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Daily News Roundup: Monday 27th January 2020

Posted: 27th January 2020


Open banking struggling to get off the ground

Research by Which? reveals that on the second anniversary of open banking, nearly 75% of people haven’t heard of it. Of those who have, only 4% have used an open banking 'account aggregator', allowing them to view multiple financial accounts in one app. Now innovation foundation Nesta is running a competition to raise awareness and will showcase companies using innovative solutions based on open banking. However, Jenny Ross, the editor of Which? Money magazine, says a survey found 65% of people would not be prepared to share their data even in return for more tailored services. Separately, the Sunday Telegraph reports on how banks have been slow to meet open banking deadlines, while fintech start-ups are finding that the tools banks have built to allow them to access data are not yet working reliably enough. The paper talks to Imran Gulamhuseinwala, charged with implementing Open Banking, who points to payments as an area of particular concern, He says: “I think there is some crucial functionality that’s missing […] of all the open banking activity, less than 0.1% is payments-related. Payments hasn’t fired at all.”

Thousands of NatWest jobs on the line

Royal Bank of Scotland is considering cutting thousands of jobs at NatWest as the bank’s new CEO Alison Rose seeks to cut costs. The Sunday Times claims a scenario dubbed "Project Tusk" could see 3,700 retail banking job cuts at NatWest, saving £120m, although RBS says it does not recognise the figures. Separately, NatWest customers have been complaining of their money "disappearing" in transfers over their banking app. The bank said it was due to an error causing a half-hour delay in mobile transfers and urged customers not to resend any payments they have already made.

FCA recommends taking out loans to avoid overdraft fees

The FCA has said that although 7 in 10 bank customers will be better off thanks to new regulations regarding overdraft fees, some customers could be charged more than previously. The City watchdog has suggested that these customers take out loans or use credit cards to avoid going into their overdraft if they intend to borrow a larger amount of money for a long period of time.

Bank chiefs want post-Brexit tax cuts

International banks are lobbying the UK government, hoping that Brexit will bring respite from taxes such as the bank levy and the bank surcharge. Banks are calling on Chancellor Sajid Javid to prove the “global Britain” boast and convince them to remain in the UK. They are using offers from Paris and elsewhere as leverage, the Telegraph reports.

Bankers at Barclays braced for bonus cuts

Bankers at Barclays face having their bonuses cut significantly as boss Jes Staley looks to increase profitability. Bankers are now expecting double-digit falls in their 2019 bonuses, but the FT’s Lex doubts there will be many complaints with “few investment banks in hiring mode these days”.

Currencycloud attracts $80m more funding

Payments start-up Currencycloud has secured £61m in new funding from a range of investors, taking the total amount raised to $140m. Founded in 2012, the firm has now processed more than $50bn in payments for the likes of Monzo, Starling Bank and Revolut.

Virgin Money chair to retire

Jim Pettigrew is to step down as chairman of Virgin Money in September 2021, allowing him time to complete the bank’s transformation following its takeover by CYBG, which is undergoing a rebrand under the Virgin name.

Lawsuit beckons for Revolut over locked accounts

Around seventy Revolut customers have lodged complaints with the Financial Ombudsman Service after being frozen out of their accounts, and a further 25 says they are considering legal action to recover their money.

Philip Hammond joins advisory board of fintech OakNorth

SoftBank-backed fintech OakNorth has appointed former Chancellor Philip Hammond to its advisory board as it seeks to accelerate its overseas expansion.

Monzo in talks with SoftBank over expansion funding

Digital bank Monzo is reportedly holding talks with Softbank over fresh funding for expansion into the US. Monzo is currently testing its banking app in the US.


Fresh approach to alternative assets

An investment trust focused on alternative assets has outlined plans for a £200m float in London. Cabot Square Alternatives (ALTS), managed by London-based private equity firm Cabot Square Capital, will invest directly in a portfolio of infrastructure, property, and specialist debt, as well as in asset managers managing these holdings. Placing for ALTS is scheduled to close on 13 February.

Addison Lee scrambles to avoid administration

US private equity giant Carlyle is facing heavy losses as its Addison Lee investment struggles under £250m of debt. Lenders are on the verge of agreeing new loans totalling around £165m in return for shares in the business. Carlyle bought Addison Lee in 2013 for £300m.


Deutsche Bank picks ex-foreign minister Sigmar Gabriel for board

Sigmar Gabriel, who served as Germany's foreign minister, economic minister and vice-chancellor, has been chosen by Deutsche Bank to join its supervisory board.

Deutsche Bank payments to Saudi royal adviser probed

Two former Deutsche Bank employees are being investigated for suspected bribery, after an internal investigation found the bank’s wealth management arm paid $1.1m to secure the business of a Saudi royal.

Suspicious activity reports swell in Denmark

Reports from banks and betting firms of suspicious transactions in Denmark have increased tenfold in recent years, to 53,454 in 2019, according to leaked reports.

The I, Page: 38

Why BlackRock is facing backlash in France

Protests in France at the perceived influence of Blackrock over Emmanuel Macron’s hated pension reforms illustrates the need for fund managers to better promote their role as long-term shareholders.


Car production declines

Official numbers from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders are expected to show about 1.3m cars rolled off UK production lines in 2019 - the lowest level since 2010.

Volvo warns of crunched car line-up if UK splits from EU rules

Volvo CEO Hakan Samuelsson has warned that the carmaker could have to slim down its UK offering if Britain significantly diverges from EU rules, due to the cost of certifying the vehicles.


Flybe asks for £100m loan

The owners of Flybe are asking the UK government for a £100m loan to hold the company over for the winter just a week after securing a deferral to its £100m tax bill. The move follows assurances from the Chancellor that help provided to Flybe did not constitute state aid.

LOT buys Condor

Polish airline LOT has bought Thomas Cook's former German carrier Condor in a deal that LOT CEO Rafal Milczarski says ensures Condor’s future.


Ratio of female partners stalls at finance firms

The percentage of female partners at financial services partnerships has remained at just 14% for the third year in a row, according to figures from the Financial Conduct Authority. This compares with about a third of boardroom positions at FTSE 100 companies being held by women. Catriona Watt, partner at law firm Fox & Partners, which compiled the figures, said because most financial services partnerships have few retail customers, pressure for change has been absent. But change will come as more institutional investors take ESG issues seriously, Watt adds.

Invesco’s Barnett bids to calm investors

Mark Barnett has moved to reassure investors that his funds can withstand mounting redemptions after it emerged that he had been hit by more than £1bn of withdrawals. The former protégé of Neil Woodford told clients that the liquidity of the main High Income and Income funds that he runs for Invesco had improved during the second half of last year.

Pension fund will sack asset managers that ignore climate crisis

The £30bn Brunel Pension Partnership has said it will review the mandates of asset managers that fail to reduce exposure to climate risk by 2022. Brunel criticised the sector's "emphasis on short-term rather than long-term performance", and "unwillingness" to invest in the low carbon economy.

FCA appoints Christopher Woolard as interim chief

The Financial Conduct Authority has appointed Christopher Woolard as interim chief executive. Mr Woolard, the regulator's executive director of strategy and competition, will take on the new role following Andrew Bailey's departure to become Bank of England governor.

FCA urged to probe pension advice

The Financial Conduct Authority is facing calls to contact over 160,000 people who have cashed in their final salary pensions since 2015, amid fears of a potential pensions mis-selling scandal.

Finablr slumps after loan pledge

Shares in Travelex owner Finablr fell to their lowest level since its listing in May after its founder pledged more than half the company as security for a loan.

Investors pull $43bn from hedge funds in 2019

Despite the hedge fund industry delivering its best annual performance for a decade last year, investors withdrew $43bn last year, up from $38.3bn in 2018.


Australian hospitals group eyes up Priory

Ramsay Health Care has shown interest in the Priory Group, whose owner Acadia Healthcare last year appointed NM Rothschild to find a buyer.


Rise in national living wage to hit pub operator

Marston’s reported a 1% rise in like-for-like sales in its managed and franchised pubs over the 16 weeks to January 18, and a 4.5% rise in like-for-like sales over the Christmas fortnight. However, the firm said that a 6.2% rise in the national living wage would increase costs in the second half by £1m, to £3m.

New boss starts to break up Saga

Insurance and travel group Saga has put its Titan Travel arm up for sale as it comes under pressure from activist investors. The group has also called in advisers to help sell its live-in care brands Patricia White's and Country Cousins, according to reports.

Sajid Javid announces £1,000 Pubs Relief

Sajid Javid has announced that business rates for as many as 18,000 small pubs in England will be cut by £1,000.


Manufacturing exports recover slightly

The Lloyds Bank International Trade Index, compiled in partnership with IHS Markit, posted a reading of 47.9 for new manufacturing export orders in the fourth quarter, up from 46.5 in the third quarter, which was the weakest for seven years.

Turkey’s Cengiz eyes British Steel bid if Jingye deal fails

Cengiz Holding is prepared to bid for British Steel if the sale to Chinese group Jingye collapses, the Turkish conglomerate has said.


BT executive to run new tech regulation body

Cathryn Ross, BT’s director of regulatory affairs, has been appointed to chair the government’s new Regulatory Horizons Council – a body that will scrutinise regulation in technology and artificial intelligence.

Murdoch to launch rival to Radio 4

The UK arm of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp empire is due to announce the launch of a new digital radio channel called Times Radio. The channel will compete with the BBC’s Radio 4, which has lost 300,000 listeners since last year.

Sky and Disney to sign exclusive streaming deal

Sky is on the verge of signing a deal with Disney to integrate its Disney+ streamed content on its platform.


Reiss reports 15% rise in UK sales over Christmas

Reiss has reported a 15% increase in UK sales in the seven weeks to 18 January 2020, with an 18% rise in global sales. In the year to February 2019, the upmarket fashion chain reported £19.3m in profits, an increase from £15.9m in the previous year. The results come as the retailer’s private equity owner Warburg Pincus is looking to sell the group.


Saudi Arabia takes £350m shot at Newcastle United

Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund is the lead backer in a takeover of Newcastle United, with PCP private equity putting in 20% and its boss, Amanda Staveley, putting in another 10%.


Output grew at the fastest rate for 16 months in January

The UK composite purchasing managers' index (PMI) compiled by IHS Markit shows manufacturing and services saw their best month for more than a year in January. The IHS Markit/CIPS PMI for services showed the sector returning to growth for the first time since August 2019, rising to 52.9 from the previous month's 50.0. Any score above 50 indicates expansion. Manufacturing continued to contract, but at a slower pace. Its PMI reading rose to 49.8 from December's 47.5. With figures today showing consumer confidence also up, experts are calling on the Bank of England to keep interest rates on hold.

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