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Daily News Roundup: Thursday, 25th March 2021

Posted: 25th March 2021


TSB chairman announces resignation

TSB chairman Richard Meddings is to step down later in the year after its Spanish owner Sabadell postponed plans to sell the British bank. Chief executive Debbie Crosbie commented: “The whole bank will miss Richard greatly, but I am delighted he will continue to lead us as we search for a new chair.” She went on: “TSB will forever be indebted to Richard for stepping in to lead the business after migration and then, as Chairman, taking the right steps to get us to where we are now – a strong and growing bank with customers at its heart. On a personal level, I am hugely grateful to Richard for the close working relationship we have built, and his support and counsel through my first two years as CEO.”

FCA and PRA given climate remit

The Treasury is asking the Financial Conduct Authority and the Bank of England’s Prudential Regulation Authority to consider the Government’s goal to reach a net zero economy by 2050 when regulating the City. Simon Youel, head of policy at Positive Money, commented: “We need to see more of the details of what exactly this is going to mean and look like for regulation... The ball’s in their court in how they interpret it.” Separately, the Network for Greening the Financial System has identified nine ways in which central banks could use monetary policy to tackle the risks of climate change.

NatWest to overhaul retail business as it tackles fintech rivals

NatWest is planning a fight back against its fintech competitors with a refresh of its core retail banking business, including a focus on unsecured lending and improving the bank’s reputation. Part of the new strategy will also involve a more flexible service in which branches will offer video meetings with customers in the evenings.

Metro Bank aims to offer staff long-term incentives

Metro Bank’s annual report reveals it has rewritten its pay policy with the aim of improving retention among senior staff. A new remuneration policy could see a shift away from bonuses to LTIPs. "The proposed replacement to LTIP will support the retention and motivation of senior colleagues, provide alignment with shareholders and is better aligned to market practice," a spokesman said.

Nationwide employees can work from anywhere

Nationwide has told its staff they can work from anywhere in the country after finding that only 6% wanted to return to their old desks full-time while 57% never wanted to go back to the office again. Joe Garner, the chief executive of Nationwide, said offices in future will have "fewer traditional meeting rooms and a range of well-being measures such as quiet areas and designated walking and cycling routes will be in place".


Global banks’ $750bn in fossil fuels finance conflicts with green pledges

The Rainforest Action Network says the overall trend of finance provided by global banks to fossil fuel companies “is still heading definitively in the wrong direction”.


Legal action on Mercedes ‘cheating’ starts

US law firm Hagens Berman has begun formal legal action seeking compensation for the UK owners of Mercedes-Benz cars after the manufacturer allegedly installed emissions cheating devices on diesel vehicles. Michael Gallagher, who heads Hagens Berman’s new UK office, said Mercedes-Benz “lied and they knew they were lying and they misrepresented what their vehicles were doing.” Some 33,000 potential UK claimants have been identified by the firm, with payouts of as much has £5,000 each sought.


Ryanair to ramp up flights as it banks on return of summer holidays

Ryanair plans to ramp up its flight schedule to 80% of pre-pandemic levels from the middle of June with CEO Michael O'Leary confident of a return to international travel this summer.


Bellway restarts dividends as it heads for record year

Bellway has started paying dividends to shareholders again after government support for the housing market helped the housebuilder to report its highest ever half-year revenues. The company has also spent £450m expanding its land bank in the last six months.


FCA sticks to swaps trading stance

The Financial Conduct Authority on Wednesday said that it had not yet observed reasons to change its stance on permitting branches of EU banks in the UK to trade derivatives on platforms in the EU, despite the bloc banning EU market participants from using London platforms. A statement from the regulator read: “We will continue to monitor market and regulatory developments and review our approach if necessary. If we do see a case for a change, we will provide sufficient notice to market participants so that any changes can be implemented smoothly.” It comes after Deutsche Bank said on Tuesday that the EU curbs on London branches posed revenue “challenges” and put the bloc’s banks at a competitive disadvantage.

FCA will not block Amigo compo scheme

The Financial Conduct Authority has said it will not intervene to prevent Amigo Loans from capping the amount of compensation it pays out to customers who have complaints, although the regulator made clear it does not support the scheme. The subprime lender had nearly 13,000 complaints in the last six months of 2020 about its guaranteed loans, according to the Financial Ombudsman. Total claims will be limited at £35m, plus a 15% portion of profits over the next four years. Amigo warned it would go into administration if it could not cap payouts.

FCA whistleblower campaign launches

A new Financial Conduct Authority campaign has launched, seeking whistleblowers to expose potential wrongdoing in financial services. FCA executive director of enforcement and market oversight Mark Steward said: “We want all whistleblowers to feel welcomed by us and to feel safe because of us.” He went on: “We listen to all whistleblowers and, if they shine a light on serious misconduct, we want to make sure we act responsibly. When whistleblowing works well it helps consumers, markets and firms and keeps everyone safe and that is our aim.”

Competition watchdog set to block UK crowdfunding merger

The Competition and Markets Authority has said it is minded to block a merger between Crowdcube and Seedrs on the grounds that it would restrict competition in Britain’s crowdfunding market. They enjoy a combined market share of at least 90%.

City of London bosses warn against ‘gold plating’ new governance rules

A forum of senior financial services figures has welcomed new moves to improve corporate governance and audits, but sounded a note of caution about possible unintended consequences of the measures.

Young investors can only learn about risk by taking risks

Responding to a warning from the FCA about young people engaging in high-risk investments, Moira O’Neill says investing boldly can provide valuable lessons, adding: “The sooner young people start the better.”


Rising exports drive surge in eurozone factory orders

The IHS Markit eurozone flash purchasing managers’ index for manufacturing in March increased to 62.4 as growing exports boosted manufacturing in the eurozone.

Intel to ramp up semiconductor supplies

Intel is set to invest $20bn in two computer chip plants in Arizona and expand an existing Irish facility in County Kildare in response to supply chain concentration in Asia.


Bloomsbury in second profit upgrade of the year

Publisher Bloomsbury has issued a second profit upgrade for the year, with full-year revenue expected to beat revised expectations of £171m and adjusted pre-tax profit to be “significantly ahead” of its already upgraded forecast of £14.8m for the year to the end of February. Nigel Newton, chief executive at the firm, commented: “The popularity of reading during lockdown is a ray of sunshine in an otherwise very dark last year. February, the final month of our financial year, saw an exceptional sales performance for Bloomsbury as the surge in reading continued.”

KKR joins forces with BMG for music rights buying spree

KKR and music firm BMG have announced a partnership under which large acquisitions of music labels and catalogues will be targeted amid a return to growth in the music sector.


House prices climb 7.5% in England

Official figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) reveal that the average house price fell by £1,000 in January, from a record high the previous month. The average property value across the country in January stood at £249,000. Mark Harris, chief executive of mortgage broker SPF Private Clients, commented: “The housing market continued to be buoyant in January, although annual growth slipped slightly to 7.5%, down from 8% in December. This was before the Chancellor announced the extension to the stamp duty holiday so there may have been buyers who took their foot off the gas in the belief that they were too late to take advantage.” House prices in the capital rose 0.1% in January to reach £501,320, representing an annual rate of increase of 5.3%.


John Lewis jobs at risk as stores shut

Retail chain John Lewis has stated that eight of its 42 stores will not reopen when lockdown restrictions end, putting some 1,465 jobs in jeopardy. The group said in a statement: “Given the significant shift to online shopping in recent years - and our belief that this trend will not materially reverse - we do not think the performance of these eight stores can be substantially improved.”


IHS Markit/CIPS report shows signs of growth

The IHS Markit/CIPS Flash UK Composite PMI report for March was 56.6, as the economy showed strong signs of growth amid increasing consumer confidence and more demand for residential property services. Chris Williamson, chief business economist at IHS Markit, noted: “The encouraging readings on future expectations, job creation and new order inflows meanwhile all point to robust economic growth in the second quarter, especially if virus restrictions are lifted further.” He went on: “Worries persist though, especially in relation to near-record supply chain delays, a continued fall in exports and sharply rising prices, all of which are making life difficult for many companies.”

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