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Daily News Roundup: Monday, 15th February 2021

Posted: 15th February 2021


Banks' bereavement failings revealed

Analysis by Which? suggests that banks are letting down bereaved families with “unacceptable” delays and administrative mistakes. The report says death certificates have been lost and accounts of people who have died have not been closed. With the coronavirus crisis making matters worse, the study shows that while 17% of executors struggled to close a person’s account before the first lockdown, this has risen to 37% since March. Some 16% said that it had been very difficult to contact the relevant provider since the initial lockdown compared to 3% before the pandemic. The survey found providers with the lowest levels of overall satisfaction among executors were Barclays (58%) and HSBC (67%).

Concern over Banking Resolution Service access

The Business Banking Resolution Service, an independent dispute resolution service designed to give SMEs a new route for resolving complaints against banks, launches today. Funded by seven banks who make up the majority of the business banking market, it offers an alternative to litigation as small businesses often cannot afford to sue banks. The Times says victims of banking scandals have expressed concern at the “hurdles they will face” in accessing the service. The all Party Parliamentary Group on Fair Business Banking has also noted that "concerns remain about the commitment of the banks to resolve historic complaints".

Banks may pass savings details to HMRC

Banks and wealth managers may be asked to pass sensitive information directly to HMRC as tax authorities look to pull in around £5.5bn a year believed to be owed from earnings that taxpayers fail to mention on their tax returns. This comes as HMRC looks to close the £31bn tax gap - the difference between the amount of tax paid each year and what it believes should be paid. A review by the Office of Tax Simplification (OTS) has called on financial services firms to offer views on how they might send information on things such as interest payments, dividends, Gift Aid and pension contributions to the taxman. An HMRC spokeswoman said the OTS study was “an own-initiative review” by the group, rather than one commissioned directly by the Chancellor.

PSR: Fraud refund data could hit banks

The Payment Systems Regulator (PSR) says detailing how much banks refund fraud victims could damage their commercial interests, adding that disclosure might make banks "less willing to co-operate with the PSR on similar work". The regulator last year published refund rates of eight banks between May 2019 and February 2020, but did not reveal the banks' names. The PSR is seeking views on whether it should ask banks and building societies to publish their scam data, including refund levels.

Banks expected to resume dividends

Britain’s listed banks are expected to resume dividends after pausing payments for a year due to the pandemic. Despite bank executives preparing the ground for significant bad debt provisions and profits across the board thought to be half those of 2019, analysts are expecting modest dividends.

Bank of England plans break from EU with tougher bank capital rule

The Bank of England is set to deliver its first significant break from EU regulations, with a proposed rule on core capital levels taking a tougher stance than the European Banking Authority.

Crosbie details TSB aim

The Times carries an interview with TSB CEO Debbie Crosbie in which she expresses an ambition for the lender to “provide a real alternative to the big banks”.

Start-ups set sights on regional banking revival

The FT looks at a resurgence of regional banking, with a number of entities applying to the Bank of England for licences to open regionally focused business banks.

Marcus reopens to savers

Goldman Sachs has reopened its Marcus online savings accounts to UK customers. The move comes eight months after it was forced to close to new applications due to high demand.


BNY Mellon backs Bitcoin, sending it to a new high

News that Bank of New York Mellon is to start storing and issuing cryptocurrencies for clients sent bitcoin to a record high on Friday, rising more than 8% to $48,481. The move was followed by JP Morgan’s co-president Daniel Pinto revealing that the bank expected to trade bitcoin “at some point”, further bolstering its standing.

Fed to test banks’ ability to withstand 55% fall in equity prices

The Federal Reserve has asked the largest US banks to prove they can withstand the US stock market crashing by 55%, as the central bank lays out criteria for its annual stress exercise.

Credit Suisse agrees $600m settlement in mortgage-backed securities case

Credit Suisse has agreed a $600m settlement to end a long-running dispute related to the bank’s sale of residential mortgage-backed securities a decade ago.

ING pledges to raise payouts after bad loan woes ease

With ING reporting a stronger than expected end to 2020, the bank has said it intends to pay a dividend if the ECB lifts payout restrictions.

Hong Kong plans stricter money laundering checks on Chinese officials

Hong Kong’s Joint Financial Intelligence Unit, its money laundering watchdog, has proposed tougher regulations that will see checks on the bank accounts and transactions of officials from mainland China.


Airlines disadvantaged by new rules

British airlines say they are losing contracts and business to EU rivals, warning that they are severely disadvantaged as the Brexit deal fails to ensure a level playing field. Firms say Britain has unilaterally adopted rules allowing greater freedom and flexibility for EU-owned airlines to fly in the UK than British carriers have in Europe.


London will remain Europe’s financial capital, says Raab

The biggest competition to the UK’s financial services sector will come from Asia and the US, says Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, who believes that while EU financial capitals may “nick a bit of business here and there from the City” post-Brexit, they will not challenge London’s status as Europe’s global financial capital. Mr Raab said that while EU financial capitals may be able to compete with the UK for some business, “the problem is the measures they will take to achieve this will undermine their own competitiveness.” “The challenge to London as a global financial centre around the world will come from Tokyo, New York and other areas rather than those European hubs. Particularly if they start to erect barriers to trade and investment,” he added.

FCA launches cryptocurrency crackdown

Analysis by law firm RPC suggests that the Financial Conduct Authority has launched a crackdown on cryptocurrency firms, with it shown that the City watchdog opened 52 investigations into such businesses in the year to June 30. The research also shows that the FCA’s consumer help-line has been receiving a growing number of queries about cryptoassets, which it deems as very high risk, with 343 calls made in October compared to 176 in April.

Fintechs lack of awareness on modern slavery

A report from the Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner indicates that workers in non-banking areas of the financial industry, such as crypto currencies, accountancy firms, insurance and brokering, have particularly poor knowledge of the issue of forced labour and exploitation of workers. Low levels of awareness are attributed to a potential underlying assumption that because financial organisations are not involved in manufacturing or heavy industry they are not implicated in modern slavery and human trafficking.


Night-time economy in support call

Representatives of nightclubs, music venues and bars – as well as a number of MPs – have written to Chancellor Rishi Sunak calling for a £4.5bn rescue fund for Britain’s night-time economy, warning that without help the sector “will all but collapse”. They acknowledge the “unprecedented interventions” the Chancellor has already made to support the economy and the wider hospitality sector, but warned that “significant parts” of the economy involving businesses that operate between 6pm and 6am had “fallen through the cracks”.


Microsoft and Google object to Nvidia-Arm takeover

Microsoft and Google have joined US chip company Qualcomm in objecting to the takeover of British microchip company Arm by Nvidia, fearing that the deal will harm competition. America’s Federal Trade Commission and the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority are already scrutinising the deal.


Sunak considers six-week extension of stamp duty holiday

The Chancellor is reportedly considering extending the stamp duty holiday by six weeks, in a move designed to prevent tens of thousands of buyers walking away from sales. Rishi Sunak is looking at a limited extension through to mid-May which would help to alleviate fears that sales risk falling through after the March 31 deadline expires, but is said to oppose calls for a longer six month extension due to the impact it would have on tax receipts.


Burberry hands back tax relief

Burberry is to voluntarily pay the Treasury tax it saved from an emergency business rates holiday, with this coming despite the fashion firm’s stores remaining shut. The move makes Burberry the first non-essential retailer to hand over tax on business premises forced to close under lockdown rules.


English football needs a new regulator to tackle wealth gap, says Mervyn King

Former Bank of England governor Mervyn King says English football needs a new regulator to redistribute wealth and enforce rules on club ownership and spending.


UK economic contraction deepest since 1709

Data from the Office for National Statistics show that despite the economy growing by an unexpected 1% in the final quarter of last year, it still suffered its worst annual performance in more than three centuries with output down by 9.9% - wiping out seven years of economic growth. Most of the slump occurred during the first lockdown in the spring but a surprise recovery was seen in the final quarter of 2020. The Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, said that the figures underscored the “serious shock” that the economy was facing because of the pandemic. “While there are some positive signs of the economy’s resilience over the winter, we know that the current lockdown continues to have a significant impact on many people and businesses,” he said.

Economists warn over Brexit disruption

Economists have warned that post-Brexit disruption to trade cannot be dismissed as mere “teething problems”, arguing that it points to structural issues which could hit UK GDP for several years. Andrew Goodwin, chief UK economist at Oxford Economics, said “non-tariff barriers” such as additional form-filling, queueing and regulatory obstacles to trade are hitting a number of sectors. Thomas Sampson, associate economics professor at the LSE, said there was “some truth” that disruption at the borders is down to “teething problems but added: “There are also permanent changes which are going to make trading harder.”


Financial crisis made sandwich generation more resilient

More than three fifths of those aged 40 to 59 feel they are better equipped to deal with the economic impact of the coronavirus crisis due to lessons learnt during the 2008 financial crisis. People in this age bracket – known as the 'sandwich generation’ as they are likely to have responsibilities toward their children and their parents – say they built resilience amid the banking crisis and ensuing recession.

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