Category: Transactional and Investment Banking

Evotec Announces Its Intent to Acquire Cyprotex Plc
BankingTransactional and Investment Banking

Evotec Announces Its Intent to Acquire Cyprotex Plc

Acquisition would add world-leading high-quality ADME-Tox services and strengthen Evotec’s leadership in drug discovery

– Evotec will pay approximately £ 55.36 m (EUR 62.00 m) in cash for the full share capital of Cyprotex and funding of all existing debt of the AIM-listed company
– Proposed acquisition, unanimously recommended by the board of Cyprotex, is expected to close before year-end 2016

Evotec AG (Frankfurt Stock Exchange: EVT, TecDAX, ISIN: DE0005664809) today announced that it has made an offer to acquire Cyprotex PLC (“Cyprotex”, AIM: CRX-GB), a specialist pre-clinical contract research organisation in ADME-Tox and DMPK. Cyprotex serves the industry’s increasing requirement for earlier drug screening, regulatory requirements and reducing the reliance on animal testing.

The proposed acquisition, which has been unanimously recommended by the board of Cyprotex, is expected to close before year-end 2016. Evotec will pay approximately £ 55.36 m (EUR 62.00 m; £/EUR exchange rate of 1.12) in cash for the acquisition of all 26.1 million issued and to be issued Cyprotex shares and the funding of all existing company debt. The offer of 1.60 £ per Cyprotex share reflects a 9.4% premium to the VWAP of the past 30 trading days at AIM. The offer is intended to be implemented by a scheme of arrangement regulated by the UK takeover code, with already >50% shares secured irrevocable. The acquisition will add to Evotec’s revenues and be accretive to Evotec’s 2017 EBITDA.

Cyprotex is the world’s largest contract research organisation specialising in pre-clinical ADME-Tox and DMPK serving the Pharmaceutical, Chemical, Agrochemical and Cosmetics markets. Cyprotex, headquartered in the UK, was founded in 1999 and is publicly traded on AIM (CRX). It has 136 employees working from sites at Macclesfield and Alderley Park, both of which are located near Manchester in the UK, and at Watertown, MA, and Kalamazoo, MI, in the USA. With more than 1,500 partners, Cyprotex has a very strong customer network. Cyprotex reported H1 2016 revenues of £ 8.73 m (EUR 9.78 m) (H1 2015: £ 6.93 m (EUR 7.76 m)) with an underlying EBITDA of £ 2.34 m (EUR 2.62 m) (H1 2015: £ 1.10 m (EUR 1.23 m)).

Sharpening Evotec’s leadership role in drug discovery The acquisition strengthens Evotec’s high-end drug discovery platform and capabilities with access to the market’s most industrialised ADME-Tox platform and proven expertise in in vitro ADME screening, mechanistic and high-content toxicology screening and predictive modelling.

This perfectly augments Evotec’s drive for innovation efficiency in drug discovery by enabling its partners to make early informed decisions on a molecule’s suitability for further development. The Cyprotex platform can be leveraged in a high-throughput manner or to support integrated drug discovery projects.

Dr Mario Polywka, Chief Operating Officer of Evotec, commented: “The ability to test or predict a molecule’s suitability as a drug at an early stage is critical in the drive to increase the efficiency of drug discovery.

The proposed acquisition of Cyprotex is a completely logical step to strengthen Evotec’s position as the world’s leading partner of choice for driving such efficiencies in drug discovery to the industry. The proven technology platform of Cyprotex and its expert and dedicated employees will be a strong addition to our best-in-class drug discovery platform and resources.

We also expect that both organisations will leverage their extensive partner networks to identify further commercial synergies.”

Dr Werner Lanthaler, Chief Executive Officer of Evotec, added: “Our focus to make the most innovative and capital efficient drug discovery platform will be perfectly extended by Cyprotex. Given our strong performance over the last years, a very good outlook of our business into the coming years, and the commercial profile of Cyprotex we also feel very comfortable in using the cash on our strong balance sheet for this accretive acquisition. We are very much looking forward to welcoming the employees of Cyprotex within the Evotec Group after closing of the transaction.”

Intellectual Property Cyber Theft Expected to Rise
BankingTransactional and Investment Banking

Intellectual Property Cyber Theft Expected to Rise

The number of intellectual property (IP) cyber theft incidents in the next 12 months is expected to increase, according to 58 percent of respondents to a recent Deloitte poll. When asked which category of potential adversary they believe is most likely to attempt theft of their organizations’ IP, the prevailing percentage of respondents (20.1 percent) answered “employees or other insiders.” Yet, only 16.7 percent of respondents said access to IP is very limited, on a need-to-know basis only.

“While many of us know — or have experienced firsthand — how a cyberattack can severely disrupt business, loss of an asset as critical as IP can be crippling for most organizations,” said Don Fancher, principal, Deloitte Financial Advisory Services LLP, national leader, Deloitte Forensics & Investigations and Deloitte Forensic leader, Deloitte Global. “Managing risks to trade secrets, drawings, plans or proprietary know-how that drive your organization’s revenue and competitive advantage often includes quantifying how loss of that IP would impact the business, preparing to identify and pursue adversaries, and building a defensible chain of data custody to counter future IP cyber theft threats.”

As cited in the Deloitte Review article, “The hidden costs of an IP breach: Cyber theft and the loss of intellectual property,” IP can constitute more than 80 percent of a single company’s value today. And yet, 44.1 percent of respondents to the Deloitte poll collectively feel that assessing the impact of IP loss and managing relationships would be the largest challenges faced by their organization. Sectors expecting a higher than average increase in IP cyber theft in the next year included: power and utilities (68.8 percent); telecom (68.8 percent); industrial products & services (64.7 percent); and automotive (63.9 percent). Those sectors expecting higher than average insider IP theft attempts included: automotive (32.2 percent); oil & gas (27.2 percent); and real estate services (26.2 percent).

Tips for assessing the potential impact and protecting against intellectual property loss include:

Define the critical assets (e.g., facilities, source code, IP and R&D, customer information) that must be protected and the organization’s tolerance for loss or damage in those areas.
Validate that any partners or suppliers involved in IP creation or utilization collaborate with the cyber risk program.
Evaluate whether exposing some IP in the public domain may make the organization more subject to attack.
Consider whether the competitive landscape points to new cyber threats to IP protection.
Improve cyber resilience to manage brand impact and market position in the event of IP theft.

Taking a holistic approach toward cybersecurity isn’t just about balancing technical expertise with information technology investments, or about contingency planning. Organizations need to define their cyber risk, up front, in conjunction with their strategic priorities when making decisions on protecting their most critical assets because they recognize what the adverse consequences would be otherwise.

Adnan Amjad, cyber threat risk management practice leader for Deloitte Advisory Cyber Risk Services and partner at Deloitte & Touche LLP added, “Predicting IP data theft is tough, as adversaries don’t fit one specific mold. A robust insider threat mitigation program leverages a broad set of stakeholders to define potential insider threats and risk appetite, establish appropriate policies, procedures, controls and training and utilizes the combination of business knowledge, virtual and non-virtual data and technology to more effectively safeguard vital information.”

Here are key considerations for building an insider threat mitigation program:

Define your insider threats: Don’t be surprised if your organization hasn’t defined what an insider threat is.
Trust but verify: Establish routine and random auditing of privileged functions, which are commonly used to identify insider threats across a broad spectrum of threats in a variety of industries.
Connect the dots: By correlating precursors or potential risk indicators captured in virtual and non-virtual arenas, your organization can gain insights into micro and macro trends regarding the high risk behaviors exhibited across the organization.
Stay a step ahead: Insiders’ methods, tactics and attempts to cover their tracks will constantly evolve, which means that the insider threat program and the precursors that it analyzes should continuously evolve as well.
Set behavioral expectations: Define the behavioral expectations of your workforce through clear and consistently enforced policies.
“As the cybersecurity conversation begins to shift from a focus on technology to a broader discussion involving all essential business functions, an organization’s insider threat program should evolve in a similar way,” concluded Amjad.

Understanding the Pound’s Flash Crash: What Triggered It?
BankingTransactional and Investment Banking

Understanding the Pound’s Flash Crash: What Triggered It?

For traders, economists, and British citizens, the morning of Friday 7th October 2016 started with a bang. As the Asian session kicked into action, the value of the pound suddenly and mysteriously dropped by an astonishing 10 per cent. This fall occurred in a matter of minutes, leaving spectators open-mouthed with shock.

The phenomenon saw the price of GDP drop to between 1.10 and 1.20 from its previous 1.26, sending shockwaves through the financial markets. The effect was felt across all sterling crosses, with major pairings like the EUR/GBP, GBP/AUD, and GBP/JPY combinations each displaying rapid movement.

Here, we look at what catalysed this strange occurrence, and whether this is a trend that we can expect to see repeating itself in the future…

What Caused the Flash Crash?

One point that has left commentators, brokers, and traders alike scratching their heads in bafflement is the cause of the flash crash. It seemed to come out of nowhere, with no identifiable catalyst to trigger such dramatic movement.

Early commentary identified three main causes: negative comments from the President of France, Francois Hollande; rogue algorithms; and a fat finger order. However, none of these seemed to account for such movements in and of themselves, leaving spectators with no satisfactory answer.

So could any of these suggestions provide a starting point when it comes to reaching a final sterling conclusion? The answer is not a simple one, and the truth is that though each of them could have contributed, not one of them could have had such an impact in isolation. Thus, they cannot be held responsible for the flash crash.

How Did the Flash Crash Happen?

According to experts FxPro, flash crashes are caused by a number of factors working in tandem with each other. They require a perfect storm of events to catalyse them: a trigger, exceptionally low liquidity, market making algorithms, and large stop orders. If any one of these is absent, the bomb will not explode.

Liquidity is arguably the key component in these situations. Should the trigger arise under ordinary market conditions, there might be a correlating market move, but the depth of liquidity and behaviour of market participants would typically absorb any extreme adverse effects.

Where such liquidity is absent, problems begin to arise, and this is what we saw on Friday 7th October. Largely, this was down to sheer ill luck, with the lack of liquidity attributable to the early hour.

The result was catastrophic for sterling. The initial reaction triggered orders that could not be matched at contemporary market prices. This meant that they had to begin matching with bids or offers that were further and further from their real market value.

The phenomena witnessed quickly spiralled. Algorithms kicked into action, directly responding to these dramatic market movements. They attempted to utilise the rapidly gathering momentum in order to take a few pips out of the move for themselves, and in doing so moved the market in an ever more drastic direction.

The effects of this were exacerbated once again when large stop orders began to be triggered. When hit, these sent further large market orders, snowballing until numerous orders had been wiped out.

Could a Second Flash Crash Occur?

The flash crash we saw was catastrophic for the value of sterling, yet it was not necessarily an isolated event. As much as we would like to be able to say that it was a one off, it was a symptom of a flawed system – a system that could easily misfire a second time.

The only way to entirely prevent a repeat would be by fundamentally amending the rules of trading. Working within the current framework, it does not matter whether brokers or liquidity providers claim to have developed solutions: they have not, because they cannot.

Unfortunately, replicating futures exchanges does not seem to offer a viable remedy either. Although many of these have successfully implemented circuit breakers, the currency markets trade from too many separate venues to make such an approach successful.

How Can You Prepare for Flash Crashes?

The flash crash involving the British pound helped to demonstrate a significant flaw in the currency trading system; one that we all must go to pains to combat.

For brokers, this means developing systems capable of keeping time with rapid market movements. These must be able to trigger all orders correctly irrespective of the speed of market happenings. As an additional measure, a capital buffer to absorb the most extreme scenarios is also advisable.

For traders, the main way to guard against disaster is by adopting a long-term view on low leverage. You must ensure that your long position puts you at no risk of being stopped out should a second flash crash occur, so that your success on the currency markets is not jeopardised by a simple and almost impossible to predict twist of fate.

Banking Prestige 2016
BankingTransactional and Investment Banking

Banking Prestige 2016

 

Banking Prestige 2016

City Savings Credit Union
Canada
citysavingscu.com

Kotak MahindraBank
India
kotak.com

BOQ
Australia
www.boq.com.au

Bank of Marin
USA
www.bankofmarin.com

Asian Development Bank
Philippines
adb.org

 

Banco Pine
Brazil
www.pine.com

Aareal Bank
Germany
aareal-bank.com

Banco De Colombia
Colombia
grupobancolombia.com

Banco del Chubut
Argentina
bancochubut.com.ar

Vivier & Co
New Zealand
vivierco.com

Weyerhaeuser Company Declares Dividend on Common Shares
BankingTransactional and Investment Banking

Weyerhaeuser Company Declares Dividend on Common Shares

Weyerhaeuser Company today announced that its board of directors declared a dividend of $0.31 per share on the common stock of the company, payable in cash on November 18, 2016 to holders of record of such common stock as of the close of business on October 28, 2016.

About Weyerhaeuser

Weyerhaeuser Company, one of the world’s largest private owners of timberlands, began operations in 1900. We own or control more than 13 million acres of timberlands, primarily in the U.S., and manage additional timberlands under long-term licenses in Canada. We manage these timberlands on a sustainable basis in compliance with internationally recognized forestry standards. We are also one of the largest manufacturers of wood and cellulose fibers products. Our company is a real estate investment trust. In February 2016, we merged with Plum Creek Timber Company, Inc. In 2015, Weyerhaeuser and Plum Creek, on a combined basis, generated approximately $8.5 billion in net sales and employed nearly 14 thousand people who serve customers worldwide.

LG Provides Efficiency and Security to Cash Transactions
BankingTransactional and Investment Banking

LG Provides Efficiency and Security to Cash Transactions

As any Credit Union manager can tell you, the primary reason their members visit a branch is to conduct cash transactions. Unfortunately, tellers spend most of that transaction time with their heads down, counting cash.

To help tellers use valuable face time with customers more productively, PNCU has installed 3 LG CNS LTA-350 cash recyclers in two of their branches. The system verifies and counts bills automatically, giving tellers a new ability to interact with members—focusing on building relationships and upselling profitable products and services.

“Using the LTA-350, our tellers cash checks, make bill payments and process all deposits in half the time it usually takes,” says PNCU President, James Kelly. “The large touchscreen is easy for tellers to use and it fits the way they work. Most important, it gives them more time to talk directly to our members when they come in, which is key to growing our business.”

The system recycles cash for redistribution, so bank and credit union branches don’t need to keep as much cash on hand, another important benefit. “Now nearly all cash within the branch can be secured. There are fewer cash buys and sells and cash management is much more efficient,” explained Billy Back, President of US LG CNS.

The LTA-350 is being distributed across North America through best-in-class resellers that include BranchServ, who provide integration support and service. Qualified resellers throughout the U.S. are joining the team to deliver and support leading-edge technologies from LG CNS.

“LG CNS is known for providing user-friendly solutions that increase efficiency and security in bank branches,” said Mr. Back. “With the LTA-350, you can see and measure the time savings, increased security, productivity gains and higher levels of customer satisfaction. That’s a big win for everyone.”

Monroe Capital Reaches Final Close on Private Credit Fund II LP
BankingTransactional and Investment Banking

Monroe Capital Reaches Final Close on Private Credit Fund II LP

Monroe Capital LLC today announced the final close of Monroe Capital Private Credit Fund II LP (“Fund”) at $800 million of limited partner commitments, eclipsing the Fund target of $600 million. When combined with target fund leverage, the Fund will have approximately $1.5 billion of total investable capital or buying power, the largest fund raised in Monroe Capital’s 12-year firm history.

The Fund invests in private credit transactions originated and underwritten by Monroe Capital. The investment strategy is focused primarily on senior secured loans and unitranche loans to private equity sponsored and non-sponsored middle market companies located throughout the U.S. and Canada. This Fund is Monroe Capital’s eleventh investment vehicle since its founding in 2004. The Fund received commitments from over 20 new institutional investors located in the U.S. and Europe, including leading public and private pension plans, insurance companies, universities, endowments, foundations, religious organizations, hospitals, non-profits, sovereign wealth funds, family offices and other institutional investors. In addition to the limited partner commitments, the Fund has secured term credit facilities to complement its available capital.

According to Ted Koenig, President and CEO of Monroe Capital, “Private credit is an appealing area for institutional investors due to the ability to generate consistent yield in a yield starved world. Investors have many choices in this space, most of which are newly created firms over the last several years. I am very pleased and proud that the sophisticated institutional investor and limited partner community has come to understand and appreciate the differentiated absolute returns and consistent risk adjusted returns that Monroe has been able to generate for them each and every year over a 12-year period, regardless of the business cycle or the economic environment. This is truly a testament to our organization and our people.”

Monroe Capital, a $3.6 billion private credit asset manager, was formed in 2004 and has been a consistent and reliable provider of transactional debt financing both pre and post credit crisis. Monroe has 70 employees, inclusive of an investment team of approximately 45 professionals with an average of 17 years of credit, private equity, and investment experience; a national transaction sourcing network of eight offices located through the U.S.; and a proven investment discipline and strategy over multiple economic cycles.

LafargeHolcim Ltd to Launch Squeeze-Out for Remaining Lafarge Shares
BankingTransactional and Investment Banking

LafargeHolcim Ltd to Launch Squeeze-Out for Remaining Lafarge Shares

LafargeHolcim Ltd announces that it has decided to initiate a squeeze-out process for all issued and outstanding shares of Lafarge S.A. After surpassing the necessary 95 percent threshold in share capital and voting rights and following a decision by the Board of Directors, LafargeHolcim Ltd plans to request the AMF to implement a squeeze-out procedure pursuant to their general regulations for Lafarge S.A. shares not tendered to the Public Exchange Offer.

LafargeHolcim Ltd will publish further details on the squeeze-out upon filing with the AMF.

About LafargeHolcim 

With a well-balanced presence in 90 countries and a focus on Cement, Aggregates and Concrete, LafargeHolcim (SIX Swiss Exchange, Euronext Paris: LHN) is the world leader in the building materials industry. The Group has 115,000 employees around the world and combined net sales of CHF 33 billion (EUR 27 billion) in 2014. LafargeHolcim is the industry benchmark in R&D and serves from the individual homebuilder to the largest and most complex project with the widest range of value-adding products, innovative services and comprehensive building solutions. With a commitment to drive sustainable solutions for better building and infrastructure and to contribute to a higher quality of life, the Group is best positioned to meet the challenges of increasing urbanization. 

Investing in the EU: Is it Safe Post-Brexit?
BankingTransactional and Investment Banking

Investing in the EU: Is it Safe Post-Brexit?

Brexit certainly sent shockwaves through the world economy. A decision that very few people expected, Brexit certainly had quite large ramifications. However, more than a month on, the dust is now certainly setting, which allows us to assess the post-Brexit landscape. So, with this in mind, is investing in the EU post-Brexit safe? And how can you protect yourself? In this post, we take a look at how the markets reacted to the announcement and whether you should invest.

Immediately, Markets Tanked but is this the Best Time to Sell?

There’s no way to sugar-coat this, the market went into absolute panic and meltdown immediately after the news of a Brexit broke. As such, those who owned stocks and shares became incredibly tetchy, panicking and fleeing the markets in an attempt to minimise losses. As a result, on the Friday and Monday following Brexit, US stocks lost $1.4 trillion. The FTSE fell by almost 10%, and the pound fell to $1.28, the lowest level since the 1980s.

However, although these numbers are definitely incredibly bad, it’s also important to not get lost in short-termism. Nobody predicted the Brexit result, which means that there’s very little point discussing how many people could have sold before the decision was announced. Almost all analysts as well as pollsters and betting markets were confidently a remain vote, so for many, a bounce was expected on Friday morning, rather than devastating losses.

Rebounds for Those That Held Their Positions

Although the losses were certainly dramatic, those who didn’t panic were rewarded on subsequent days when stocks rebounded almost as quickly as they fell. For example, the Stoxx 600, a Europe-wide index, made up almost all of the 11% that it lost post-Brexit and the FTSE 100, which reached staggering depths, almost recovered to a yearly high.

Is it Safe to Invest?

As such, although there was still a great amount of uncertainty, opportunities to trade arose. In an increasingly globalised world, many traders remain understandably worried about Britain leaving the EU, breaking the cycle and sending shockwaves. However, opportunities are still present, and investing in the EU is far from unsafe, as the above gains show. So, with this in mind, what trading strategies can you adopt to help navigate the volatility and ensure that you can make money in these uncertain times?

Go Small – Although opportunities are arising, volatility breeds uncertainty, and this can lead to large market movements. As such, be cautious with your investment decisions and really consider the amount that you invest. Trading smaller amounts may lead to lower profits, but it can also help safeguard you from big movements and prevent you from being wiped out.

Think of the Long Term – Although volatility can allow you to gain money in seconds, you can lose it all, too. Instead of cashing out when the going gets tough, consider long term investments where you can ride out the volatility and be confident that you’ll be better off in three to five years. Not every trade has to be a ‘quick win’.

Don’t Follow the Crowd – In times of uncertainty, it can be easy to adopt a herd mentality and follow the crowds. However, this breeds volatility and could lead to you making a decision you’ll later regret. Instead, stick with your trading strategy. After all, it’s got you this far.

Monitor Markets More Closely than Ever Before – Economic indicators can give you more information than ever before at times like this, so monitor the calendar closely. The Federal Reserve, the Bank of England and the EU itself will all be making announcements, and simply monitoring an economic calendar, such as the one offered by Hantec, can make sure you’re abreast of them.

To conclude, although losses were huge in the markets following Brexit, many large recoveries have since been made. As such, investing is dangerous but not impossible. Follow these trading tips, and you could make money from the volatility.

Weakened GBP Leaves UK Companies Vulnerable to Foreign Acquisitions
BankingTransactional and Investment Banking

Weakened GBP Leaves UK Companies Vulnerable to Foreign Acquisitions

ARM Holdings PLC, a Cambridge based technology design company have recently agreed acquisition terms with the Japanese telecommunications giant Softbank Group Corporation. The £24.4 bn deal will see Softbank take over as owners of ARM, however ARM’s CEO, Simon Segars has announced that there will be no change in the way ARM is managed, or in its business model going forward. Segars also explained that the only major change that ARM will implement over the next 5 years is to double the amount of people it will employ, both in the UK and overseas.

Why are UK Companies Attracting Overseas Investors?
Coming so soon after the Brexit vote and the resulting drop in the strength of the GBP, many are wondering if the weakened GBD is likely to lead to more acquisitions of UK companies and whether this is a good thing or not.

UK companies are currently an enticing prospect for overseas investors and the reason for this is that they can get better value for money while the GBP remains weak compared to other currencies. What cost £24.4bn today could be worth much more tomorrow, should the GBP rise in value and so effectively the weakened GBP means that UK companies can be bought at discount prices. It also means that in terms of imports and exports UK companies may struggle to be competitive in the short term.

Business Solutions
There are companies, however, who can ease the burden of the weak GBP and Ebury are one such company. Ebury are a business solutions company and one of the areas they specialise in is currency. Businesses can get access to competitive rates on currencies and therefore operate more competitively when importing and exporting. Other solutions could include a government fronted strategy for bringing back much of the lost manufacturing business back to UK soil. This would take time and would not put an immediate halt to the acquisition of UK businesses, but the message it would send out may make foreign investors think twice.

The Great British Sell Off
Prime Minister Theresa May announced in July that she would be taking measures to make sure that the acquisition of UK companies was in the interests of the UK economy before they could go ahead. May did however welcome the news of the Softbank takeover of ARM.

May’s announcement has yet to be acted upon and in the meantime more UK companies are being bought by overseas investors. Recently, UK pharmaceutical group AstraZenica announced that it was to sell its anti-biotics division to American Viagra producers Pfizer and Poundland is being sold to South African conglomerate Steinhoff.

If we are not to see the UK business sector decimated by foreign takeovers, then maybe the first thing to be done rests with the people who own desirable UK businesses. If the directors of successful UK companies say no to foreign investors and focus more on collaboration, then perhaps we can stay in control of businesses and progress at the same time.

First Choice for Legal Assistance in Romania
BankingTransactional and Investment Banking

First Choice for Legal Assistance in Romania

Gheorghe Mușat founded Mușat & Asociații in the early 1990s as one of the first law firms in
Romania, after the fall of the communist regime. Acting in an emerging market and having as
clients French, German, Italian, U.K. or U.S. corporations looking for business opportunities,
Mușat & Asociații rapidly became one of the investors’ ‘first choice’ for legal assistance in Romania.

High profile international companies such as Societe Generale, Rhone-Poulenc (currently Sanofi Avensis), Cement Francais, Renault, Bouygues, AT&T, American International Group

(A.I.G.), SHELL and British Petroleum chose to work with Mușat & Asociații since its founding in 1990. The start of the privatisations era to strategic investors launched by the Romanian government in 1995, provided the opportunity for Mușat & Asociații to enlarge its portfolio of foreign clients, which represents over 80% of the firm’s client base.

During its 25 years of activity, Mușat & Asociații has become one of the most reputable names among law firms in Romania, positioning itself as a genuine market leader. The firm has been at the forefront of the country’s legal and business development, launching new areas of practice, and acting as a pioneer in the field, while constantly developing value added, tailor–made legal services, aimed at enabling client business in a legally sound environment. The firm is also renowned for anticipating the evolving needs of its clients, providing ground breaking work, and being involved in the biggest transactions on the local market. 

Mușat & Asociații has an impressive portfolio of mandates, and offers support in all areas of business law, including mergers & acquisitions, privatisation, litigation & commercial arbitrations, banking & finance, energy & natural resources, IP & competition, corporate law, telecommunications
& IT, labour, fiscal, capital markets, real estate, environmental law, PPP, healthcare & pharma, insolvency & restructuring, shipping and aviation as well as insurance. 

The firm regularly provides legal services to many of the most renowned and valued corporations in Romania, and worldwide, including a third of the Top 100 and half of the Top 500 largest companies, as well as to local public and financial institutions in intricate corporate and financial transactions and complex dispute resolution procedures. 

The firm’s portfolio comprises over 2,500 clients, most of which are international corporations, such as (to name few of them): Enel SpA, GDF Suez, Colas, European Investment Bank (EIB), European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), RBS (Royal Bank of Scotland), ING Real Estate – ING Bank, Fortis Bank, KBC Bank, Raiffeisen Bank, Banca Transilvania, BNP Paribas, China Development Bank, OTP Bank, Eli Lilly, GlaxoSmithKline, Novartis, Roche, Abbott, General Electric, American International Group (AIG), General Electric, General Motors, Orange, Microsoft, Intel, Oracle, Google, Apple, AON, Amazon.com, AT&T, Nokia, Alcatel – Lucent, Telecom Italia, Thyssen Krupp, Generali, AFI Europe, Electrolux, Caterpillar, Monsanto, Deutsche Bahn, SAB Miller, Credit Suisse – Zurich, Credit Suisse Agricole, Grupo Lar, TNT

Romania, Siemens, Daimler A.G., Generali Immobilien AG, GE Capital, Servier Pharma, Tigranit and so on. In addition, Mușat & Asociații legal teams have been praised many times
by important foreign publishers for their noted expertise. In 2015, Mușat lawyers won the ‘Law Firm of the Year in Romania’ award, a distinction handed out annually by the reputed British publisher ‘The Lawyer’ to European law firms with outstanding achievements in the reference
year.

In 2013, the firm won the ‘The Law Firm of the Year in Romania’ award granted by the International Financial Law Review. That was the second time that Mușat & Asociații was granted this prestigious award, after the distinction received in 2011, when Romania was included
for the first time on the list of countries nominated for the International Financial Law Review (IFLR) awards. Moreover, in 2012, Musat & Asociatii won the Gold Award for the ‘Best Law Firm in Central and Eastern Europe’, an accolade awarded by the 2012 International Legal Alliance Summit & Awards, for excellent results obtained on the Romanian market by the Musat & Asociatii team, both 
with regard to the mandates portfolio in the mergers & acquisitions area of practice, and to the management strategy adopted. 

Furthermore, the renowned publication Chambers Europe awarded the ‘Romanian Law Firm of the Year’ trophy to Musat & Asociatii, the law firm with the best performance in Romania, during the ‘Chambers Europe Awards for Excellence 2011’ gala. Mușat & Asociații has 16 partners and more than 100 associate lawyers – the team being one of the largest on the Romanian market. Mușat partners have been with the company for several years, which ensures stability and cohesion within the team, but we are also recruiting new talent each year.
The core management structure has remained intact in recent years, and this gives consistency to the business model and ensures the sustainability of our development and performance plan. 

A Capital Markets Fellow
BankingTransactional and Investment Banking

A Capital Markets Fellow

Based in Austria, Raiffeisen Centrobank AG is a leading specialist bank, covering the entire spectrum of services and products around equities and certificates. We are a subsidiary of Raiffeisen Bank International AG. and are focussing on our core regions in Austria and Central and Eastern Europe (CEE), also including Russia. Raiffeisen Centrobank AG covers approximately 130 equities in the CEE region, as well in Russia and Turkey.

In total, the company research universe of Raiffeisen Centrobank AG contains approximately 130 equities on the cash equity side, and we are the leader for structured financial products, particularly certificates, in our region. We are currently issuing up to 4,500 products, of which the majority are custom-made products for retail customers. These products range from 100% capital guaranteed to highly leveraged products. In terms of our history, Centrobank itself was founded in the 1970s, whereas the cash equity and certificates side of the bank began in 2002, when we were taken over by Raiffeisen.

Raiffeisen Centrobank AG also focuses on trading, which does not mean proptrading in a common sense but pure market making. This is quite important for Raiffeisen Centrobank AG, because we can offer liquidity on all exchanges for equities and all the structured procuts we are issuing. Essentially, Raiffeisen Centrobank AG is a bank by definition and an equity house, which is quite rare today in Europe. The firm’s strong regional focus is on Central Eastern Europe, Austria and Russia. All the companies that we cover and many of the investors we are servicing are located in this region.

As a result of having two separate business lines, Raiffeisen Centrobank AG has a highly diverse range of clients. On the cash equity side, we offer our research and corporate access to institutional clients only, as pension funds, insurance companies and portfolio managers. It is mainly institutional investors where we offer both research and corporate access. On the certificate side, this is focussed on retail private banking, mainly specialising on the network of banks we are located in across Europe.

Raiffeisen Centrobank AG works in a highly demanding industry, which is why we always hire staff who are highly motivated and are hungry for success for both themselves and the business. We are highly specialised, so we have staff that are dedicated to one specific area too. Due to our relatively small size, our staff have to take on a high level of responsibility in comparison to larger corporate banks, but I view this as a positive aspect which is certainly a highly motivating factor.
A Capital Markets Fellow

There are a number of issues facing banking at the moment, Brexit being one of them. From my perspective, I was expecting a much deeper impact after 23rd June but I do think there is a growing need to establish confidence in the Euro again. I found the market reaction to be surprisingly soft, and was even more surprised at how the issue has been completely ignored in some respects. I feel that the market has not yet realised that it will weaken the Eurozone, and the fact is that there is still little knowledge about what will happen, and it can be difficult to judge what happens next.
In terms of how this impacts us, Raiffeisen Centrobank AG’s business model means that it will not have much of an effect. Of course, one of the most important markets for cash equity is London and I think this will continue to be the case, but if this changes we will simply follow our investors if they are willing to change their location. It is definitely not good for Europe, but having said that it is not something that directly impacts our business.

Looking ahead, there are many obstacles Raiffeisen Centrobank AG will need to overcome in order to continue to succeed. The main challenge facing us, are regulatory issues, which are impacting our business. This results in issues such as how portfolios are defined and which product is allowed to be sold.

Personally, I think the amount of new regulations needs to come to an end and should be executed in a proportional way, which keeps in the mind the size of the bank too. I believe that governments should view capital markets as something that can benefit them rather than a threat, and I also cannot stress enough the many benefits that it can bring.

Specialists in Project Development
BankingTransactional and Investment Banking

Specialists in Project Development, Trade and Finance

Today we are amongst others developing 3 solar projects with 185 MW, 2 biodiesel plants with 140 000 tons and a starch wheat processing factory, total value €625 million.
Besides these large projects, we develop also a range of smaller projects in specialty food production and agriculture, with investments from about 1 million Euro and up.
MDT was set up at the end of 2014, as a result of merging several companies, which have been active since the beginning the 1990#s in Ukraine, Hungary and Russia.

The company specialises in infrastructure, agricultural and food production projects. Agriculture and food production in particular are booming because of the sanctions. This gives our investors much higher returns and values than similar projects in Europe.

MDT are working with Russian as well as European industry and private investors. We are especially working with private investors and family offices, who are now increasingly interested in participating in our projects, as they normally do not have any possibility to directly participate and profit from such economic developments today in Russia. According to the Prequin Infrastructure and Alternative Investor Outlook for 2016, 42% of investors that invest directly are looking to increase this
type of exposure and none are looking to decrease their direct allocations. These tendencies we feel very much as interest and requests for investments are continuously increasing.

Therefore, we also invest into the development of our firm’s staff, which are a group of specialists in project development, trade and finance, all with long standing experience in the Russian as well as international business. The challenges that lie ahead in 2016 for MDT concern finalising some
of the financing pools for our projects. For the achievements of our work, we have recently been awarded the 2016 Distinguished Entrepreneur Award from the National Foundation for Business Development, which has been set up by order from President V. Putin in 2015.


Company: MDT Torg Ltd.
Name: Thomas L. Puskas
Email: [email protected]
Web Address: www.mdt-torg.ru
Address: 105066 Moscow,
ul. Dobroslobodskaya 16/3
Telephone: +79996754029

Comerica Bank's California Index Ticking Up
BankingTransactional and Investment Banking

Comerica Bank’s California Index Ticking Up

Comerica Bank’s California Economic Activity Index grew by 0.8 percentage points in July to a level of 121.7. July’s reading is 38 points, or 45 percent, above the index cyclical low of 84.1. The index averaged 119.8 points for all of 2015, six and two-fifths points above the average for all of 2014. June’s index reading was 120.9.

“The Comerica Bank California Economic Activity Index increased again in July, its fourth consecutive gain. Five out of eight index sub-components were positive for the month, including payroll jobs, state exports, unemployment insurance claims (inverted), housing starts and the NASDAQ 100 Tech Stock Index. In July, the state added a relatively weak 18.6 thousand jobs, but job growth bounced back in August. Real estate markets in Northern California are cooling relative to their overheated state over the last few years. According to the Case-Shiller data, house prices in San Francisco eased by 0.1 percent in July, but are still up by 6.1 percent over the previous year. Cooler real estate markets in Northern California will let some froth out of the market, pre-empting a larger correction later,” said Robert Dye, Chief Economist at Comerica Bank. “Los Angeles house prices gained 0.2 percent in July and are up by 5.5 percent over the last year.”

The California Economic Activity Index consists of eight variables, as follows: nonfarm payrolls, exports, hotel occupancy rates, continuing claims for unemployment insurance, housing starts, national defense spending, home prices, and the NASDAQ-100-Technology Sector Index (NDXT). All data are seasonally adjusted, as necessary, and indexed to a base year of 2008. Nominal values have been converted to constant dollar values. Index levels are expressed in terms of three-month moving averages.

Comerica Bank, with 102 banking centers in the key California markets of San Francisco and the East Bay, San Jose, Los Angeles, Orange County, San Diego, Fresno, Sacramento, Santa Cruz/Monterey, and the Inland Empire, is a subsidiary of Comerica Incorporated (NYSE: CMA). Comerica is a financial services company headquartered in Dallas, Texas, and strategically aligned into three major business segments: the Business Bank, the Retail Bank, and Wealth Management. Comerica focuses on relationships and helping businesses and people be successful.

Independent Legal & Will Solutions Ltd
BankingTransactional and Investment Banking

Independent Legal & Will Solutions Ltd

Independent Legal and Will Solutions Ltd (iLAWS) are now one of Scotland’s largest Estate Planning professionals advising on and producing effective and robust wills, powers of attorney, care cost planning and although not directly authorised themselves, routes to fully authorised and independent Financial Advisers for a Client’s savings and pensions needs. Although based in Glasgow, ILAWS have many associate partner solicitor firms from Aberdeen to Edinburgh and beyond allowing them to cover most of Scotland.

Why are ILAWS doing so well?
ILAWS are unique in their approach to customer service. They will not produce documents for any Client until they have completed a detailed Client Questionnaire of the Clients situation and their requirements. This ensures that the Client receives the best possible advice.

Director Tony Marchi says, “it is always easy for a firm do the minimum of background work with a Client. We have seen this done by other firms and unfortunately because the correct amount of time and care has not been taken, the Client ends up with the wrong product or poor advice resulting in things going wrong. This has never been our approach. We want to treat every Client like a personal family member, ensuring that we give them the time and the correct advice. Actually, it works for us as well as the Clients because the Clients are taken care of properly and we end up get a tremendous amount of referral business.”

ILAWS try to make things easy for a Client. Particularly unusual in the industry is the fact that they will go out and visit with Clients in their own homes as well as office appointments. This means the Clients relax more in their own surroundings and don’t have to worry about getting out to city office appointments. “Some Clients are elderly, and it just doesn’t make sense to drag them out to see us when we can more easily go and visit them,” says Elaine. ILAWS will also do evening appointments when the Client has finished work to save them having to take time off to deal with these things.

The business has continued to grow steadily over the last number of years, and there is no mystery as to why this is happening. Good customer care coupled with a proper professional advice has seen each client referring other members of their family and friends back to ILAWS and their client bank has swelled to an enviable size. “Although, we are extremely proud of our achievements so far, this is something which we keep a close eye on and recruit accordingly to ensure that no matter how many Clients we have, we are always ahead of the game in providing every one of them with the resource to ensure a pleasant and efficient service” Elaine Hamilton concludes.

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]
Web Address: www.apsfinancial.co.uk
Address: Cottons Centre, Cottons Lane, London SE1 2QG
Telephone: 44 (0)203 535 7100

Title Here

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.”

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.

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