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Daily News Roundup: Friday, 15th June 2018

Posted: 15th June 2018


Bank closures reach 60 a month

The consumer group Which? has found that banks and building societies are closing nearly 60 branches per month. Between the start of 2015 and the end of 2018, a total of 2,868 branches will have shut or are scheduled to do so. Which? found that RBS, the owner of NatWest, has announced the most closures since 2015, at 1,023. This was followed by Lloyds with 508, HSBC with 440, and Barclays with 243. Santander has closed 169 outlets, the Co-op Bank has axed 154, and 134 have been shut by the owner of Clydesdale and Yorkshire banks. A spokesperson for RBS said: “Since 2014 the number of customers using our branches across the UK has fallen by 40% and mobile transactions have increased by 73% over the same period. As customers continue to change the way they bank with us, we must change the way we serve them, so we are investing in our branches and re-shaping our network, replacing traditional bricks and mortar branches with alternative ways to bank.”

MPs threaten to publish HBOS internal report

Kevin Hollinrake, the Conservative MP who chairs the all-party group on banking, has written to Lloyds Banking Group’s CEO António Horta-Osório, saying he will publish an internal report into what Lloyds and HBOS knew about a major fraud at HBOS’s Reading branch unless the bank publishes it first. Mr Hollinrake said the report calls out bosses for allegedly concealing the fraud to avoid derailing a rights issue and subsequent takeover of ailing HBOS during the financial crisis.

Theresa May woos bankers with UK visa changes

Theresa May has told European financial bosses that a decision to remove doctors and nurses from Britain’s restrictive visa regime would allow banks to hire more professionals from outside the EEA.


ECB to end crisis-era stimulus programme in December

The ECB has confirmed it will end a huge programme to stimulate the eurozone economy in December. The ECB will stop its bond-buying scheme, worth €30bn a month, despite a recent slowdown in the bloc's recovery. However, it said it was keeping interest rates on hold for now. In a statement, the bank said it would halve the size of monthly asset purchases to €15bn after September, as long as data remains favourable, and phase them out entirely after the end of the year.

StanChart to set up in Poland

Standard Chartered is to establish a presence in Poland by hiring 750 people in Warsaw to support the bank’s push to win more clients in Europe and North America. The new office, which is expected to open in September, will house a range of operations serving the lender's growing European and US client base, including technology and finance services, cyber security, as well as traditional banking activities.

FINMA finds shortcomings at Swiss bank Raiffeisen

Swiss financial market supervisor FINMA has revealed it found serious breaches at Raiffeisen Switzerland in a probe related to fraud allegations against former CEO Pierin Vincenz. "FINMA has found that the bank's handling of conflicts of interest was inadequate. In addition, Raiffeisen's board of directors failed to adequately supervise its former CEO, thereby enabling him, at least potentially, to generate personal financial gain at the bank's expense," the watchdog said in a statement.

ANZ to cut workforce

ANZ has announced that it will cut about 60 staff positions from its markets division across the world due to “challenging” conditions and “ongoing headwinds”. The job cuts impact 30 employees in Australia and a similar number across Asia, Europe and the United States, equating to roughly 7% of its workforce, spokesman Stephen Ries said.


L&G strikes pensions and loan deal with Heathrow

Legal & General has signed a pensions deal with Heathrow Airport, taking on £325m of pension promises covering 1,300 retired pension scheme members, and simultaneously lending it £160m via a bespoke, unlisted bond.

Heathrow expansion will boost Scotland

Scottish airport bosses have backed the planned expansion of Heathrow saying it will help boost trade and tourism links for Scotland, while also unlocking up to 16,000 new jobs across the region.


Brexit has cost regulators less than expected

The Bank of England’s Prudential Regulation Authority has revealed that its operating costs for last year were £280m, some £8m under budget. The PRA said it had spent less because the cost of Brexit projections had been less than expected.

UK retirees face state pension cuts after review uncovers errors

Experts have warned that tens of thousands of retired UK workers face cuts to their state pension after overpayments were discovered in a data-checking exercise.


Calls for curbs on DeepMind’s NHS projects

A review panel has recommended that DeepMind, the AI business owned by Alphabet, should not be granted further access to the NHS until it clarifies how it intends to make profits.

Healios raises £2.2m for mental health therapies

UK-based start-up Healios has raised £2.2m in funding to help grow its business, which uses technology to improve the availability of mental health therapists.


Rolls-Royce announces 4,600 job cuts

Rolls-Royce has confirmed it is to cut 4,600 managerial and support jobs over the next two years as part of a restructuring programme that will cost £500m to implement but lead to annual savings of £400m. Approximately 1,500 of the jobs, mainly in the UK, and many in middle-manager and back-office functions, will be axed by the end of the year. The cuts stem from a desire to refocus the business on civil aerospace, defence and power systems.


DWF set for £1bn flotation

The Times reports that DWF is set to list on the London Stock Exchange later this year with a valuation of up to £1bn. The flotation would be the largest in the legal world and the first for a big law firm since Slater & Gordon listed on the Australian stock exchange in 2007. A listing could result in a multimillion-pound windfall for some members of DWF’s senior management, a small number of whom could be handed about £10m of shares.


April mortgage lending up across the spectrum

Latest figures from UK Finance show mortgage lending in the UK increased considerably in April. There were some 26,700 new first-time buyer mortgages worth £4.4bn completed in the month, 3.5% more than in the same month a year earlier. Remortgaging also increased, with new homeowner mortgages up 36% to £7.5bn and buy-to-let remortgages up 32.4%. However, mortgages for second steppers were down 4.2% in the period to £5.4bn of new lending. UK Finance explained remortgaging activity bouncing back due to customers locking into attractive fixed-rate deals ahead of an anticipated interest rate rise.

WeWork more than doubles sales in first quarter

Shared office space provider WeWork has more than doubled its sales in the first quarter of 2018 to $342m, boosting its hopes for new fundraising and a stock market listing.

UBS London headquarters sold for £1bn

British Land and Singaporean sovereign wealth fund GIC have sold UBS’s London HQ, 5 Broadgate, to a subsidiary of CK Asset Holdings for £1bn.


Retail sales boosted by hot weather and royal wedding

According to the ONS, the hot weather and royal wedding celebrations contributed to a strong rise in retail sales in May with sales volumes rising 1.3% from the month before and up 3.9% from the same month a year earlier, a 13-month high. Retailers said the royal wedding and good weather had encouraged spending in food and household goods stores.


ICAEW downgrades forecasts

The ICAEW has warned that a lack of progress on Brexit is inhibiting business investment, as it downgraded its forecasts for economic growth. Economic growth in the UK is now expected to be 1.3% this year, down from its previous estimate of 1.7%. This would be the weakest performance for the UK since 2009. ICAEW chief executive Michael Izza commented: “The government… needs to make progress with the EU in helping to pave UK business success once Brexit takes place. Businesses are in an excellent position to take advantage of new opportunities but the lack of clarity and agreements made are a clear own goal.” The institute said that growth in employment for 2018 was expected to be 0.9%, 0.1 percentage points lower than last year.


BoE's senior staff diversity goes into reverse

The proportion of senior jobs at the Bank of England held by women and ethnic minority employees fell last year. The Bank’s annual report reveals that the proportion of women in senior roles retreated from 30% to 29% while the share of black and minority ethnic (BME) staff in senior positions fell from 6% to 5%.

Bosses urged to be flexible with staff over World Cup

The TUC has urged bosses to be flexible with staff who want to follow the football World Cup. The trade union said that workplaces that operate flexible working can allow staff to put their hours in while still watching crucial fixtures. Frances O’Grady, the TUC’s general secretary, said: “It is important employers do not score an own goal by acting like killjoys.”

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