Category: Banking

Castle Hall Alternatives
BankingTransactional and Investment Banking

Castle Hall Alternatives

Castle Hall Alternatives helps investors build comprehensive due diligence programs across hedge funds, private equity and long only portfolios. Built upon Castle Hall’s next generation online diligence architecture, OpsDiligence® assists institutions, fund of funds, advisors, endowments and family offices evaluate whether or not asset managers meet operational best practice. We caught up with the firm’s seasoned professional, Christopher J. Addy, to find out more about the industry’s largest and most experienced teams, and their unique position in the market

Who are your clients?
Castle Hall works with institutional and private Investors, including public and private pension plans, sovereign wealth funds, financial services firms, endowments, foundations, family offices and multi-family offices, as well as advisors to these institutional and private investors.

What sets your company apart from other?
OpsDiligence® – Castle Hall’s award-winning, proprietary operational due diligence client portal, combined with one of the industry’s largest and most experienced teams, contribute to the firm’s unique position in the market. Castle Hall remains with no conflicts within our work, because we are only engaged by allocators, not managers. Furthermore, we provide clients with the flexibility to request reviews across all asset classes and investment types, without constraint to a pre-set list of funds or managers.

What are the biggest challenges facing the company at present?
Castle Hall continues to grow capacity and product and service lines, so maintaining the firm’s growth and meeting the evolving needs of our clients is the top priority for us..

Looking to the future, what is the most important aim for the business?
Castle Hall Alternatives seeks to provide operational due diligence services and platforms that allow allocators and investment advisors to focus their time and efforts on value-added analysis of data, rather than on the data gathering and presentation process.

69% of Customers Demand Innovation from Banks
BankingTransactional and Investment Banking

69% of Customers Demand Innovation from Banks

While 69% say it is important to have an innovative bank only 12% of consumers surveyed fully agreed that their bank is innovative. Additionally, out of the respondents Interested in new technology 33% of customers are ready to switch banks for the latest technologies.

Consumers are willing to share more data such as their personal information in exchange for clearly identified benefits. Interestingly, the results showed the generation gap might not be as large as we would expect. Remarkably, the openness to sharing more data holds across generations, i.e. in the whole 18-75 age range. According to Forrester, the typical company only tags 3% of their data and only analyses 0.5%. Most companies are throwing away 99.5% of their leverage with the customer.

“This highlights a lack of engagement on the customer side as well as a lack of added value on the bank’s side,” said Dr David Andrieux from Sopra Banking. “From the findings, customers are happy to switch if they find better offerings demonstrating that playing it safe is the riskiest strategy of all.”

Despite the 2008 financial crisis, trust and customer satisfaction levels are remarkably high at 82% and 85% respectively and 90% of consumers have no immediate intention to move banks.

However, they are also open to change, willing to share more data and interested in new technology. Only 12% of customers agree that their bank is different from other banks while 33% ‘somewhat agree’.

This figure varies between countries and although Spanish banks are amongst the most innovative banks in Europe, Spanish customers are more demanding and less satisfied with their banks.

78% of respondents consider it to be important to have an innovative bank and 58% are ready to switch to a bank providing the latest technologies. “Perhaps, once people get a taste of the possibilities enabled by modern thinking and technologies, they can’t get enough,” explained Dr David Andrieux from Sopra Banking. Interestingly, it was evident from the findings that technology and innovation is important not just for the younger generation (18-24), but also for the whole 18-44 age range.

Traditional banks are losing their appeal. Customers are looking for something more or something different with 54% of banking customers open to choosing a ‘non-traditional’ bank such as Pure Online Banks, Ethical Banks, Community Banks and a New Twist on the traditional bank.

The interest of customers in peer-to-peer (P2P) lending and crowdfunding is significant, with 21% and 27% respectively proving of interest.

Alternative finance now constitutes a sizeable market, especially in the UK, but increasingly so in other EU countries. Despite remaining questions regarding its profitability, the European alternative finance market as a whole grew by 144% – from €1,211m in 2013 to €2,957m in 2014.

To Summarise
– ‘Traditional banks are losing their appeal’
– ‘There is a lack of engagement on the customer side as well as a lack of added value on the bank’s side’
– ‘Consumers across countries and age ranges are open to personal data sharing’
– ‘The Spanish and young customers have higher expectations regarding banking technologies’

Banks must innovate and create value for their customers through exciting nonconventional products and initiatives that use a platform designed for the digital age. For example, offering a digital wallet management platform, in which banks can integrate services from third-parties.

The whitepaper can be downloaded here.

Brexit Vote a near-term Negative for US Banks
BankingTransactional and Investment Banking

Brexit Vote a near-term Negative for US Banks

Erik Oja said:

“We now see a further decline in long-term U.S. interest rates, a stronger US Dollar, and low probability that the Fed will raise short-term rates in the foreseeable future. This will further pressure net interest margins at banks, and lead to lower oil prices – with negative credit effects on bank’s energy lending.

“Banks have increasingly moved towards an asset-neutral position, as few are willing to risk being asset sensitive precisely because of days like today. They cannot justify an asset-sensitive balance sheet to regulators. Also, net interest margins move slowly, over time, and not in lockstep with U.S. long term rates. We expect the next several days to be as turbulent as other major market shocks of the last 15 years: September 11, the Lehman bankruptcy in 2008, the 2011 U.S. debt downgrade from AAA to AA , and the 2015 China slowdown.

“Once the dust settles, investors will have a clearer view as to the longer-term effects of Brexit. We expect the Fed to tread very carefully with interest rates, and to support the markets, possibly with additional QE programs. However, we do not subscribe to the most dire predictions we have heard about Brexit. The Brexit vote merely sets in motion a long and complicated process of extricating the U.K. from the European Union. We have no idea of how negotiations will proceed, and how much leverage the U.K. will have.

“Separately, the Fed released the quantitative stress test results yesterday, and all 33 participating banks passed. This means they would hypothetically be able to maintain their capital ratios at a level of at least 4.5%, even after a hypothetical economic firestorm of 10% unemployment, negative interest rates, deflation, etc.

“This year the largest banks did surprisingly well, following last year’s results, in which they had a tough capital markets test. The regional banks did not fare as well this year, as they had a difficult test with negative interest rates. Next week will be the more interesting CCAR results, where banks will reveal whether or not the Fed approved their capital plans to buy back additional shares and raise their dividends.”

Written by Erik Oja – S&P Global Market Intelligence.

Economic Resurgence in Vietnam
BankingTransactional and Investment Banking

Economic Resurgence in Vietnam

As Managing Partner of HLG-Thailand and South East Asia, I am currently focusing on three countries, namely, Vietnam, Thailand, and Myanmar. What I have found is that Vietnam has become one of the main, if not the main focus, of the South-East Asia region. The country has developed an open-up climate for foreign direct investment (FDI), having access to the status of full member of the World Trade Organization in 2007, and becoming a key actor of the ASEAN Declaration.

More than ever before, the Vietnamese economy has turned toward an attractive climate, boosting FDI through the elimination and reduction of tariff barriers and import and export duties. Last December, the government finalised an agreement with the EU which will implement a free trade area and break down a lot of barriers for the trade of goods between these two economies. The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is also seen as a business facilitator, although the agreement is not yet in force.

Moreover, the cities’ landscapes have changed over the past two decades, and keep on changing, with industrial zones and modern infrastructures continuing to expand the investment territory. For instance, in the year 2016, the FDI forecasts that the numbers shall not be less than the two previous years. This means an expected total amount of investment of at least USD 20.2 billion. For the corporate side, setting-up a business has been facilitated by the Vietnamese Licensing Authorities. The incorporation procedures for foreign invested companies now enjoy a shorter timeframe, with more transparency and less paperwork. As a result, the system has become much more efficient. As a company practicing in a foreign environment, we are required to understand both global and local issues. As such, HLG is the only foreign law firm which has an office in Da Nang City (on top of our Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City branches). This gives us the leverage to advise with a practical point of view on the seizing of business for both local and international clients, spanning from the creation of a company to cross border transactions, including strategic partnerships.

When dealing with clients, our process is quite simple. We understand that clients want solutions and options, which is why we always aim towards one direction: setting clients’ minds at ease. Understanding clients, their needs, and advising them with a ‘to the point’ perspective is at the heart of everything we do. As a company working in an industry that is always evolving, we are constantly on the lookout for any emerging trends and developments. We firmly believe that change is necessary in a competitive environment, and we constantly react and adapt to any changes that come along the way. In order to remain at the forefront of our industry, we stick to the principles that underpin our company. HLG stands for efficiency, flexibility, integrity and imagination.

Furthermore, being integrated into the cultures of the countries we operate in constitutes one of our core strengths, and we do not see borders, but only possibilities. Another important aspect of our ethos is that we are a very people-orientated business. We find that there is no better reward than clients choosing our firm for a specific service, and them coming back to us with other projects. Governments also play a decisive role through endorsing and recognizing HLG on cross-border investment issues. Lastly, but certainly not least, our success is largely due to a team you can trust and rely upon. HLG team is composed of reputable lawyers with solid experiences in the fields we operate in, and who are from different horizons. We firmly believe that to adapt and find the best path to realize any project you must be accompanied by a partner you can fully trust. One of HLG’s notable successes has been receiving the Investment Immigration Law Firm in 2014 from the Asian Legal Business (ALB) and the IAIR Award in 2016 in Hong Kong.

Company: Harvey Law Group Vietnam

Name: Bastien Trelcat

Web: www.harveylawcorporation.com

Leading the FinTech Challenge
BankingTransactional and Investment Banking

Leading the FinTech Challenge

Advanced Payment Solutions Limited, trading at APS financial (APS) is not a bank, but a regulated digital banking services provider that has been leading the FinTech challenge to banks for more than 10 years. As a company, APS provide current accounts to SMEs and consumers, along with credit propositions which are alternatives to traditional bank accounts.

At APS, we do not believe in barriers, we aim to provide a simple and smart answer to payment and banking services that meet the needs of the modern day, digitally savvy customer. From our consumer and business debit cards to currency cards and alternative lending products, we are changing the very nature of how financial services work.

In regards to APS’s client base, many of them are just like us, in the sense they are start-ups and early entrepreneur organisations with a great idea. One of the foremost things on their mind is getting a business bank account, which in our current environment, is time-consuming and challenging in the UK. SMEs can specifically get a current account with us within five minutes, as opposed to travelling to an actual branch, they can have a similar account. Everything we do as a company is digital and online, which we believe gives the end-user a superb customer experience.

The leadership figures within APS play a crucial role behind driving innovation, by providing products to businesses and consumers which will allow them to thrive, without too much understanding of the idiosyncrasies of the workings of a traditional bank account.

When it comes to FinTech, the one differentiator we have is that APS are payment experts, and it is the strong leadership and expertise at the senior level that really understands the payment ecosystem. While a lot of people in the industry have great ideas, we compliment it with a rich knowledge of how the payment ecosystem works. The payment environment is a complex one, indeed without the 20-30 years’ experience of understanding the benefits of the ecosystem that we operate in, we cannot create those innovations and really deliver them without our undoubted expertise.

As CEO of APS, I believe you should always try and hire people who are smarter than you. We try to take the democracy out of our decision making and apply a flat, collaborative approach as we believe that we are all equal in delivering our service to the end-user. Providing every member of staff with the knowledge of how well or poorly the company is performing is something I have done every single month since operations began, this gives them a sense of inclusion as part of the company’s success.

At the beginning of my career, I was a customer service representative for one of the largest banks in the United States, which really grounded me with some very early views of the customer experience in the financial services industry. Everything I learnt here, I took on board as I completed my graduate degree in Business Analytics. I was very interested in taking data and turning it into information, so this is something I did early in my career by building one of the largest SQL databases at Visa.

At Providian, they were looking to expand internationally, and back then I was part of a team of five individuals who started up a monoline credit card operation. As chief operations officer for Providian, I was very much embedded into the payment ecosystem, which really provided me with a tremendous foundation for understanding how an effective organisation works. We built a huge portfolio and sold it at one of the largest premiums to Barclaycard in 2002.

Although I enjoyed a brief period at Barclaycard, I felt an entrepenurial need to start APS as I identified a big gap in the market for products which meet the needs of customers who were very dissatisfied with their banking services. Over the last 11 years, APS financial has gone from strength to strength, making it one of the leading non-banks in the UK today.
As a company, not only do we have to build our own business, but APS also has to keep the regulatory environment aligned to the needs of nonbanks.

We are proving every day that we can provide banking products without being licensed as a bank. Although regulated ourselves, it has always been the case that banks have certain advantages over ourselves.

APS constantly find ourselves driving the industry, in order to create a level playing field which will allow all non-banks the opportunity to have access to payment ecosystems and leverage those, so that customers can receive similar if not better products than traditional banks offer.

At present, the biggest challenge for APS is hiring the right talent and skillsets which will allow us to grow as a company. As we are growing fast, trying to find and retain the right talent to ensure that we have the best systems to manage the servicing and support of these customers, is crucial. We hope to continue these innovations, so we can achieve the rapid growth rates we have witnessed during recent years.

APS’s success has proved that you do not need to be a traditional bank in order to provide banking services. Since our inception, we have seen a lot of challenger banks come in and get a lot of publicity, but we have proved there are many ways in which you can provide a better product without the burden and costs of being a traditional bank. Going forward, if we can continue to thrive as a company and maintain our reputation in the industry as a leader in digital banking services, then we are confident our future will be a positive one.

Company: APS financial (APS)
Name: Rich Wagner
Email: [email protected]roup.com
Web Address: www.apsfinancial.co.uk
Address: Cottons Centre, Cottons Lane, London SE1 2QG
Telephone: 44 (0)203 535 7100

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Stocks and Shares ISAs Explained: Essential Knowledge for 2016
BankingTransactional and Investment Banking

Stocks and Shares ISAs Explained: Essential Knowledge for 2016

However, stocks and shares ISAs remain quite complicated to understand. In this post, we take a look at everything you need to know about stocks and shares ISAs.

What is a Stocks and Shares ISA?

You can split your £15,240 allowance between a stocks and shares ISA and a cash ISA. Or you can select one or the other for your entire investment. A stocks and shares ISA is very different to a cash ISA. Whereas a cash ISA is simply a savings account you don’t pay tax on, in a stocks and shares ISA, you’re actually investing. This could be in anything from corporate and government bonds to shares.

In a stocks and shares ISA, your money is invested into ‘qualifying investments’. With some companies who offer stocks and shares ISAs, you can also get flexible ISAs. This allows you to withdraw some of the money in your account and reinvest it at a later date.

Are They Tax Free?

Unlike a cash ISA, a stocks and shares ISA isn’t tax free. Instead, it’s tax efficient.

You don’t pay capital gains tax on gains made within an ISA. However, you only pay capital gains tax on any investment when you make total gains of over £11,100 anyway, so this is only useful if you exceed this allowance.

Is Investing Right for Me?

The decision about whether to invest in a stocks and shares ISA is one that only you can make. Due to the fact that the value of investments can go up as well as down, you do stand a chance of losing money as well as making it.

Although historically stocks and shares have outperformed cash ISAs, there’s no reason to believe that this will always be the case, especially with current volatility. Poor Chinese economy figures as well as a potential Brexit and the election of a new US President mean that there’s a lot of market turbulence at present.

If you do decide to give a stocks and shares ISA a go, then you should consider sticking with it for the long term. Market turbulence generally seems to even out over long periods, so if you keep your ISA for 3-5 years you should get an accurate reflection of your investment.

Oxford Business Adviser Challenges Bank of England Ahead of EU Referendum
BankingTransactional and Investment Banking

Oxford Business Adviser Challenges Bank of England Ahead of EU Referendum

Jonathan Russell, Partner at UK200Group member firm ReesRussell, a Witney based business accountancy and advice firm, has commented on how an ‘in’ or ‘out’ vote will affect small businesses in the UK.
Jonathan Russell said:

“Uncertainty is the key word. At the moment we have uncertainty over what the vote in the referendum might bring. If the vote is to remain, then there will be a period of uncertainty as to what fall out there might be in government for those MP’s who supported the leave vote and the continuing uncertainty of the EU itself, with other countries suggesting disquiet as well.”

“It is campaigns such as the UK200 Group’s Campaign for Clarity, which might hopefully bring better balance to the information.”

The UK200 Group is the UK’s leading membership association of quality-assured independent chartered accountancy and law firms, they are concerned that the country would be likely to face a long period of uncertainty if it left the EU, which would dampen demand and impact on UK assets. Acknowledging that the coming months will be a challenging time for small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs), the UK200 Group has launched its Campaign for Clarity to help SMEs understand the impact of an ‘in’ or ‘out’ vote.

The UK200Group itself has no political bias and its members seek to provide guidance and advice to the SME community – a group whose importance to the UK economy cannot be understated.

Collectively, the group’s members support over 150,000 SMEs, many of whom are already asking their accountants and lawyers how a ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ vote will affect their businesses

The UK200Group is aiming to educate and inform a large number of business leaders across a wide range of industries, so has launched a campaign to clarify the views of both sides.

Central to the project will be a live-streamed debate between high-profile members of the ‘In’ and ‘Out’ campaigns at Coventry University London Campus, University House, 109-117 Middlesex St, London E1 7JF from 4.30PM to 6.30PM (debate itself 5.00PM to 6.00PM) on 11 May.

The debate will be chaired by leading futurologist and author Dr James Bellini, who spent 25 years in the broadcasting industry presenting programmes such as The Money Programme, Newsnight and Panorama, and as a studio presenter with Financial Times Television and Sky News. James’ experience in using the perspectives of history to explore possible futures will give him unique insight to the Campaign for Clarity debate.

Yvette Cooper MP will make the case for remaining in the EU. One of the most respected members of the Labour Party and a former Shadow Home Secretary, Yvette is the Member of Parliament for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford.
Lucy Thomas, Deputy Director of Britain Stronger in Europe, will also be arguing the case for continuing our membership of the EU.

Making the case for exiting the EU will be David Davis MP, the Member of Parliament for Haltemprice & Howden, and an important and consistent voice at the right wing of the Conservative Party.

Douglas Carswell MP, Member of Parliament for Clacton, is also arguing the case for Brexit. Douglas was the first elected member of the UK Independence Party, in a by-election triggered by his high-profile defection from the Conservative Party in 2014.

Although the UK200Group remains impartial and unbiased, a poll of its members’ views will be taken before and after the debate, giving a unique indication of the success of the speakers’ arguments and the views of the UK SME community.

This will officially launch the UK200Group’s referendum survey, which will continue to provide real-time analysis of the changing views of SME leaders in the UK. It will continue until the referendum on 23 June.

James Abbott, President of the UK200Group, said, “As a membership association and a mutual organisation, we are committed to providing non-partisan information to our members and their clients.

“We represent two of the most trusted groups of professionals in the world of business: solicitors and accountants. At the moment, many of them are being quizzed by worried clients about the consequences of a ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ outcome.
“The Campaign for Clarity debate, featuring some of the leading proponents of both campaigns, will clarify the key messages of the ‘In’ and ‘Out’ camps and discuss how SMEs will be affected by either outcome.

“The survey will act as an early barometer of SMEs’ feelings towards the referendum, and will be extremely interesting.”
The UK200Group, which was established in 1986, represents a group of trusted, quality-assured business advisers – accountants and lawyers – who have over 150,000 SME clients in total. As such, the UK200Group acts as the voice for 1,500 charities, over 10% of all registered academies, more than 3,700 farms, 800 healthcare businesses and over 500 property and construction professionals.

Where: Coventry University London Campus, University House, 109-117 Middlesex St, London E1 7JF
When: 4.30PM to 6.30PM (debate itself 5.00PM to 6.00PM) on 11 May

Scottish Friendly Reacts to Interest rate Announcement
BankingTransactional and Investment Banking

Scottish Friendly Reacts to Interest rate Announcement

Bennie added:

“Continued global economic uncertainty means this long period of record low interest rates is going to get even longer which is grim news for cash savers. While macro-economic decisions may be out of our control, creating a diversified savings portfolio is an option, savers can take to regain control their financial future.

“Stocks and shares ISAs offer the opportunity to grow money over the long-term, and although risk is attached, savers need to have these products on their radar in order to be able to gain from the returns they can offer.”

Decade of Change” for cash Puts Modernisation at top of Agenda
BankingCash Management

Decade of Change” for cash Puts Modernisation at top of Agenda

Graham Levinsohn, G4S Regional CEO, commented on a “fundamental transition in the use of cash across Europe” which requires “root and branch reform” of how cash is processed by countries in Europe. His comments follow the publication of a landmark report by the Group examining cash use across 28 European economies.

The report finds that the volume of cash transactions across Europe continues to increase, having previously doubled every ten years. Concurrently the proportion of all payments made by cash has fallen, with 40% of payments across the EU now made by card, electronic and digital payments.

In addition:
• The volume of cash in circulation has increased 11% per annum up to 2015 with cash now making up 60% of all payment transactions;
• ATM withdrawals, which are a good indicator of cash spending, increased 14.6% between 2009- 2014, representing an increase in value of €2.188 bn;
• In eight European countries, non-cash payments now make up a greater proportion of transactions than cash;
• The total volume of non-cash payments has increased to 102.3 billion transactions.

Commenting on the report, Graham Levinsohn called on the cash industry to work together to modernise cash:

“What we are experiencing is a fundamental transition in the use of cash across Europe. European consumers and businesses will continue to use cash as part of a multi-payment economy. But we need to modernise how they can use it.

“The cash supply chain is highly fragmented across Europe which creates chronic inefficiency. In the most extreme cases cash could be counted up to 17 times from till to bank. However even in less extreme examples, the same cash is handled and counted multiple times as it is transferred between parties in the cash cycle. This creates an unnecessary cost burden on businesses and banks alike.

“We must work together to drive root and branch reform by streamlining and simplifying the cash cycles of Europe, creating fewer transfers between actors and consequently less duplication of effort. Significant cost efficiencies can be driven through the cash cycle so that cash remains a cost-effective payment mechanism into the future.”

Leading a call to action Graham Levinsohn urged the industry to work with the banking sector, central banks and policy makers to create this modern lean cash cycle. Challenges outlined include:

• Shortening the cash cycle: reducing participants, processes, resources and funding from till to bank;
• Realising earlier value: ensuring cash value is credited earlier;
• Reducing the cost of cash: minimising handling and processing costs for cash;
• 21st century cash: better interface with electronic and digital payment methods.

Don't Know your PSA from your ISA? Savers are Missing out due to Confusion
BankingTransactional and Investment Banking

Don’t Know your PSA from your ISA? Savers are Missing out due to Confusion

Of the 2,000 people surveyed, almost half (47%) said they are confused by the rules associated with ISA accounts, over two fifths (44%) said they didn’t know what the maximum amount is they could put into an ISA and over a third (36%) didn’t know what the new Personal Savings Allowance (PSA) was.

The research revealed a clear lack of understanding on the savings landscape, one in five people admitted they didn’t save at all (19%), with one in ten of this group stating it is because they don’t understand enough about the different types of savings products (10%).

The research also shows that it’s not just savings rules that are confusing the nation, a fifth (22%) stated they didn’t know how ISA differed from standard savings accounts, and surprisingly one in ten (10%) said they didn’t even know what the acronyms ISA or PSA stood for.

Kris Brewster, Head of Products at Skipton Building Society, says:

“It is clear from our research that the nation is confused when it comes to saving. With the different types of savings accounts out there it seems that this confusion is not only preventing people from making the most of their tax free savings options, for one in ten, it’s a barrier to saving – full stop.

“And with the introduction of the new PSA this week and the Lifetime ISA, which the government has introduced to encourage people to save for the future, we believe these will add only more confusion and concern for consumers. The savings landscape is becoming too complicated, especially with multiple types of ISA products.

“At Skipton Building Society, we’d encourage the government to think about really helping savers by ending tax on all savings interest, and in doing so, abolishing the need for ISAs, putting an end to this confusion and creating a nation of lifetime savers.”

The Age of Saving

It seems the younger generations are the more savvy when it comes to savings knowledge, as half of the people surveyed aged 18 – 24 knew what a PSA was, compared to the 74% of people aged 45 plus who didn’t.
Over 80% of people aged 45 and over said they were not clear if they could invest in multiple ISA during each tax year. And 40% of this age group didn’t know what the maximum amount is that they could put into an ISA.

Kris Brewster added “To help our customers at Skipton, we’ve created a whole range of helpful content available through our branches and online at our Savings Hub, available at www.skipton.co.uk/savings

“Here savers can find easy-to-digest information and bust some of the common myths around products like ISAs to help them to make informed decisions about the best way to plan for life ahead and make the most of their savings.”

Saving Confusion across the Nation

The research showed some regional variations when it came to savings knowledge across the nation, with over half (53%) of people in Yorkshire and the Humber admitting they didn’t know what the ISA rules are.

When compared to any other region, more people in the South West didn’t know what the acronym ISA stood for and over two fifths (46%) didn’t know what the PSA was.

Over a fifth (21%) in the North West said they were confused on what the actual difference is between an ISA and PSA

Scottish Friendly says Fears over Lifetime ISA are Overblown
BankingTransactional and Investment Banking

Scottish Friendly says Fears over Lifetime ISA are Overblown

Neil Lovatt, Product Director at Scottish Friendly said: “I for one am very excited about the possibilities for resetting the long-term savings and investment landscape for a new generation of savers. I just hope that the industry responds as positively and doesn’t fall back on its usual conservative response led by systems limitations rather than imagining the possibilities ahead.”

Scottish Friendly calls on the Government to allow employers to contribute to the Lifetime ISA so that if young people do take the plan out as a means of saving for their retirement, they will not be disadvantaged or forced to go along the pensions route of saving.

Some commentators have bemoaned what they say are onerous conditions attached to the Lifetime ISA, including the tracking of different investment pots if any are cashed in. Scottish Friendly says that dealing with small pots is not difficult and that the conditions of the Lifetime ISA are not especially challenging.

Lovatt also remarked: “With a clever bit of product engineering, providers should be able to offer clients both accounts. Indeed, by linking accounts this will allow clients to feed from their standard ISA to their lifetime ISA.”

The Abundance ‘Innovative Finance ISA’ to Launch on April 6th
BankingTransactional and Investment Banking

The Abundance ‘Innovative Finance ISA’ to Launch on April 6th

The Abundance ISA will initially pay investors a return of 2% p.a. on money paid in from April 6th, through to October. Then, the customer will choose which renewable energy project(s) available on the platform they would like to invest in, and receive an effective rate of return of between 6% and 9%*, depending on the project. The October date is controlled by Government legislation and is subject to confirmation.

All returns paid to Abundance ISA investors will be free of any personal liability to income or capital gains tax, increasing the financial benefit of their Abundance investments by 20, 40 or 45%, depending on the customer’s marginal rate of income tax.

Bruce Davis, cofounder and joint MD of Abundance said:

“The Innovative Finance ISA is a very exciting product, offering ISA buyers a much-needed risk/return middle ground between the very low returns paid by Cash ISAs and the wild volatility of global markets offered in Stocks and Shares ISAs. More than this, our product is the ‘Nicer ISA’, offering unique ‘win win’ investments that pay attractive returns every six months at relatively low risk, while creating something good for the environment and society.

“The new ISA wrapper means that Abundance investors will enjoy even better returns in their pockets because of the tax breaks, encouraging them to invest even more in the better future that our projects contribute towards. The latest Great British Money Survey confirms that more than 2/3rds of adults in the UK want to get a decent return on their investments but without harming our future, so there is huge latent demand for this proposition.

“Given that previous years’ Cash ISAs and Stocks & Shares ISAs can also be transferred into an Abundance ISA, this new product could do wonders for the thousands of investors needing a more diversified portfolio whilst unleashing a massive movement of money from holdings doing little or nothing for the UK, into projects vital for growth in our real economy and for the future of our environment.”

Abundance will be one of the very first P2P investment platforms able to accept money into its IFISA come April 6th, as it appears to be the only provider to have obtained the necessary regulatory approval from the FCA in time.

Bruce Davis said:

“Being first into the IFISA market has been a five year journey that started back in 2009 before we launched, when we chose to pursue a regulated route to market. A costly two year process with the regulator followed to gain authorisation and made Abundance the very first regulated P2P platform in the UK. Five years on it makes sense and seems appropriate that the Abundance platform is set to offer the first IFISA available.

“We want to see more providers offering the IFISA very soon, but you can never underestimate the challenges of becoming authorised and the high level of scrutiny with which the regulator treats each application.”

Investment in projects offered by Abundance – whether to be held in the Abundance ISA or Pension wrappers or not – is made through the purchase of Debentures. These are official ‘IOUs’ that commit to pay returns on top of the original capital. Payments are likely to be made to the investor twice yearly, with each made up of a small part of the original capital invested and part return, so that by the end of the term, all capital has been repaid, along with the return. Returns will be paid throughout the term, but investors wishing to cash in early can sell their holdings on to others via the Abundance website at no additional cost. Effective rates of return will vary across the different projects, and over time in each project.

Bankruptcy Consolidation bill Passes Stage 3
BankingTransactional and Investment Banking

Bankruptcy Consolidation bill Passes Stage 3

The Bill captures all of the amendments made to the primary legislation governing bankruptcy in Scotland – the Bankruptcy (Scotland) Act 1985 – as well as new laws brought in since, including the Bankruptcy and Debt Advice (Scotland) Act 2014, which came into force in April 2015.

Business Minister Fergus Ewing said:

“Policy officials from Accountant in Bankruptcy have worked with the Scottish Law Commission, which published a consultation paper on consolidating bankruptcy legislation in 2011 and has led the process of drafting the Bill, to bring these proposals before Parliament.

“The consolidation exercise has been warmly received by the money advice and insolvency industry.

“By consolidating all of the various elements of legislation in one place, the Bill will make bankruptcy policy more accessible, both for the money advice community and those experiencing financial difficulties.”

The Bankruptcy (Scotland) Bill is only the second ever piece of primary consolidation legislation to pass through the Scottish Parliament, following the Salmon and Freshwater Fisheries Consolidation Act 2003.

The passing of the Stage 3 motion signals the completion of the parliamentary process and it is anticipated the measure will come into force towards the end of 2016, together with updated accompanying subordinate legislation, subject to receiving Royal Assent.

Background
Accountant in Bankruptcy (AiB) is an Executive Agency of the Scottish Government with responsibility for administering the process of personal bankruptcy, administering the Debt Arrangement Scheme and recording corporate insolvencies in Scotland. www.aib.gov.uk

EBRD Channels €30 Million to Serbian SMEs via Komercijalna Banka
BankingTransactional and Investment Banking

EBRD Channels €30 Million to Serbian SMEs via Komercijalna Banka

The Bank will extend a three-year loan of €30 million to Komercijalna Banka, the second-largest bank in Serbia by assets, who will then on-lend to its SME clients across the country, with a focus on rural areas and regions outside the capital.

The transaction will help to diversify Komercijalna Banka’s funding base, enable continued liquidity in the SME loan market and promote private sector investment and economic recovery.
The loan agreement was signed in Belgrade by the EBRD’s First Vice President, Phil Bennett, and the CEO of Komercijalna Banka, Alexander Picker.

Phil Bennett commented:

“SMEs are one of the key drivers of the economy in Serbia, and the EBRD’s cooperation with Komercjalna Banka, a market leader in SME financing, will promote a healthy SME sector in the country.”

Alexander Picker said:

“We have long considered SMEs to be one of the most dynamic segments in Serbia. In the upcoming period SMEs will take even greater priority and a share in Komercijalna Banka’s total portfolio. The loan agreement we have signed today will act as a double incentive. Firstly, we will have an even stronger source of funding under more favourable terms, and secondly, we will strengthen our cooperation with a world-renowned partner that is also our second largest shareholder. The EBRD’s decision to support SMEs proves that our business orientation and plans are correct. What is even more important is that the end-users of these loans will benefit most.”

To date, the EBRD has invested €4.2 billion in various sectors of the Serbian economy.

Scottish Friendly Calls for the Help to Save Scheme to include Access to Stocks and Shares
BankingTransactional and Investment Banking

Scottish Friendly Calls for the Help to Save Scheme to include Access to Stocks and Shares

Scottish Friendly, the savings and ISA provider, has called for the Help to Save Scheme, announced today by the Government, to include access to stocks and shares investments and not just cash.

Calum Bennie, Savings Expert at Scottish Friendly said:

“The announcement of the Help to Save Scheme is a welcome development for thousands of UK households on lower disposable incomes. Many people struggle to save simply because they don’t have enough left over after paying their bills. While the Government doesn’t exactly match contributions that lower earning workers will pay in, the Help to Save Scheme could provide a much needed boost to savers on lower incomes.

“The announcement is clearly a step forward for those who are in a position to put money aside for the future. However, we urge the Government to include access to stocks and shares investments as part of the scheme. Launching a Help to Save ISA would be a consumer friendly introduction to investment in what is a familiar investment vehicle. We shouldn’t just push people into cash and leave investment products for the wealthy and well-advised especially in the current environment of low interest rates and inflation eroding the value of cash over the long-term.”

Charities and Industry Experts warn Against a move to a “Pension ISA” System for saving
BankingTransactional and Investment Banking

Charities and Industry Experts warn Against a move to a “Pension ISA” System for saving

‘The Future of Private Pension Saving’ warns the Government against reforming the pensions system in a way which would disincentivise saving, in particular, arguing that switching to a ‘Pension ISA’ system where tax is paid upfront and income in retirement is received tax-free (known as a TEE or taxed-exempt-exempt system), would be highly damaging to saving.

The report highlights research that has shown that under a TEE system, employers would expect their staff to save less and would place a lower value on employer contributions. There is a very real risk that a TEE system would ‘kill’ pension saving, as people would not find the promise of tax exempt withdrawals forty year later to be credible.

Instead, the report concludes, the Chancellor should use this opportunity to encourage pension saving by reforming tax relief to make it fairer to lower earners, and explain the roles of both Government and employers in helping people to save.

The report, ‘The Future of Private Pension Saving’, makes a series of recommendations based on a discussion held between industry experts, consumer and business representatives on Monday 25th January in the House of Lords.

David Sinclair, Director at the International Longevity Centre – UK said:
“Despite the success of auto enrolment, too many younger people are saving far too little to give them a decent income in retirement. The Chancellor must ensure that future generations have access to the best incentives to support saving. We need long term savings policy, not one where the goal posts move from Budget to Budget. But developing a long term savings strategy to avoid future pensioner poverty will go far beyond tax incentives. Government needs to work with employers and savers to create this savings strategy. We must plan now for the long term.”

Caroline Abrahams Charity Director at Age UK commented:
“We fervently hope that all the talk about moving towards an ISA-style pensions system with contributions made after tax remains just that – talk: we are wholly unconvinced that such a scheme would benefit this or future generations and extremely worried that it could, in fact, put off lots of people from saving for a pension at all.”

“The stakes are extremely high: dignity in retirement for millions of people in this country depends on us having a good, well-functioning pension system, and we undermine that at our peril.”
Eminent US pensions expert David John, Senior Strategic Policy Adviser at the AARP (American Association of Retired Persons) presented evidence from the US experience, where TEE systems do not provide a savings incentive. He said:

“Evidence shows that only 15% of retirement savers are ‘active savers’, i.e. those who respond to tax subsidies and move their assets accordingly”.

The report also calls on the Government to maintain the existing system of tax relief up front and to consider other ways of incentivising private pension saving beyond the tax system.

Yvonne Braun, Director of Long Term Savings at the ABI added:
“There is a strong case for reform of the pension tax relief system to make it fairer and more sustainable. At present more than 70 percent of tax relief goes to higher earners. Moving to a single rate of tax relief, reframed as a Savers’ Bonus, would spread that more evenly, increasing the incentive to save for Basic Rate taxpayers.

“In contrast, a Pension ISA would damage the economy and lower savings, making it unsustainable given the UK’s looming demographic challenges.”

 

HSBC’s Relocation a 'Significant Boost for the Midlands'
BankingTransactional and Investment Banking

HSBC’s Relocation a ‘Significant Boost for the Midlands’, says UK’s Economic Secretary

The Economic Secretary was today the first government minister to visit the construction site of HSBC UK’s new 9.2 acre location – 2 Arena Central – and hailed the creation of up to 1,000 new financial services jobs in Birmingham and the significant boost to the Midland’s construction industry as a direct result of the move.

The relocation is partly seen as a result of new government legislation coming into force in 2019 requiring banks to separate their investment arms from their retail and business banking operations to offer more protection to consumers.
The Midlands is already the UK’s 4th biggest financial services hub, coming in slightly behind the South East and the North West, and HSBC’s relocation will bring the Midlands even closer to gaining the 3rd position.

The Economic Secretary to the Treasury, Harriett Baldwin said:

“HSBC’s decision to move 1,000 jobs from London to Birmingham is clear proof that the government’s plan to rebalance the economy is bearing fruit.

“The financial services industry in the Midlands is going from strength to strength and is great success story. It makes an important contribution to the local economy, employing around 210,000 people in total, a tenth of the entire financial services workforce.”

The Economic Secretary’s visit to the site is part of day long tour to the West Midlands where she is also visiting Aldermore challenger bank and Coventry Building Society, which are just two of the Midlands-based financial institutions adding to the Midlands’ pull as a financial services hub.

The Economic Secretary is undertaking a series of regional visits across the UK, including to Cardiff, York and Bristol, to showcase the huge growth opportunities available for financial services firms in regional hubs. A key aim for government is to encourage diversity in all aspects of financial services. This includes geographical diversification and more competition in the sector with the government introducing numerous measures to help challengers, such as Aldermore, compete with incumbent financial services firms.

Chief Executive at Aldermore, Phillip Monks said:

“We are delighted to welcome the Economic Secretary to Aldermore to see first-hand the support our expert team is providing to SMEs in Birmingham and across the West Midlands region. The majority of our SME customers are based outside London and the South East, and Aldermore aim to provide a range of lending services including working capital and funding for assets across a range of industries including manufacturing and construction.

“Ensuring small businesses, the backbone of the UK economy, receive the capital and support they need to grow is absolutely essential for the future of the UK economy, and this is something we aim to discuss at length with the Minister.”

While in Birmingham the Economic Secretary attended a roundtable with representatives from HSBC and RBS, as well as Birmingham University, to discuss skills, recruitment and apprenticeships in the financial services sector. The government has committed to reaching 3 million apprenticeships in England by 2020 and the Economic Secretary believes the financial services sector is crucial to delivering this commitment.

Economic Secretary to the Treasury, Harriett Baldwin said:
“It is great to see firms in Birmingham taking such a proactive approach to the development of talent and skills in the younger generation. Apprenticeships are hugely important for attracting a greater diversification to the financial services sector and for enhancing its broader reputation and standing.”

Bulge Bracket Banks Increased their M&A Advisory Market Share in 2015's Record-Breaking Merger Spree
BankingTransactional and Investment Banking

Bulge Bracket Banks Increased their M&A Advisory Market Share in 2015’s Record-Breaking Merger Spree

Thanks in large part to a surge in multi-billion-dollar deals, the nine ‘bulge bracket’ investment banks saw their share of the advised M&A market increase to 60% last year compared with 50% in 2014. The gains in share came at the expense of other banking categories, particularly boutiques and mid-market full-service banks.

J.P. Morgan Securities topped the bulge bracket category for the first time since 2013, advising on 26 deals valued at a total of $170bn, three times the deal value it advised in 2014. It also led sector-specific rankings for semiconductors, software, and systems and storage segments. The bank worked on each of the four largest transactions of the year, including a sell-side mandate for Broadcom in its $37bn sale to Avago and a buy-side mandate for Intel in its $16.7bn purchase of Altera. Among other bulge bracket firms, Bank of America leaped to second place from sixth last year while Credit Suisse took third and Goldman Sachs wound up in fourth place.

The 451 Research report, the Tech M&A Banking Review, provides analysis and league table rankings for banks advising technology M&A transactions involving US acquisition targets, excluding telecommunications.
Overall, a record-setting M&A market provided a bonanza for M&A advisory firms last year. Total value of US technology M&A that involved a financial adviser on at least one side of the deal increased 72% from 2014 to 2015, adding an additional $133bn in deal value (subject to advisory fees) across all banking segments.

Much of the increase in share for larger banks was due to a dramatic increase in very large transactions, which typically require the resources and scale that large financial players bring. Acquirers announced 13 acquisitions valued at more than $5bn in the core technology segment last year, a four-fold increase from 2014 and including five of the 10 largest domestic technology deals since 2002.

Apart from the bulge brackets, 189 other investment banking firms advised on at least one technology transaction last year. Evercore topped the charts in terms of advised deal value in the bulge boutique category, the name 451 Research has given to the handful of high-profile boutique investment banks that often challenge the bulge bracket players. Overall, bulge boutiques saw their market share drop one percent to 15% share of advised deal value. In the full-service midmarket banking category, RBC led the field while Moelis topped the list in advised deal value for the large boutique banking category. Boutiques saw the largest drop in share, falling from a 19% share in 2014 to a 12% share last year. Although these segments saw declines in market share, the burgeoning market of last year provided substantially more aggregate advisory work for all categories of banks.

About the report
The Tech M&A Banking Review 2015 report represents 451 Research’s rankings of M&A financial advisers for US technology deals for calendar year 2015. The report assists buyers and sellers in selecting M&A advisers based on their activity and experience in particular segments. The report ranks investment banks by total deal value advised, and by number of transactions. In addition to providing overall rankings of top advisers the report also ranks banks by their activity within software, Internet, IT services, mobility, information security, semiconductors and other segments. The report covers announced transactions involving US-based targets across all technology segments, not including telecommunications services. All acquisition data comes from 451 Research’s M&A KnowledgeBase, the industry’s only TMT-focused M&A database.

For a complimentary copy of this report click here.  

EBRD loan in Local Currency to First MicroCredit
BankingTransactional and Investment Banking

EBRD loan in Local Currency to First MicroCredit, Kyrgyz Republic

The loan, equivalent to US$ 1 million, will allow FMCC to expand its local currency lending, especially in rural areas where access to finance remains limited and local currency funding is constrained. Borrowing in local currency, rather than in dollars, will help small businesses and farmers who do not have income in hard currency avoid foreign exchange risk.

The EBRD three-year loan also comes at a time when medium-term local currency financing is very limited on the market.

FMCC is a well-established micro-finance institution with a strong presence in the Southern Osh and Naryn regions where a third of the total population of the country lives. The company is majority-owned by the Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development, an entity supporting projects and financing in several countries in Asia.

Stefan Martiniak, CEO of FMCC, said:

“We appreciate a long-standing partnership with the EBRD and its continuous support in providing us local currency funding, which is strongly needed in the current economic environment. We will be using the loan to fund our MSME clients, including those in primary agriculture, with the wider aim of supporting economic growth and poverty alleviation.”
To date, the EBRD has invested over €560 million in over 135 projects in the Kyrgyz Republic. Small business support is one of the Bank’s strategic priorities in the country.

Finance Minister Mervyn Storey Announces Regional Rate Freeze
BankingCash Management

Finance Minister Mervyn Storey Announces Regional Rate Freeze

The Assembly approved the Regional Rates Order 2016, which fixes the amounts of the regional domestic and non-domestic poundage used for the next financial year. For 2016-17, both the domestic and non-domestic regional rate in Northern Ireland will be frozen in real terms by uplifting it only in line with inflation by 1.7%.

The Minister commented:

“By freezing the regional rate in real terms for the sixth year in a row, the Executive has aimed to strike a balance between the needs of ratepayers during challenging economic times, and ensuring that public finances are sufficient to cover the priorities we have set ourselves.

“The rating system provides significant revenue for Northern Ireland each year, supplementing expenditure on our hospitals, roads, schools and other essential public services. In the next financial year, the domestic and non-domestic regional rate will raise in the region of £678million, which will go towards these vital services.”

Mervyn Storey continued:

“The real terms freeze in the regional rate alongside other measures taken by the Executive to alleviate some of the burden of rates, represents the best that we can do to balance the interests of both ratepayers and the demands of public expenditure.

“Keeping a lid on rate increases is something we can be proud of. Indeed, household rate bills in Northern Ireland remain the lowest in the UK by some considerable margin and this is testament to the Executive delivering for the people of Northern Ireland.”

From 1 April 2016, the domestic regional rate poundages will be set at 0.4111 pence in the pound on rateable capital value and the non-domestic rate will be set at 32.40 pence in the pound on net annual value

The regional rate represents just over half of the typical bill; the other half being made up of district rates, which are set independently by the district councils.

Following agreement by the Assembly, the Minister also announced the extension to two popular rate relief schemes – exemption for ATMs in rural areas and the empty shops concession.

The ATM exemption scheme was introduced with the objective of encouraging and sustaining the provision of ATMs in rural area.

The Minister said:

“ATMs play an important role in the sustainability of rural economies. In fact, research has shown that for every £10 withdrawn from one of these cash machines, almost two thirds is likely to be spent locally.

“We can all appreciate the difficulties that would be encountered in these communities from any measure that could lead to a reduction in the number of ATMs. By extending the scheme we can help to ensure that ATMs are retained in rural areas, providing greater access and support to these communities.”

The empty shops rates concession provides a one-year subsidy for new ventures occupying property that has been vacant for a year or more.

Mervyn Storey remarked:

“This scheme makes a real difference to new business start-ups and has now helped over 530 new ventures get up and running across Northern Ireland. It has helped bring previously disused properties in our town centres and arterial routes back in to use, helping to regenerate our high streets.

“By extending the scheme, we can help ensure that more empty commercial properties are brought back into use, improving the economic performance of our towns and creating jobs in communities right across Northern Ireland.”

Bacs Supports FinTech Company PFS to Become the First Non-Bank Entity to Enable Current Account Payment Switching
BankingTransactional and Investment Banking

Bacs Supports FinTech Company PFS to Become the First Non-Bank Entity to Enable Current Account Payment Switching

This service offering is a further example of the company’s widening prepaid banking services.

Five years ago the banking industry teamed up with the UK government to introduce the ‘faster switching rules’ which allow customers to switch their bank or building society accounts quickly. Named the Current Account Switch Service, it was launched in September 2013 and over 2.5 million switchers have now used the service. PFS has been the first non-bank participant to provide a partial version of the service, working directly with Bacs to enable customers to move their payment arrangements to their prepaid account in a simple, reliable and hassle-free way. PFS manages the whole process throughout, with the cardholder initiating the switch simply when they log into their online cardholder portal. The partial version provides complete transfer of payment arrangements, without closing the existing bank or building society account.

The service has been embraced by PFS, in response to demand from specific customer groups such as local authorities and would be ideal for HMRC or DWP payment arrangements. The product also provides a solution for Credit Unions and debt management companies to offer to their customers.

Benefits to local authorities

By using prepaid card accounts for direct benefit payments, many local authorities are already experiencing administrational benefits and efficiencies. Local authorities that now allow recipients to switch their benefit-related payments to that same prepaid card account, will also be better placed to monitor their benefits schemes overall. Specifically, ensuring an individual is spending their benefits payments appropriately by tracking them automatically, which reduces the need to rely on paper-based evidence supplied by the recipient themselves.

Many recipients include the elderly, the disabled and those with learning difficulties, so the roll out of a streamlined partial account switching service from PFS will also allow local authorities to improve their duty of care to these more vulnerable groups.

Noel Moran, CEO of PFS said:

“Switching regular care-related payments to a prepaid card account was previously a time consuming and overly-complicated process, but our new and completely automated system means that all of that headache is taken away – both for the local authority and the individual recipient. This is not simply FinTech for Fintech’s sake but it is solving a very real problem for real people.”

“Trust in high-street banks is low and individuals are realising the benefits of looking beyond the traditional options for their financial needs. With support from Bacs, PFS has become the first e-money issuer and non-bank entity to offer this partial account switching service and is recognition of our continued determination to offer the public and the financial services sector in the UK and Europe an alternative way to manage their money.”

Lebanon: An Economy of Resilience
BankingTransactional and Investment Banking

Lebanon: An Economy of Resilience

Jammal Trust Bank SAL draws its financial strength from conservative asset and liability management policies, as well as a high-quality asset profile and deposit base. With a proven track record spanning almost 50 years, JTB provides tailor-made, innovative financial products and services.

We have a large network of branches throughout Lebanon, primarily in para-urban areas, where JTB prides itself for being one of the few banks to support and serve Lebanon’s SME market through commercial lending thus contributing to economic growth and development rather than less productive financial instruments and government securities.

The other important characteristic distinguishing JTB is the fact that JTB’s client base includes major private sector corporations, financial institutions, multinational companies all active in the region and west African states which provides the Bank with protection from risk related exposure to single market. JTB has gained experience for project and trade finance and as a major player in the local syndicated loan market.

JTB enjoys a reputation among its versatile customer base and the market at large for delivering and ever improving a highly personal service and very quick responsiveness to our client’s needs. This reputation is merely a reflection of JTB’s core values and deep rooted philosophy articulated in its logo and motto, “We Speak Your Language”.

With significant improvements continuing across all major business activities, the Bank set in 2009 on a growth path which continues to fuel restructuring and expansion strategies. This exceptionally strong year-on-year advance reflects increases in both interest and non-interest earnings and a reduction in provisions for credit losses, demonstrating the success of JTB’s ongoing strategic initiatives, coupled with an effective and proactive management of risk. The results clearly depict the soundness of the Bank’s new retail banking strategy introduced a few years ago, focusing primarily on Lebanon and the Western African States, which has increasingly contributed to a diversification of a steadily growing flow of recurrent earnings. JTB continued to provide shareholders with enhanced returns, while maintaining favorable recognition from clients, counterparties, regulatory authorities, and market observers.

Despite the turmoil in the region, signs of economic improvement remains acceptable; coupled with a stable domestic performance has stimulated substantial vigor in JTB’s business since the introduction of its new retail strategy a few years back. As a result, there have been strong contributions across all major operating activities, enabling the Bank to achieve record levels in financial performance.

JTB’s prospects for the years ahead continue to look encouraging. This is supported not only by the promising economic and business environment, but also by JTB’s more balanced earnings profile, and an increased focus on marketing and new products and services’ development.

In addition, the demand for overall banking services is expected to increase as important structural reforms in the country’s financial infrastructure gather pace.

A major thrust on retail banking activities improved the sector’s contribution to the overall income of the Bank in the last three years through the implementation of a carefully formulated business development strategy that focuses on increased market penetration and product diversification. The Bank also expanded its capabilities in the provision of specialized lending to Small & Medium Enterprises (SMEs). The Bank maintained its active role in providing financing for the corporate sector as well.

JTB believes that there is ample room to further leverage the distinctive advantage it has, by enjoying a privileged access to niche markets both on-shore and off-shore. Such efforts will rest, as defined in the detailed Strategy and Business Plan, on adopting an all-inclusive approach to service large clients and to attract prospects.

In summary, client relationships will be viewed as a whole, with possibly an introduction to doing business with the Bank via documentary credit or other commercial banking facilities and graduating to a web of more complex intertwined services quickly rendering JTB an indispensable business and financial partner for the client and creating efficient and soft barriers to exit.

Service quality is the key element for the success of this approach and the Bank has developed a fully integrated system and processes for the purpose of delivering an ever improving relation based on purposeful contact, dynamic client profiling, focused determination on client needs, long-term inter-generational planning and total availability of the relationship manager of the Bank.

Amidst the economic regional conflicts, the Lebanese financial sector shows great resilience and has high hopes in a prompt economic recovery. Our faith in Lebanon, our sturdy abilities and our strong belief in the Central Bank astuteness boost our determination to keep developing all existing business lines, to expand our branches’ network and reinforce off-shore activities. Last but not least, continue to provide our stakeholders with enhanced returns while maintaining favorable recognition from counterparties, regulatory authorities and market observers.

Company: Jammal Trust Bank SAL
Name : JTB SAL
Email: [email protected]
Web Address: www.jtbbank.com
Address: Verdun Street, Beirut, Lebanon, P.O.Box 11-5640
Telephone: 00961 (1) 781999

Investing in Creating Access to Financial Services
BankingTransactional and Investment Banking

Investing in Creating Access to Financial Services

Impact Investing: Is There A Trade-off?
Generally speaking, impact investing can mean different things to different investors, and the field is still in the process of helping investors define it for themselves. As such, we need to move the conversation beyond the question of “trade-off.” In Bamboo Finance’s investment approach, profits do not have to be sacrificed for social and environmental impact. While this idea may sound counterintuitive, Bamboo Finance has proven that it is possible to maximize profits and achieve social and environmental benefits by investing expansion capital in companies providing access to essential goods and services for low to lower-middle income consumers in fast-growth markets.

Low-income households in frontier markets are already consumers of essential goods and services (healthcare, energy, financial services, agriculture for example), but they often pay dearly for very poor quality. These hundreds of millions of low-income consumers represent a significant market opportunity for companies that are able to design, produce and distribute quality and affordable products and services. Access to new and/or improved products and services can have an immediate positive impact on their quality of life. When investments are creating access to new and/or improved goods and services for low-income consumers, the social, environmental and economic impact can be intrinsically linked and profit and impact objectives can be achieved simultaneously.

Fiduciary Responsibility
It’s important to find an investment manager who views their fiduciary responsibility as a transparent and ongoing dialogue about how to achieve a shared vision of social, environmental impact and financial returns. At Bamboo Finance, our fiduciary responsibility begins with an investment thesis and strategy aiming to maximize total performance. We then align our incentives along social, environmental and financial dimensions and report on the performance of our portfolio quarterly. We also engage with external rating agencies to assess the social and environmental dimensions and participate in leading campaigns and initiatives in impact investing.

Progress and Potential
It has been close to eight years since the collapse of the financial markets, and progress has been evident. However, more investment capital is required to advance the movement and realise the potential of private capital as a force for positive change. Markets take time to build and yet the magnitude of the problems we collectively face today do not leave us with a lot of time.

Moreover, it is important to note that the impact investing is still in a nascent stage of market development with different sectors at various stages of evolution. Some sectors are ready for investments while others are testing the viability of business models. New models of financial services have emerged to reach the unbanked even faster and more affordably since its emergence. As such, financial services for low-income consumer  remains a high growth, high value and high impact sector. Access to clean energy, agriculture, and healthcare are also sectors in which there
is enormous potential for social and environmental impact globally. In our opinion, we would ask people to invest in this area right away.

Our Strategy
In terms of our investment strategy, we invest growth capital to build middle-market companies serving low-to-middle-income consumers. We deliver social and environmental value and provide attractive financial returns to investors. To date, Bamboo Finance manages 280M USD; representing a portfolio of more than 38 investments operating in 20 emerging market countries with a track record of demonstrated returns, and a portfolio of investments that have provided 16 million clients with access to services and created more than 20,000 jobs.

Our History
Established in 2007, Bamboo Finance was founded by Jean-Philippe de Schrevel alongside a team of microfinance pioneers who continue to forge new paths in impact investing. The vision of Bamboo Finance is to demonstrate that private capital can be profitably deployed as a tool for effective social and environmental change. The mission is to deliver attractive financial and social returns to investors by investing in growth companies that provide access to essential services for low-to-middle income consumers in emerging economies.

Our Philosophy
As for our philosophy, there are four key factors that underpin what we do at our company. Apply A“Total Return” Approach Firstly, we believe that it is important to acknowledge that there is a risk to doing business as usual, and this mentality has created significant societal and environmental costs. Until recently, the financial world has been governed by a simple two dimensional risk and return model, which no longer can be reconciled with the present day realities. There are social and environmental returns that ought to be included when making an investment and risks ought to be expanded to include the consequences on society and the planet.

Fund the Gaps
Secondly, it is central to our strategy that we ‘fund the gaps’. Investment opportunities have arisen as a result of rapid growth at the middle and higher end of many emerging economies thereby leaving an “access gap” for low and lower-middle income consumers. At Bamboo Finance, we believe that this gap can be bridged by investing in businesses that provide access to essential products and services. This includes primary care clinics, off-grid renewable energy systems and financial services companies serving small to medium-sized businesses as well as consumers.

Take a Long-Term View
Alongside these considerations, we firmly believe in partnering for many years and building long-term relationships with our clients. Deploying private equity allows us to engage deeply in the development of businesses as shareholders and board members and allows us to take a long-term view on growing value in the company.

Partnerships Are Essential
Last but not least, we place particular emphasis on leveraging the value of strategic partnerships, and the true value of strategic partnerships is yet to be realised in impact investing. Currently, large corporate involvement with impact investing tends to mirror traditional CSR grant-focused approaches. We believe the optimal role(s) of corporations is in incubating, catalysing, and investing.

Company: Bamboo Finance
Web Address: www.bamboofinance.com

AIMA calls for Regulatory Reforms to Support Non-Bank Finance
BankingTransactional and Investment Banking

AIMA calls for Regulatory Reforms to Support Non-Bank Finance

AIMA made the remarks in its response to the European Commission’s Call for Evidence on the EU regulatory framework for financial services, published in September last year.

In their response, AIMA says that capital market financing is more long-term and transparent, encourages greater innovation and discipline, which leads to better allocation of resources and economic growth. However, regulatory barriers still hinder capital markets and non-banking finance from developing further in the EU.

AIMA argues the case that rules should permit greater asset managers’ participation in securitisations in order to support the supply of finance to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). AIMA also puts forward the case that greater holding of financial assets by institutions and investors that can bear risk without the need for public support – such as investment funds – will improve financial stability.

The response addresses a number of other areas where AIMA believes that existing regulation is not achieving its intended policy objectives, highlighting:

• The need to consider carefully the reform of market infrastructure to support liquidity as agreed standards are implemented;
• The need to look again at regulatory reporting to ensure that supervisors are collecting the right data in the most effective way possible;
• The importance of finalising the EU internal market in fund distribution and opening this market to third country funds; and
• The need to review public short-selling disclosure requirements which has hurt equity market liquidity.

Jack Inglis, CEO of AIMA, said:

“We recognise that most of the regulatory measures introduced since the financial crisis were intended to address key policy concerns and market failures. Our members welcome the opportunity to be part of the review and evaluation of this new regulatory framework in order to ensure that the policy objectives are being met and, if not, to adjust the structure where necessary.”

 

Extension to CMA Retail Banking Market Investigation
BankingTransactional and Investment Banking

Extension to CMA Retail Banking Market Investigation

A working paper on the bank levy and corporation tax surcharge will also be published by the end of February followed, by the end of March, by an addendum to our provisional findings on capital requirements – following work to understand how differences in capital requirements for mortgage lending affect competition in retail banking.

Alasdair Smith, Chairman of the retail banking investigation, commented:

“Retail banking affects nearly every business and consumer in the UK, so this investigation and the measures that result from it are of vital importance to the whole economy.

“Our provisional findings identified a number of competition problems in both personal current account and small and medium-sized enterprise banking

“We published an initial list of possible remedies, and we are pleased that the consultation has generated a lively debate about how best to tackle the problems we have identified.

“A number of new suggestions have been made, including proposals aimed at achieving better outcomes for current account customers with overdrafts and the CMA wants to ensure that there is enough time to hear from interested parties and consider the options properly.

“We therefore expect that an extension will be necessary to give us a bit more time for analysis and consultation.

“However, we remain committed to concluding this investigation as quickly and efficiently as possible.”

Banc of California Reports Record 2015 Earnings
BankingTransactional and Investment Banking

Banc of California Reports Record 2015 Earnings

Pre-tax income for the full year 2015 was $104.3 million, an increase of 294% compared to full year 2014. Net income available to common shareholders for 2015 grew to $52.2 million, an increase of 97% compared to full year 2014.

Highlights for the fourth quarter included:
• Record quarterly core deposit growth of $540 million; including $110 million from non-interest bearing deposits.
• Record quarterly commercial banking segment loan and lease originations of $914 million; resulting in $2.8 billion for the full year.
• Full year 2015 total loan originations of $7.1 billion.
• Commercial Banking profits increased to 90% of total, fully allocated segment profitability with Financial Advisory finishing at 9% and Mortgage Banking falling to 1% for the quarter.
• The Company’s return on average assets for the quarter was 1.0%, and its return on average tangible common equity (ROTCE) for the quarter was 16.6%.
• The Company’s consolidated assets totalled $8.2 billion at December 31, 2015, an increase of $1.0 billion compared to the prior quarter, and an increase of $2.3 billion compared to a year ago.

Steven Sugarman, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer said: “Banc of California finished 2015 with accelerating growth and profitability across our businesses. Our return on tangible common equity over 15% and return on assets over 1% demonstrates the long-term earnings power of our franchise. Combining these returns with our industry leading growth continues to yield significant value creation for shareholders. Our strong results are a testament to the hard work and dedication of our talented employees, who as employee-shareholders take pride in the shared success in growing the long-term value of the franchise. I am also particularly proud that Banc of California ranked #1 for total shareholder return in 2015 of all west coast banks included on Forbes Magazine’s list of America’s Top 100 banks.”

The Company will host a conference call to discuss its fourth quarter financial results at 8:00 a.m. Pacific Time (PT) on Thursday, January 28, 2016. Interested parties are welcome to attend the conference call by dialing 888-317-6003, and referencing event code 4988712. A live audio webcast will also be available and the webcast link will be posted on the Company’s Investor Relations website at www.bancofcal.com/investor. The slide presentation for the call will also be available on the Company’s Investor Relations website prior to the call.

 

Real Return Investment Manager of the Year -2015 - UK
BankingTransactional and Investment Banking

Real Return Investment Manager of the Year -2015 – UK

Săl´tus (sal-) n. (L) a leap, step, jump – In 2004 Simon Armstrong and Jon Macintosh took a leap – to set up their own investment management company and to rethink some of the norms of the time resulting in these principles:

  • To bring investment management services to private clients that were then only available to very wealthy families and institutions
    To work within pre-determined risk limits so that more clients’ money can be returned over timethan they originally invested, whatever the market conditions
  •  To invest globally, across many assets classes, unconstrained by industry benchmarks. And as importantly, to choose not to invest in an asset class or investment strategy, if analysis demonstrates there is no merit
  • To search the world to find whom they believe to be the best investment specialists to invest/work with, many of whom are not accessible to UK investors
  •  To use plain English

 

Today, Saltus is an independently owned investment management company, currently managing assets of over £550m.

Our clients are private clients and family groups investing their pensions, trusts, investments and NISAs. Our clients come to us direct, typically through referrals from other clients or are introduced to us through financial advisers, solicitors, accountants and trustees.

We have a team of 30 people based in our offices in London, Manchester and Chichester.

Our investment objective is to preserve and grow wealth for our clients over time, irrespective of investing conditions. We do this through risk based, multi-asset class investing which is described in our investment approach below.

All portfolios are managed by the investment team.

Our investment approach

  •  As risk based, multi-asset investment managers we believe:
  •  
    Investing should be unconstrained with no built-in bias to any asset class. We
    do not copy or track a fixed benchmark and we are free to choose any investments

The best talent is not all in one company, so we source and invest with specialists who are ‘best in class’.

  • Controlling risk is at the heart of generating consistent returns. We use explicit rather than subjective measures of risk in portfolios.

 

Our investment process

Risk

We measure investment risk principally (but not exclusively) by the volatility of portfolio returns over a rolling 36 month period. All our portfolios are managed with a choice of distinct “risk budgets”, set with reference to the UK equity market. For example the Saltus 33 portfolio targets to 33% of UK equity market volatility, the Saltus 50 targets 50% of UK equity market volatility and the Saltus 67 targets 67% of UK equity market volatility. Although identifying and controlling risk is at the heart of what we do, it is necessary to take some risk to capital to generate returns in excess of cash over time. It is important for clients to assess the level of risk they are comfortable with us taking, in order to achieve the returns they seek.

Once this level of risk has been identified and agreed we will construct and manage an investment portfolio in accordance with this level of risk. We invest in broad variety of asset classes to generate returns.

 Asset Allocation

At Saltus we do not believe we should be limited to investing solely in traditional markets such as equities and bonds which can result in volatile returns and loss of capital over prolonged periods. The experience we
have within Saltus allows us to construct and manage an investment portfolio for you, based on your risk profile and your investment goals across the whole spectrum of asset classes as shown above.

Portfolio construction

Once the Investment Committee has decided the asset allocation we select who we believe are the best managers in
each asset class, as identified by our research process. This process uses both quantitative and qualitative analysis in order to identify real ‘skill’. We are able to access exceptional managers across the globe, which are frequently unavailable to retail investors, due to our personal contacts and experience. If we cannot identify exceptional managers we will use passive funds (sometimes known as index-trackers).

We use several Saltus managed funds, as “building blocks” to construct portfolios which consist of the
underlying investments which we have selected as described above. The reason we do it this way – rather than owning the underlying investments directly in clients’ names – is because it is more tax-efficient and it avoids the need for unnecessary dealing charges. It also allows us access to institutional funds in certain cases which we otherwise cannot invest in.

 

 

 

 

EBRD to Acquire a Stake of Around 20% Equity Stake in Ameriabank
BankingTransactional and Investment Banking

EBRD to Acquire a Stake of Around 20% Equity Stake in Ameriabank


As a first step the EBRD will acquire a stake of around 20% for US$ 30 million, while the remaining US$ 10 million will be used for future capital increases. The goal of the investment is to strengthen Ameriabank and prepare the bank for a future IPO. In the course of 2016 an independent director representing the EBRD will join Ameriabank’s Board of Directors.

Prior to a possible listing, the EBRD investment will support the growth of Ameriabank by providing additional funds for lending to large corporate and private customers, small and medium-sized enterprises and retail customers. More lending to the real sector will strengthen the growth of Armenia’s economy.

Ameriabank has grown steadily in recent years. With total capital now close to US$ 200 million, the bank’s total assets topped US$ 1 billion at the end of 2015, a record in Armenia’s financial sector. This will open new opportunities for further lending as well as for engaging in possible M&A transactions in the local market.

The decision to become a shareholder in the bank reflects the EBRD’s positive expectations for the development of Ameriabank, and recognises the important contribution that Ameriabank makes to the growth of the Armenian economy, banking sector and society.

Mark Davis, EBRD Head of the Yerevan office, said:

“We welcome the opportunity to become a shareholder in Ameriabank and see this as a further step towards strengthening and consolidating the local banking sector. Increased access to finance is key to enabling local companies to realise their potential. As a shareholder the EBRD will support Ameriabank’s development, with a special emphasis on corporate governance.”

“We highly appreciate this new level of partnership with the EBRD. It is a great support for Ameriabank in global capital markets, in line with our strategic goals and aspirations. I am sure that our joint efforts will promote the development of Armenia’s banking sector and contribute to economic growth in our country,” added Andrew Mkrtchyan, Chairman of the Board of Directors at Ameriabank.

40 Graduates Bank Jobs with Financial Services Academy
BankingTransactional and Investment Banking

40 Graduates Bank Jobs with Financial Services Academy

Minister Farry commented:

“I am delighted to launch the next FinTrU Financial Services Academy which will provide a further 20 participants with the skills, knowledge and experience required to take up exciting new employment opportunities with FinTrU. This Academy will build on the success of the previous two Academies, which have seen all 40 Academy participants secure employment with FinTrU.

“The continuing commitment of companies such as FinTrU to create jobs in Northern Ireland is hugely important to our continued economic growth. Through the Assured Skills initiative my Department continues to encourage companies to bring their business to Northern Ireland or expand their existing operations, stimulating the creation of new jobs in the local economy.”

The Financial Services Academy will target graduates holding at least a 2:2 in any degree discipline and previous experience in the sector is not required. The successful applicants will undertake an intensive six-week training programme focusing on Capital Markets, Financial Regulation and Investment Administration and will gain industry-recognised qualifications. For participants that complete the Academy there is a potential offer of employment with FinTrU.

Stephen Shaw, Head of FinTrU’s Belfast Centre of Excellence, added:

“The FinTrU Financial Services Academy is a unique opportunity to prepare for a dynamic career in Financial Services in Northern Ireland. Following on from the success of our previous academy programmes, we are continuing with our innovative approach to recruit talented young individuals from all backgrounds and provide candidates with tailored professional development to attain the skills required to have successful long term careers. The Academy will equip participants with a number of accredited external qualifications such as the Chartered Institute of Securities & Investments (CISI) Investment Operations Certificate.”

The FinTrU Financial Services Academy has been designed by the Department for Employment and Learning, FinTrU, Belfast Metropolitan College (Belfast Met) and Ulster University under the Assured Skills initiative.

Applications to the Academy will close at 4pm on Friday 4 February 2016 and the training programme for successful applicants will start on Monday 22 February 2016. Training will be delivered jointly by Belfast Met and Ulster University.
For further information or to submit an application, visit here.

 

 

New Figures Reveal Record European Investment Bank Investment in UK in 2015
BankingTransactional and Investment Banking

New Figures Reveal Record European Investment Bank Investment in UK in 2015

Figures published today by the European Investment Bank (EIB) show that investment by the EIB in the UK increased to €7.77 billion in 2015, up 10.8% on the previous year’s lending. EIB loans fund vital infrastructure upgrade projects such as important transport links, and new hospitals and schools, as well as boosting UK-based research and development work that contributes directly to the growth of the UK economy.

Investment in the UK accounted for 11.2% of all EIB lending into the 28 EU member states. Since 2012 the UK has more than doubled the volume of EIB investment and increased its share of total lending within the EU by over a third (37%).

2015’s EIB investment includes the new European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI), which was established earlier this year by the EIB and the European Commission to enable the EIB to undertake additional lending and boost private-sector investment. UK projects received €972 million through the EFSI, one third of all EFSI-supported lending in 2015.

EIB lending in 2015 continued the trend of the past five years by primarily targeting infrastructure, particularly in the key strategic areas of the energy, transport and water sectors, which received 67% (€5.2 billion) of the year’s EIB financing. 2015 also saw EIB support for UK education projects in the UK more than doubling, including a series of loans to fund the building of new schools and university campus investment.

Commenting on the EIB figures, Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne said:

“Over the past few years the government has focused on increasing the UK’s share of EIB loans, and this is paying off with record levels of investment. 2015’s record lending builds on our strong record of securing EIB investment to help grow our economy and is a vote of confidence in the UK and our economic plan.

“The infrastructure, education and research and development projects funded by these loans support jobs, growth and living standards. They are making a real change to people’s lives and will ensure that Britain is fit for the future.”

The largest EIB UK investment in 2015 was a €1.4 billion (£1 billion) loan to Transport for London to finance the upgrading of existing lines and stations on the London Underground, as well as the construction of a network of cycle paths in the capital. Other UK-based investment from the EIB has targeted a variety of sectors across the UK, including:

• Research, development and innovation (RDI) including support to Rolls Royce for the development of their new line of aero engines;
• Over €1.5 billion of loans to the UK water sector for improvements to water supply and waste water collection;
• Campus investment and expansion at Oxford University – the largest ever single loan by the EIB to a university for investment;
• Construction of several hospitals including a new acute inpatient services hospital near Birmingham and a new children’s hospital in Edinburgh;
• School building projects including a series of loans worth in total £247 million to the Priority Schools Building Programme, a government programme to rebuild 261 of England’s schools in the worst condition and;
• Energy efficiency projects throughout the UK, including the largest EFSI-backed loan to-date (€510 million) to support the installation of c. 7 million smart meters for British Gas customers throughout Great Britain.

Signature Bank Ranks among Top 10 on Best Banks in America List for Sixth Consecutive Year
BankingTransactional and Investment Banking

Signature Bank Ranks among Top 10 on Best Banks in America List for Sixth Consecutive Year

Signature Bank is one of only three banks in the nation to rank in the top 10 in each of the past six years. The annual ranking of Forbes’ America’s Best and Worst Banks 2016 were released on January 7, 2016 on www.forbes.com.
Joseph J. DePaolo, President and Chief Executive Officer at Signature Bank said:

“The changing face of America’s banking and financial landscape prompted Forbes to adjust the metrics they routinely used over the past several years when evaluating America’s best and worst banks this year. Based on the overall statistics, Forbes noted that while credit quality seemed to improve on the whole, growth and profitability exhibited mixed results. However, Signature Bank’s growth and profitability has continued to set records since our founding in 2001, and we maintain strong credit quality. The Bank’s inclusion in the Forbes list yet again is evidence of the broader acceptance of our relationship-based, depositor-focused model.”

“All our colleagues continue to put forth efforts that consistently contribute to the accolades we earned through this Forbes ranking, and we appreciate their dedication along with the unwavering loyalty demonstrated by our clients. This third-party recognition by Forbes is demonstrative of the strength and success of our proven client-centric model coupled with the single-point-of-contact founding philosophy upon which Signature Bank was built,” DePaolo added.

The data used by Forbes to create the list was supplied by Charlottesville, Va.-based SNL Financial while the rankings were compiled by Forbes. Ten metrics were evaluated this year including, among others, asset quality, capital adequacy, growth and profitability. A new methodology was applied to this year’s listing to better reflect the current state of America’s banking environment. Three new metrics were added, including return on average tangible common equity; net charge-offs as a percent of total loans and efficiency ratio.

Other metrics were removed from this year’s formula, such as return on average equity and nonperforming loans (NPLs) as a percentage of loans. Other metrics used include net interest margin; nonperforming assets as a percent of assets; reserves as a percent of NPLs, two capital ratios (Tier 1 and risk-based); and, revenue growth over the past 12 months. All data was based on regulatory filings for the period ending September 30, 2015. Each of the 10 metrics used were weighted equally in Forbes’ final rankings.

Global ATM Market Report: 2016 Report Revealed
BankingTransactional and Investment Banking

Global ATM Market Report: 2016 Report Revealed

An ATM is one of the most important self-service channel of the retail banking sector that connect the banks or financial institutions and their customers. Over a long period of time, the services offered by ATM have evolved tremendously from a role of just being a cash dispenser to a multi-utility service provider. ATM serves as a key element in branch transformation of the banks with continuous innovation in line with internet and mobile banking channel.

As per the Global ATM Market Report, the market growth potential lies majorly in Asia-Pacific region with China and India being the most potential targets for the industry due to growing banking population and demand for cash. Moreover, despite the considerate decline in ATM installed base in Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) region, the worldwide ATM market is expected to escalate.

The key factors driving the market growth apart from generic macro-economic factors include ATM growth in developing nations and increase in issuance of banknotes. Some of the noteworthy trends observed in the industry are rise of electronic transactions, technological advancements in ATMs, entrepreneurs investing in Bitcoin ATMs and branch transformation and developments such as Bitcoin ATMs, solar ATMs and mobile ATMs. However, the industry remains exposed to certain challenges such as increase of non-cash transactions, high costs of operating a retail ATM business and significant breaches associated with it.

The report also provides a comprehensive study of ATM market globally, covering regional markets as well. The industry is concentrated with a few large players such as NCR Corp., Diebold, Inc. and Wincor Nixdorf. All these companies have been profiled in the present report highlighting their key financials and business strategies for growth.

Key Topics covered are:
• Overview;
• ATM Market Analysis;
• Market Dynamics;
• Competitive Landscape;
• Company Profiles;
• Market Outlook .

For more information, visit here.

PFS Widens Banking Solution with Individual IBAN Accounts for Customers Across the Eurozone
BankingFX and Payment

PFS Widens Banking Solution with Individual IBAN Accounts for Customers Across the Eurozone


PFS announces the launch of an API banking proposition that facilitates SEPA Credit and Debit Transfers and standing orders in Europe.

E-money institution Prepaid Financial Services (PFS) announced that it has extended its banking solution across the Eurozone today.

PFS was one of the first e-money institutions in the UK to launch a ‘Bank Lite’ solution by assigning sort codes and account numbers to general purpose prepaid card accounts and has now expanded that offering to cover the Eurozone area.

By enhancing its existing banking platform, PFS can now turn e-wallets into EUR current accounts that facilitate automated payments in and out, including standing orders and SEPA Credit and Debit Transfers. Through this facility, PFS clients can enrol their customers simply and provide them with individual IBANs that allow access to basic bank account functionality without a complicated sign-up process. The major benefit for the account holder is the ability to set up recurring payments directly from their prepaid banking account.

Noel Moran, CEO commented:

“The move to extend our banking solution is a further strategic step for PFS, having recognised that many of our European clients want to combine the ease of use of a basic bank account with the flexibility and functionality of a prepaid card. The ability to switch a card, or account, off in real time or just enable it for when the customer wants to use the card is a huge benefit to the client.

“In addition, clients can block certain types of transactions or spend at different merchant category codes, including blocking access to cash etc. PFS is now a total payments provider in effect, with acquiring services for ecommerce merchants, issuing of prepaid cards and now the launch of our banking product in GBP and Euro across 19 countries. It enables us to provide everything a consumer or business needs, all through one provider.”

The additional functionality provided by PFS’s prepaid products such as flexible control features have proven extremely successful with public sector organisations in particular. The company is a provider of direct payments to over 55 governments, local authorities and clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) in Europe.

 

U.S. Bank Introduces ScoreBoard
BankingCash Management

U.S. Bank Introduces ScoreBoard

ScoreBoard provides trending and reporting data so customers can monitor their own credit-card spending and compare their spending to general consumer trends.

ScoreBoard is a free application available to U.S. Bank’s cardholders who use credit, debit cards and credit lines through U.S. Bank. Available through U.S. Bank internet banking, ScoreBoard features easy-to-read charts and graphs that provide a monthly snapshot of credit-card purchases and payments, such as travel, home improvement and gas purchases. 

In addition, U.S. Bank cardholders may use ScoreBoard to download reports as HTML, Excel or PDF files for their specific financial needs.

“ScoreBoard is unique because it gives our customers the ability to monitor their own spending and gain insight into how their spending trends compare to previous years,” said Cliff Cook, U.S. Bank Payment Services, senior vice president. “For our customers who have U.S. Bank credit and debit cards, this has the potential to help consumers make the most of their financial decisions and plan for a more secure future.”

LCJ  Investments
BankingFX and Payment

LCJ Investments

LCJ was launched in 2007 as an independently managed investment boutique by Conor MacManus, Jonathan Tullett and Leonora Kerry Keane. The co-portfolio managers, Conor MacManus and Jonathan Tullett, have between them over 37 years of experience working and trading in FX markets which we believe provides the foundation for success.

The LCJ FX Fund Strategy investment universe includes major currency pairs, non-traditional crosses, and emerging market currencies. Employing a diverse range of market data and analysis, and extensive experience of FX Markets, we identify attractive medium-term and long-term opportunities, through which we seek to provide a favorable risk-return profile while protecting capital.

Since inception the Strategy has been managed through a variety of different economic and market conditions, and has consistently produced long term class-leading risk-adjusted returns utilizing a robust risk management framework.

Looking back at 2014, we are happy to report that despite difficult trading conditions in the first two quarters, we finished the year up 10.80% net, maintaining our consistent long term performance track record during what has been a challenging period for the asset class over the past few years, and we were again nominated for an EuroHedge Award (Commodity & Currency), following our previous nomination in 2012.

As we moved into 2015, we anticipated the environment being better suited to our Strategy, with the rising volatility and macro factors in play driving divergence between currencies, which allows the Strategy to further capitalize on medium term trends. This has turned out to be the case, despite a dramatic start to the year in January with the removal of the CHF floor by the Swiss National Bank, and a tumultuous August ignited towards month end by the unexpected mini-devaluation of the Yuan by China, we are pleased to report that we have successfully navigated the LCJ Macro FX Strategy through these events in the year to date, highlighting the strength of our risk management, and have made positive returns in 6 of the 8 months to August, resulting in a net gain of +7.84% YTD.

The Increasing Investment in Fast-Growth Hybrid Businesses
BankingTransactional and Investment Banking

The Increasing Investment in Fast-Growth Hybrid Businesses

How to Spot Investment Opportunities in Hybrid Businesses
With the rise of hybrid companies shaking up a range of different industries, there are increasing opportunities for investment in fast-growth businesses with potential for rapid expansion. From food delivery services like Deliveroo and collection models, to services previously confined to the high street, the hybrid model offers new avenues for progression and in turn possibilities for investors. For those looking to capitalise on this trend, the most promising hybrid businesses offer one – or more – of the following three distinguishers.

Opening Up New Markets
Some of the most exciting hybrid businesses don’t just disrupt a market but open up a new one entirely. While takeaway platforms like JustEat connects hungry customers to restaurants which in turn deliver the takeaway, their service is purely digital. Such websites are an online marketplace: an introduction service, a facilitator and a system through which easy card payments can be made. Its employees power the website – they don’t power the deliveries themselves, which are left to the restaurants.

Hybrid businesses, however, are now taking cities by storm. Deliveroo, Meals.co.uk and Dinein are all fusion models which bring takeaway to the doors of consumers, but these businesses actually use their own couriers to collect and drop off the food. This hybrid model means that customers can access some more upmarket restaurants and smaller independent eateries that wouldn’t usually deliver. This ‘intermediary’ model is powering huge expansion outside of the capital, with some of these start-ups now operating in cities across the country.

The incredibly fast growth of such a business has clear potential for investors. Deliveroo, for example, rounded up $25 million in Series B funding in January.

Hybrid companies are often also intermediaries – they sit between the customer and the service or product. Businesses like JustEat and Deliveroo don’t just own the customer’s card details and the transaction platform to make life easy for their users. They also own the customer relationship, having slotted themselves neatly between the manufacturer or service provider and the customer. The relationship between the intermediary and each party is stronger than that between the customer and the company creating the product or service itself, so that the intermediary is always the ‘go to’ and front of mind of the customer.

As well as creating new markets, hybrid businesses often have the power to grow existing markets beyond their traditional limits. In San Francisco, Uber has caused the same people to take more taxi rides than previously, because of the convenience they offer. The brand now makes over three times the revenue of the taxi industry in the region.
It is the hybrid model that enables each of these new starters to offer a win-win service, a goldmine for investors. The fusion of online and real life services is opening up markets that purely digital or purely physical businesses struggle to tap into, and growing others beyond their traditional limits.

Convenience and Customer Service
It’s not just reaching new markets that can drive rapid growth in hybrid businesses. Providing a far more sophisticated and convenient service is a key success point for companies that combine online and offline offerings.

The consumer market across the board is becoming increasingly 24/7. It’s a buyer’s world, with customers demanding instant choices, instant availability and instant delivery. If your service isn’t bending over backwards to accommodate your consumers, you’d better expect to be left behind. Hybrid businesses have the capability to do this thanks to their 24/7 availability and by making convenience a central focus.

It is this fear of being left behind that has caused conflicts between traditional and hybrid businesses. The rise of Uber has led to thousands of taxi drivers staging protests across London, Paris, Madrid, Milan and Berlin in opposition to the company. Ironically, last year’s London protest by black cab drivers pushed Uber registrations up 850 per cent. Uber is a far more convenient alternative to a long-standing, dated service. The effort of finding a cab or waiting for a requested taxi to arrive, exacerbated by the nuisance of finding a cash machine before getting into a cab, means that millennials are flocking to Uber for its ability to accommodate customers’ needs.

Customer service is an important part of making sure that the interests of the consumer are at the very centre of all your operations. People place more trust in a company when they can deal with a representative face-to-face, a difficulty for purely digital services. A hybrid model, however, combines their online convenience with people on the ground who can interact with consumers day to day. Giving your business this human face goes a long way in building customer loyalty.

One start-up offering sophisticated customer service is on-demand shipping provider Weengs, an app which will dispatch one of their couriers to you within 15 minutes of you sending them a photo of the item you want shipping. They’ll package your item up for you, take it to their central warehouse and then calculate the most affordable shipping option. The digital platform works in tandem with Weengs’ couriers to ensure that the customer experience is seamless and as convenient as possible. Speed and availability are key, and hybrid businesses have the capabilities to offer both.

It is constant availability that a hybrid model facilitates so well, while still ensuring consumers receive a ‘real-life’ service from people on the ground. Speed and availability are key, and hybrid businesses have the capabilities to offer both.

Undercutting On Price
One of the clearest ways in which the combination of on and offline services is disrupting the market is in these companies’ ability to drastically undercut costs. A hybrid model can often provide all the vital services of their traditional competitors, but without some of the biggest overheads usually involved.

With the combination of ‘on the ground’ and digital resources, many of the costs of the service provided can be eliminated by moving some operations online. For example, expensive high street premises, favoured by restaurants, shops and estate agents, can be avoided altogether. Moving bricks and mortar operations online is especially profitable for those aspects of services which are in any case more convenient, effective or efficient for customers when offered online. Passing this cost saving on to the consumer means that many hybrid companies are disrupting long established markets by offering a service that traditional competitors cannot beat on price.

An alternative to getting rid of expensive premises is to utilise your necessary premises to cut costs in other ways. For example, removing the delivery element of certain consumer shops can save money, instead offering convenient click-and-collect solutions. The delivery process is easier for the company, it can be a convenient option for consumers who don’t want to wait in all day for a package, and the cost saving can also be passed on. Combining digital and physical services can in this way be create double or triple benefits for all involved.

Investing in a digital-based business that can flex its cost base when it needs to is a great advantage – especially in cyclical markets – compared to investing into a bricks and mortar operation where a business can be locked into expensive leases for a long period.

What can your business do?
To summarise, the businesses which will likely attract investment are those which are opening up new markets, offering next-level convenience and customer service and drastically undercutting competitors on price – just three indicators that a hybrid business may be heading for the stars. Businesses hungry for recognition in crowded markets should take a step back, look at the wider industry and consider, what needs improving? What could be made simpler or more consumer-friendly?

If you look hard enough, existing models will lend themselves to the latest technology, and can be fused together to form revolutionary concepts. But at the same time, people remain key, and the winners will be those companies who successfully adopt the latest technologies without disrupting the vital human element, to ensure customer service remains top of the priority list. As these hybrid companies develop and more enter the arena, the opportunities for investment are only set to grow.