RBS launches Bó as rival to digital bank start-ups
Royal Bank of Scotland has officially launched its new digital bank Bó which has cost the lender £100m to develop. The Bó app is designed to encourage people to budget and save better, alerting them if they overspend. It will target the 16.8m Britons with savings of less than £100. Mark Bailie, Bó chief executive, said RBS needed to respond to the rapid growth of fintech challengers because “regardless of what people think of those business models […] customers clearly like them.” Meanwhile, the Times reports that about 30% of applications received by Bó since the app-based venture went live two weeks ago were fraudulent. Mr Bailie said criminals had been blocked “at the front door”.
First Direct clinches top spot in new retail bank index
Kantar has released its first ever retail banking index and puts First Direct in top spot for customer experience, followed by Nationwide then Barclays. "Challenger banks and out-of-category brands, such as Amazon, are re-defining what great experience looks like - established banks ignore the signs at their peril," said Amy Cashman, co-chief executive of Kantar's insights divisions. She added: "Many traditional banks say that they want people to be better off but our customer experience leaders and disruptive fintechs are winning the battle for attention because they are taking purposeful action to ensure they consistently do things that aim to improve customers' lives."
Santander to review Bostock's pension
Santander is to review CEO Nathan Bostock's £588,000 annual pension payments as the lender comes under pressure to follow the example of other banks and cut payments to chief executives. Mr Bostock gets a cash pension pay-out equal to 35% of his £1.7m salary each year - far more than the 12.5% maximum given to other Santander workers. Barclays is also expected to cut the pension allowance given to Jes Staley, who receives the equivalent to around 34% of his cash salary. The moves come after Lloyds announced it was reducing payments to its boss Antonio Horta-Osorio from 33% of his salary to 15%.
HSBC switches £16bn worth of assets to blockchain
HSBC aims to shift £16bn worth of assets to a new blockchain-based custody platform by March. The platform, known as Digital Vault, will give investors real-time access to records of securities bought on private markets. Sebastien Danloy, global head of asset owners & managers at HSBC Securities Services, said: "We have seen an increasing number of clients investing in private assets as they look to pick up the kinds of yields not widely available in the public markets. Our Digital Vault will bring greater functionality to record-keeping in the private placement markets."
Brait sells off assets to tackle debts
South African investment firm Brait, which owns stakes in New Look, Iceland and Virgin Active, saw its shares plunge more than 15% after it announced plans to sell off its assets in a bid to reduce debts, and announced a major rights issue. Private equity firm Ethos has agreed to invest 1.35bn rand in Brait, giving it seats on the board.
Deutsche Bank offloads assets to Goldman Sachs as part of restructuring
Deutsche Bank has offloaded a portfolio of emerging market debt derivatives to Goldman Sachs, thought to have a notional value of about €47bn, as part of a radical restructuring. The move comes four months after Deutsche chief executive Christian Sewing revealed plans to cut €282bn (£240bn) in non-core assets.
Brussels eyes easing bank rules to spur green lending
The European Commission wants to change EU banking rules to encourage climate-friendly lending. A “green supporting factor” for bank lending is “something we need to explore”, said Commission VP Valdis Dombrovskis. Meanwhile, Christine Lagarde, the new ECB chief, has said she wants to make climate change a "mission-critical" priority during her tenure.
Amigo told to spell out risks
The Financial Conduct Authority has told Amigo Holdings to explain more carefully the risks that people are taking on when they agree to guarantee a loan for a family member or friend. The FCA was concerned that guarantors were not always made fully aware of their obligations, nor of the likelihood that they would be on the hook for the loan.
Zopa investor delays results
Augmentum Fintech, a major backer of peer-to-peer lender Zopa, has delayed the publication of its results until next month when it hopes there is "greater clarity over the valuation of the company's holding in Zopa". Zopa needs to raise £100m or more within days to fulfil its plans to launch fully as a bank.
Panormo DC lead for Hymans Robertson
Leading pensions and financial services consultancy Hymans Robertson has appointed Victoria Panormo to be senior defined contribution (DC) investment consultant.
LEISURE & HOSPITALITY
Nando’s billionaire owner refinances £128m debt
Nando’s owner Dick Enthoven has refinanced £128m of debt as the chicken chain prepares for expansion. Sales were up 8% in the year to February but Nando’s still suffered a £25m loss. It is hoped the debt for equity swap will reduce interest costs and free up cash to invest in growth.
Pub group Marston’s looking to offload properties
Marston’s has fallen to pre-tax losses of £20m in the 12 months to September, after it cut the value of poorly performing properties by £43m. The pub giant owns 1,400 pubs but is looking to offload “tens” of outlets next year to raise £70m as it offloads underperforming assets.
On The Beach takes £25m hit from Thomas Cook collapse
Online travel agent On the Beach suffered a 26% fall in profit before tax to £19.4m for the year to September 30 blaming Thomas Cook’s collapse for a loss of custom and higher ticket prices.
Tata Steel to axe 1,000 jobs
A week after it announced plans to slash 3,000 jobs across its European operations, Tata Steel has confirmed it will cut up to 1,000 jobs in the UK. The restructuring comes as Europe’s steel makers continue to struggle from cheap imports, particularly from China.
MEDIA & ENTERTAINMENT
UK households willing to pay an extra £600m for streaming
Just over 60% of households currently watch streaming services, rising to more than three-quarters of 18 to 34-year-olds, according to data from uSwitch. But consumers say they are willing to budget more cash for streaming as services such as Disney Plus, Apple TV Plus and Britbox start to compete with Netflix, Amazon Prime and Now TV. Research shows British households are willing to pay an additional £600m each year for streaming services.
Business optimism falls
The CBI’s quarterly survey of the service sector has found that optimism among businesses in the UK service sector fell again in the three months to November, albeit at a slower pace than in the previous quarter. The reading for activity in the sector was -16% in business and professional services, compared with -2% in the previous three months, and -13% in consumer services, compared with -8%. Rain Newton-Smith, chief economist at the CBI, said: "The current economic climate is holding back UK services firms, which are reporting falling sentiment, declining volumes and weaker profitability. Neither is the outlook expected to improve, with firms pessimistic about their prospects for expansion, investment plans having been scaled back and hiring on hold.”