Britain the bank scam capital of the world
The UK has been ranked as the global epicentre for bank scams, losing an estimated £2.5bn in fraud and cybercrime during 2021. With this in mind, HSBC has outlined as number of scams that have been flagged during the first three months of 2022. One centres on the crisis in Ukraine, with fraudsters posing as Ukrainians needing funds to flee the conflict and organisations helping refugees. Other scams involve WhatsApp messages claiming to be family members needing money; software designed to gain remote access to devices; payment scams urging people to move money to safe accounts due to a security issue; and fraud linked to the end of the tax year that seeks to acquire account details by flagging a possible tax rebate.
Small business lending falls
Figures from banking body UK Finance shows borrowing by small businesses fell significantly last year. Small firms took on £22.6bn in debt 2021, with this 64% down on the year before. Analysis shows that in Q2 2021, small firms took on £5.2bn in debt, compared to £34.5bn in Q2 2020. The report says Government implemented loan-schemes rolled out amid the pandemic incentivised banks to channel funds into the private sector, boosting overall loan demand among businesses during the pandemic.
Lenders worry Moscow will stage reprisal attack on Swift
The FT reports that a number of large banks fear Swift could become a target of cyber-attacks after seven Russian lenders were ejected from the global payments messaging system.
HSBC to offload Greek retail bank
HSBC is to sell off its Greek retail bank as it as it doubles down on its Asia operations, which is the lenders largest market. The deal with local lender Pacreta Bank forms part of a wider five-year restructuring plan at HSBC. All 320 employees from across HSBC's five branches will be transferred to Pacreta, avoiding any job losses as a result.
Former Wirecard chief executive charged with fraud
Markus Braun, former CEO of Wirecard, has been formally charged with fraud, breach of trust and accounting manipulation after a 21-month criminal investigation into the collapse of the German payments group.
Goldman accused of breaching coal pledge with Peabody deal
Goldman Sachs is facing criticism over a $150m loan to the world’s biggest private sector coal producer Peabody Energy, after the bank's 2019 pledge to curb fossil fuel financing.
US banks shun last Russian stock still trading in Hong Kong
The FT reports that US banks are shunning trading in shares of Russian aluminium producer Rusal, despite it not being on international sanctions lists,
Cryptocurrency scams double in a year
The number of alleged cryptocurrency scams reported to the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) more than doubled last year. The City watchdog received 6,372 alerts about suspected crypto fraud last year, up from 3,143 the year before. Since January 2021, all British crypto asset firms must be registered with the FCA under regulations to tackle money laundering, with it a criminal offence to operate without a registration. The FCA wants the Government to include financial advertising in the upcoming Online Safety Bill to help to prevent scams by forcing social media sites and search engines to take greater responsibility for those who use their platforms to advertise. The regulator has flagged several concerns about crypto-based investments, including issues related to price volatility, product complexity, high charges and fees and misleading marketing.
Bumper year for start-up backers
Investors in UK start-ups saw a bumper year of exits, with total value hitting a record £26.7bn last year. There were 781 exits from UK high-growth firms last year, over five times the number seen in 2020, according to a report from Triple Point Ventures and research firm Beauhurst. Of the 781 exits, 732 came via acquisitions while 49 floated on public markets as IPOs surged, rising 308% on the previous year. Dealmaking globally hit record levels in 2021 with 3,791 across mergers and acquisitions in the UK alone, the largest number on record, according to separate data.
Phoenix Group announces record £1.5bn intake for financial year
Insurer Phoenix Group has announced record cash generation of more than £1.7bn in 2021. The firm surpassed its target range of £1.5bn to £1.6bn in the last 12 months, with organic growth from its “open” business more than offsetting the natural run-off of its “heritage” business.
FCA to engage with ReAssure over complaints
The Financial Conduct Authority is to engage with ReAssure in regard to adviser claims over the quality of service it is providing. A number of IFAs have raised issues about the company on social media, with advisers saying ReAssure has been taking months to switch clients’ investments, incorrectly told clients a fund in their portfolio had been closed and has given advisers a general lack of customer service.
LEISURE & HOSPITALITY
Retail and hospitality see surge in wage whistleblowers
The number of whistleblower reports relating to alleged National Minimum Wage breaches in the retail and hospitality sectors have spiked, according to data compiled by law firm RPC. Complaints from those in the retail sector were up 37% in the past year, with 235 complaints made in 2020/21 compared to 171 in 2019/20. Meanwhile, the number of whistleblower reports in the hospitality sector was up from 354 to 408.
UK rents up 4% year-on-year
Analysis by SpareRoom shows that all UK regions experienced year-on-year room rent increases in February, with an average increase of 4%. London saw the biggest increases since before the pandemic began, with average room rents now at £796 per month, having fallen to £703 as low as in March 2021. Some postcodes in the capital have recorded huge increases over the year, with rents in W1 up 33% while there were 31% increases in both NW8 and SW1. While rents are up, supply across the UK is down 32% year-on-year, while supply in London is down by 53% on February 2021. The report also found that 42% of London landlords currently do not have confidence in the rental market. Of these, 20% plan to leave the rental market and 11% plan to reduce their portfolio.
Foreign ownership in London up 4%
Internationally-registered homes in London increased by £6bn last year, with data showing that the number of houses registered to buyers overseas climbed 4% to 84,451. The report shows that £59.3bn-worth of property is overseas-registered, with this up £6bn on 2020. The biggest increase in foreign ownership was in Hackney, with a 15% increase recorded, while Westminster led the way on both the highest sums for homes (£12.5bn) and the biggest increase (£2bn).
Cake Box founder stepping down
Pardip Dass, co-founder of Cake Box, is stepping down as finance chief of the firm which recently admitted that its full-year accounts contained a number of “inconsistencies” and “transcription errors”.
Think-tank: Recession risk ‘is looming into view’
The poorest households could see their cost of living jump by as much as 10% by this autumn, the Resolution Foundation think-tank has warned. It said that while public finances look healthier than expected at the time of the autumn Budget, with borrowing on course to be £30bn lower than forecast, the economic outlook has deteriorated significantly. Resolution Foundation research director James Smith said: “The chances of a living standards recovery this year are receding as rapidly as inflation is rising, and the risk of another recession is looming into view.” Looking ahead to next week’s spring statement, he added that Chancellor Rishi Sunak “will therefore need to make some tough, and potentially expensive, choices in how to respond.” Meanwhile, analysis by another think-tank, the New Economics Foundation, suggests that as many as 48% of all children could be living in households that are unable to meet the cost of some basic necessities by April. The report says a third of households, or 23.4m people, would have to cut back on some basics, such as food or heating. Urging the Government to act, Labour’s Louise Haigh said: “The Conservatives could help working people being hit hard by soaring prices; instead they’ve rejected the choice of a one-off windfall tax on oil and gas producers raking in billions,” while Liberal Democrat leader Ed Davey has renewed his call for a VAT cut in response to surging inflation.
OBR set to reveal slower growth and higher inflation
The Times’ Mehreen Kahn looks ahead to Rishi Sunak’s spring statement on March 23, noting that alongside the Chancellor’s speech, the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) will publish its latest forecasts for the economy and public finances. She says that the OBR’s forecasts are expected to show slower growth and higher inflation over the next five years, pushing up the Government’s total borrowing bill by raising the cost of serving its debt.
Bank of England joins push to protect Ukrainian assets
The Bank of England has joined a host of other central banks and international institutions to help ensure the security of Ukraine's assets and aid its eventual economic recovery. The conversation forms part of a broader effort by the UK's central bank, government and other allies' institutions, to safeguard assets which could otherwise fall into Russian hands amid the ongoing invasion.