programme would also remain unchanged at £375bn.

Consumer Credit Firms Must Raise Advertising Standards
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Consumer Credit Firms Must Raise Advertising Standards, Says FCA

Credit firms need to do more to ensure their adverts and promotions do not mislead potential customers. The findings come as Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) statistics show that one in five adverts from consumer credit firms, for products including payday loans, fell short of the FCA’s financial promotion expectations – although most firms were quick to make changes once the shortcomings were pointed out.

The rules state that any advert must be clear, fair and not misleading for consumers. The FCA examined over 500 advertisements for a range of consumer credit products after assuming responsibility for the sector on 1st April 2014 and found a number of examples where key information which should have been included in the advertisement was either missing or difficult to find.

Clive Adamson, director of supervision at the FCA, said: “It is particularly important in this sector that advertisements for financial products enable customers to make informed decisions. We think that more can be done to ensure that advertisements are fair, clear and not misleading.

“Firms have responded well when challenged about ads which have not met the standards. We will continue to work with firms and monitor their performance in this area to ensure the high standards we are looking for are met.”
The FCA found examples where consumers were encouraged to hit the “apply” button for a product before having a chance to access important information, a tactic which is against its rules.

Main Catalyst Behind People Switching Banks
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Main Catalyst Behind People Switching Banks

Penney Frohling, Partner in Financial Services at EY, commenting on the Payments Council’s six-month results for the new Current Account Switch Service, says: “EY’s Global Consumer Banking Survey found fees to be the main catalyst behind people switching banks in the UK, followed distantly by the experience they had received. With customers willing to shop around to find the lowest fees and to avoid high charges and interest on their overdraft, banks need to compete on the services they are offering, and make sure that they are not being under-cut by competitors who are providing interest-free overdrafts and better rewards or loyalty packages.

“But banks can’t be complacent about customer service. The survey found a 50% increase in disgruntled customers who intend to close an account in the next 12 months. People who are left unsatisfied with how their banking problems have been dealt with are a serious retention risk.”

Omar Ali, UK banking and capital markets leader, commenting specifically on competition in UK banking, adds: “The number of people switching banks has doubled since the new legislation was introduced. More people than ever are aware they have the option to switch if they are unsatisfied with their current provider, and as awareness grows, it can only be expected that this trend will continue. However, it is not having the material impact on the market share of the top four high street banks that Government hoped for. Rather, the majority of switches are from one of the major incumbents to another.

“In order to compete effectively with existing providers, new entrant banks will either need to innovate; taking a specific area of the market and creating substantial change to the traditional model, or they will need a compelling proposition on fees and better service quality than existing providers.

“The fact that core banking services are ultimately still seen as free in the UK is also a barrier to open and fair competition between the large established players and new entrants. In most consumer markets price is one of the key drivers of effective competition. How can you compete on price when the customer thinks the service they are getting is free? Greater transparency on pricing and charges for core banking services in the UK would help to open the market up and in many cases make banking fairer for the consumer.”

Preston Joins Move Your Money
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Preston Joins Move Your Money

 

The people of Preston in Lancashire are being urged by their council to join Move Your Money in a bid to create a better financial system.

Preston City Council believes that since the financial crisis people are increasingly concerned about where their money goes and how it’s used, and it wants to help. Whilst a number of councils across the UK have committed to move their money, Preston is the first council in the UK to actively encourage individuals and businesses across the city to switch banking providers.

Preston City Councillor Martyn Rawlinson Cabinet Member for Resources said: “Now, more than ever people want to know what’s happening to their money. Is it safe? Is it invested properly and in investments that not only guarantee a financial return but are ethically sound too? Is the money being used in a way that it doesn’t harm the environment or even contribute to making people ill? By taking a greater interest in what happens to our money we can make a difference, not only to our community but across the world as a whole.”

He added: “As a Council we are investing £100,000 in establishing the Guild Money Credit Union that will help people in Preston with both savings and loans. This is a great way for the Council to use its money as a positive resource to help local people. However, we recognise that the Council could do more. That’s why we are supporting this national Move Your Money campaign and also looking at our own investments. We want to see if as a Council, we can invest in a more ethical way.”

“Obviously we have to invest wisely and protect taxpayer’s money but we need to get balance right. We have to ensure we invest in the right institutions and in the right financial products that help people, not damage people or communities wherever in the world they may be.”

“It’s much easier now for people to swap banks, in fact 2.4 million people did just that last year alone. The Move Your Money campaign makes it even easier by listing the best banks for you given your financial circumstances. And, it can all be done from the comfort of your own home from the Move Your Money website. Please have a look, sign up to the campaign and let your money work for you in the way that you want it to.”

Charlotte Webster, Campaign Director, Move Your Money added: “We’re thrilled that Preston City Council is on board with the Move Your Money Campaign. It’s vital people know where their money is and what it’s being used for. As we’ve seen over the last few years many banks and financial institutions have invested our money in a way that’s more in their interests than ours. Fundamentally, this led to greater risk taking, followed by a financial crisis that has affected each and every one of us.”

She continued: “Money can be used in so many positive ways to help local people and communities across the world. The more that people take an interest the more that banks will listen and invest in a way that benefits everyone, not just the few. Our Scorecard ranks over 70 British banking options across a number of criteria including ethics and customer service, so you can see just which bank is right for you.”

Other councils across the UK that have committed to moving their money to better banks, or setting up their own, include the Greater London Authority; Lambeth; Liverpool and Brighton.

Pay-Day Loans Masking  UK’s Credit Crisis
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Pay-Day Loans Masking UK’s Credit Crisis

Pay-day loan and ‘debt management’ industries could be masking the full extent of the personal debt crisis in the UK, according to top 25 accountancy firm, Wilkins Kennedy LLP.

The latest figures published today show that there were 101,049 individual insolvencies in England and Wales last year, down by 7% on 2012. This included 24,536 bankruptcies (down 22.8% on 2012), 27,546 Debt Relief Orders (DROs) (down 11.7% on 2012) and 48,967 Individual Voluntary Arrangements (IVAs) (up 4.9% on 2012).

There were 109,477 individual insolvencies in England and Wales in 2012. This included 31,756 bankruptcies, 46,694 Individual Voluntary Arrangements (IVAs), and 31,027 Debt Relief Orders (DROs).

However, Wilkins Kennedy note that the growth of the payday loans and debt management industry means that many individuals that are effectively bankrupt are not caught by these figures.

Louise Brittain, Insolvency Partner at Wilkins Kennedy says: “we know that massive and highly targeted marketing campaigns are attracting more and more individuals into using Debt Management Plans and Pay Day loans as ways to manage their debts.”

“In many cases the arrangements are rolled over from one month to the next, and because of the punitive interest or high, front-loaded fees, very little capital is repaid and the individual’s financial difficulties get worse, not better.”

“However, because these companies are not required to register their schemes, it is difficult to know exactly how big the scale of the problem really is. I am concerned that many people using Debt Management Plans and Pay Day loans will at best eventually end up formally insolvent or at worst taking desperate measures to repay their creditors.”

Wilkins Kennedy adds that this year’s bankruptcy figures are likely to be swollen by recent difficulties in the legal sector. The profession has been suffered as a result of legal aid cuts, and over 130 firms were unable to secure Professional Indemnity Insurance, without which they are unable to practice and must be dissolved.

Louise Brittain comments: “This has been a bruising year for the legal profession – with even major names like Cobbetts and Manches experiencing financial difficulty, and some smaller firms faring far worse. Problems with obtaining Professional Indemnity Insurance also put the nail in the coffin of over a hundred firms that were already struggling financially, forcing the individual partners to liquidate.”

Nick Hamilton to Join Oakley
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Nick Hamilton to Join Oakley

Oakley Capital Management Limited appointed Nick Hamilton, Head of Institutional Business at Colonial First State in Sydney to work in its retail asset management business.

Prior to joining Colonial First State, Nick spent nine years as Head of Global Equity Products at Invesco Perpetual.

The appointment follows the news that Craig Newman, former Head of Sales at Invesco Perpetual has joined Oakley Capital Management as Head of Retail Asset Management.

Craig Newman said: “Nick brings a wealth of experience in growing assets, building businesses and leading teams. Nick shares our vision of building a market leading asset management business of the future.”

Oakley Capital Management is providing the infrastructure which will allow the team to manage retail and institutional clients’ money from the beginning of May 2014. This transitional arrangement will provide an environment in which the team can have the autonomy and flexibility to best serve the interests of clients’ money immediately after Neil Woodford’s employment with Invesco terminates on 29th April 2014.

Exact details about the firm and its offerings will follow in due course, but Neil Woodford’s unconstrained, fundamental and disciplined approach to investing will remain the same.