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Daily News Roundup: Tuesday, 20th October 2020

Posted: 20th October 2020

BANKING

Sabadell to speed up cost cutting at TSB

TSB-owner Banco Sabadell is planning to speed up cost-cutting measures at the lender, CEO Jaime Guardiola has revealed, saying that a cost reduction plan at TSB that was initially set to take three years will now be implemented over two. The lender last month announced plans to reduce its branch network by a third as part of its three-year plan, with the closures set to see TSB cut its workforce by 10%. These cuts are on top of the 82 branch closures and 370 job losses it announced in 2019. Further details on cost cutting are said to be likely when Sabadell releases its quarterly earnings at the end of this month. The Times notes speculation that Banco Sabadell may look to sell TSB once the UK business has been overhauled, with separate rumours suggesting Sabadell could merge with its Spanish rivals BBVA or Santander.

NatWest to boost number of black staff in senior roles

NatWest Group has pledged to boost the number of black staff in senior roles from 1% to 3%, as part of a new racial equality pledge. CEO Alison Rose said the move follows a four-month review into the experiences of the bank’s black staff. A survey of 22,000 of the bank’s 63,000 staff found that while 79% felt all employees had the same opportunities at the bank, the rate dropped to 28% among its black staff. The racial equality pledge will also see NatWest close the accounts of customers who racially abuse its workers.

Monzo offers packaged account

Monzo is launching a packaged account that will pay an interest rate of 1.5% on balances up to £2,000 and provide phone and travel insurance. The Monzo Premium account, which carries a fee of £15 a month, is Monzo's second account launch in four months, with its Plus account rolled out back in July. Mike Hudack, chief product officer at Monzo, said the Premium account could save customers about £80 a year on insurance alone.

Staley set to stay on at Barclays

Jes Staley is set to remain as CEO of Barclays, despite several calls for his departure from activist investor Edward Bramson, with the bank not expected to announce any succession plans when it reports Q3 earnings on Friday. Mr Bramson, through investment vehicle Sherborne, has called for Mr Staley to step down over his links with convicted paedophile Jeffrey Epstein. Despite the calls, shareholder voting advisors ISS and Glass Lewis have both recommended that Mr Staley be re-elected.

Government urged to cut tax-free Isa allowances to support young people

The Social Market Foundation (SMF) think-tank has urged the Government to cut tax-free Isa allowances for older people and use the money to help out young people on low incomes. “HMRC data show that Isa investors aged 65 and over hold an average of £49,161 in tax-free accounts, compared with £5,629 for people under 25,” the SMF said.

INTERNATIONAL

EU hires banks to start breakthrough joint bond programme

The EU has hired Barclays, BNP Paribas, Deutsche Bank, Nomura and UniCredit to sell new bonds as part of a programme designed to provide up to €100bn of loans to member states.

AVIATION

Buyer set to land Flybe

Airline Flybe says Thyme Opco, a firm controlled by hedge fund Cyrus Capital, has bought its "brand, intellectual property, stock and equipment" for an undisclosed sum. It suggested that the carrier, which accounted for more than 40% of domestic flights in the UK but collapsed in March, could be back in the air in 2021.

BA boss urges end to quarantine measures

Sean Doyle, the new British Airways boss, has urged the Government to introduce pre-departure testing to avoid the UK being left behind in the post-pandemic economic recovery. An economic recovery for Britain “just isn’t possible when you’re asking people to quarantine for 14 days,” Mr Doyle said.

FINANCIAL SERVICES

Amigo Loans requires FCA approval to pay dividends and directors

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has told Amigo Loans that its new board may not transfer any money out of the company without the regulator’s permission. The group said it had entered into an asset voluntary requirement with the FCA which means payments to directors or dividends to shareholders must first be approved by the City watchdog. The FCA launched a probe into the lender in May over whether it had been assessing clients' creditworthiness properly and whether its governance was in breach of regulatory rules. Amigo said that despite the order from the FCA, it has enough money to continue its operations and support customers.

City finance vacancies down over 50% on last year

Job vacancies in the City's finance sector have fallen by 54% year-on-year, according to data from Morgan McKinley, underlining the year's tough third quarter compared to the same period in 2019. Researchers found firms were advertising 3,810 roles in the three months to the end of September, up from 2,490 in June. The London Employment Monitor report suggested the loss of work opportunities has been the result of a perfect storm of pandemic-prompted uncertainty, its impact on banking profits and also Brexit concerns.

Euronext halts trading on all products after technical glitch

Trading via exchange operator Euronext was interrupted on Monday morning, following a technical issue impacting its "middleware system." Trading across its cash and derivatives products in Amsterdam, Brussels, Lisbon and Paris was offline for over three hours.

MEDIA AND ENTERTAINMENT

Nextdoor planning bumper listing

Nextdoor, a social network for neighbours sharing information or trading goods and services, is planning to go public with a valuation as high as $5bn (£3.8bn). The business has already raised around $470m from backers including Axel Springer, Benchmark and Kleiner Perkins.

REAL ESTATE

Property prices hit record high

The average price of a home in Britain hit a new record high of £323,530 in October, according to figures from Rightmove. Asking prices were 1.1% higher than in September, and 5.5% higher than a year ago. Rightmove predicts that the annual rate of price growth could peak at around 7% before the end of this year. However, the property portal said there were signs that activity levels may be easing off. In September the number of sales agreed was up by 70% year-on-year, but that figure has fallen to 58% in October.

Landsec to sell almost a third of its portfolio

Landsec plans to sell off almost a third of its £12.8bn property portfolio, saying assets worth around £4bn will be sold over four to five years, with the cash to be reinvested in new developments. The firm, whose central London assets account for 64% its portfolio by value, has committed to the capital, but said it expects rents to fall by between 20% and 25% from their March levels at its regional shopping centres so as to become “sustainable” for tenants.

RETAIL

Shopper numbers fall again

The number of shoppers at British retail destinations has fallen for a fourth consecutive week, according to new figures. Footfall fell 3.1% in the week to October 17 versus the previous week, with visitor numbers down 2.8% on high streets, 3% in retail parks and 3.5% in shopping centres.

ECONOMY

King: Economy will need further support

Former Bank of England (BoE) governor Mervyn King has warned ministers the economy will need additional support in the coming months, with the coronavirus crisis continuing to pose a threat. He suggested that the furlough scheme may need to be extended due to the impact of local lockdowns, saying: “The more stringent the restrictions, the more generous the support needs to be.” Noting that a number of European countries have opted to extend their equivalent of the furlough scheme into 2021, Mr King added: “I think that we are going to end up doing something very similar”. Speaking during a podcast with former Chancellor Alistair Darling, Mr King said the national debt placed no “immediate constraint” on what the Treasury can spend in response to the pandemic. He also warned the BoE against rushing to adopt negative interest rates, saying they would be unlikely to have a “significant impact” on the economy.

OTHER

Pandemic drives cash hoarding

The Bank of England says the coronavirus crisis has seen the number of bank notes in circulation increase, with the Bank’s chief cashier Sarah John saying between 8% and 13% of UK households are holding more cash in their homes than they were at the beginning of the pandemic. Ms John said: “What we saw when lockdown came in was people stockpiling cash - literally relying on cash as a contingency. So people were withdrawing large sums of money, often over the counter rather than at ATMs."

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