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Daily News Roundup: Tuesday, 28th September 2021

Posted: 28th September 2021


Hotline to protect bank customers from fraud

Banks are launching an emergency hotline as the industry tries to tackle soaring levels of fraud. Customers who believe that they are being targeted by fraudsters pretending to be from an official body will be able to call 159 to receive help. They will be put through to their bank and given advice about whether they are being targeted by scammers. The hotline, which is being organised and funded by Stop Scams UK, a new industry body supported by the Financial Conduct Authority and Ofcom, will initially be in operation for a 12-month trial period. Banks and internet security firm Global Cyber Alliance are also reported to be involved. UK Finance has described the rise in fraud as a “national security threat”, having found that the number of scams hit record levels during the pandemic. Banks have come under pressure over reimbursement rates for customers. Of the record £355.3m lost to push-payment fraud last year, 42.4% was refunded in the first half of this year by the nine banks signed up to the industry’s refund code.

NatWest under scrutiny over fossil fuel financing

NatWest is under scrutiny from campaigners due to it financing fossil fuel projects while sponsoring the Cop26 climate summit. NatWest is the banking sponsor of the Glasgow conference — where countries will pledge to reduce carbon emissions as part of a wide-ranging global effort — but was still providing underwriting and loans to energy companies expanding in the Arctic as recently as last year. According to a Reclaim Finance report detailing the funding of fossil fuel expansion in the Arctic, it backed projects to the tune of $539m.

Nationwide launches new “scam checker service”

Nationwide Building Society has launched a new  “scam checker service” to help protect its members from being tricked by criminals into making bank transfers. The service offers members an extra layer of protection against authorised push payment scams, which have exploded during the coronavirus pandemic as fraudsters have bombarded people with bogus messages and adverts.


Blackstone selling Vegas hotel

Blackstone has agreed to sell the Cosmopolitan hotel in Las Vegas for $5.7bn. MGM Resorts International is paying $1.6bn to take over operations of the hotel, which incorporates a nightclub, a casino, and  bars and restaurants. Meanwhile, the high-rise complex itself will be acquired by investors including Stonepeak Infrastructure Partners, the Cherng Family Trust and Blackstone real estate fund Real Estate Income Trust. The transaction requires regulatory approval and is projected to close in H1 2022.


Bank of Ireland blames pay cap as CFO departs

Bank of Ireland says state-imposed curbs on bankers pay and bonuses are behind chief financial officer Myles O'Grady’s decision to leave the bank next March for a role outside the financial sector. Ireland capped executive pay at €500,000 a year and banned all forms of variable pay and fringe benefits for bank staff amid the fallout of the 2008 financial crisis. Bank of Ireland CEO Francesca McDonagh said the move has left Ireland's largest bank by assets at a competitive disadvantage to other companies and fellow members of the stock exchange which are not restricted in the same way.

Wells Fargo to pay $37m for defrauding businesses out of currency exchange fees

Wells Fargo will pay $37m in fines after it was found that the bank “routinely” lied to SMEs about exchange rates. The bank failed to disclose the fees it charged companies that dealt in foreign currency between 2010 and 2017 and overcharged 771 commercial clients for currency trades. The bank has already paid $35m in restitution to its customers, according to the settlement filed in New York.

Time-off benefits extended by Credit Suisse

Credit Suisse has announced it will extend time off for childcare and holidays and will let senior managers take sabbaticals under new rules for Swiss staff to take effect next year. The move comes as banks consider whether traditional working conditions are still relevant as they look to attract a more diverse workforce. Maternity or adoption leave for the primary caregiver will be 26 weeks, while paternity or adoption leave for the secondary caregiver will increase to six weeks from 12 days currently.


ISS urges Tesla investors not to re-elect directors

Proxy advisory firm ISS has recommended that Tesla investors opt not to re-elect directors James Murdoch and Kimbal Musk, saying votes against them are warranted “due to concerns regarding excessive compensation to named executive officers and to non-executive directors”. A vote on October 7 will see Tesla shareholders cast ballots on cutting director terms to two years, eliminating a supermajority vote requirement to approve certain changes, and who will sit on the electric car maker's board.

UK electric car sales jump 186%

Analysis shows that electric car sales in the UK jumped by 186% to 108,000 in 2020, up from 38,000 in 2019. Globally, sales of such vehicles rose by 31% last year. The report saw Vietnam lead the way, with an increase of 543%, Germany saw the next biggest jump, at 207%. Italy’s 204% increase put it ahead of the UK, while Israel saw the fifth biggest increase at 167%.


ESG increasingly an issue for investors

The Financial Conduct Authority has told FT Adviser that there is currently no specific requirement to include questions on ESG investing in the advice process. However, the matter is growing increasingly pertinent for investors, with research from Aegon showing that 41% of advisers have seen more requests for ESG investments from clients. Guy Rainbird, public affairs director at the Association of Investment Companies, says ESG and climate change are “featuring strongly” in investors’ minds, with many advisers “proactively raising the issue of ESG or ethical preferences with clients”.

Adviser failed to declare extra income

The Financial Conduct Authority has banned adviser Anthony George, sole director of advice firm 4Life Financial Planning, from carrying out regulated activities after he understated his income. Mr George failed to declare his personal income in his self-assessment tax returns over five consecutive tax years and did not inform the accountancy firms which prepared his tax returns that he was receiving additional income from running two businesses.

Pensions consultancy Isio buys Premier Pensions

Pensions consultancy Isio is set to acquire Premier Pensions for an undisclosed sum. The combined business will offer “a broader spectrum of pensions and financial advisory services to companies and individuals”.

Woodford case goes to court

Law firm Leigh Day has begun court proceedings against Link Fund Solutions over its handling of the now-defunct Woodford Equity Income Fund. Leigh Day has issued a claim form on behalf of an initial group of 100 of the fund’s investors, in an attempt to recover their losses from the collapse of the fund in 2019.


Monzo co-founder invests in HR app

Tom Blomfield, co-founder of Monzo, has become an investor and adviser at Tahora, an HR app which is trying to help young employees build meaningful relationships in a hybrid-working world.


House prices up £44 a day

House prices increased by £44 per day on average in the six months leading up to August, according to an index from Zoopla, with this up on the £30 a day increase recorded between July 2020 to January 2021. The average house price in August was £235,000, with this a record high for Zoopla’s index. The average property has seen its value climb £17,508 since March 2020, the month that the UK saw its initial coronavirus lockdown. Grainne Gilmore, head of research at Zoopla, said that while demand coming from buyers “has further to run”, this will be balanced by the ending of Government support for the economy via furlough and “more challenging economic conditions overall”. “We expect the market to remain busy compared to historical norms, and for price growth to remain in firmly positive territory at the end of the year,” she added.


Boohoo lists factories in transparency move

Online fashion retailer Boohoo has published a list of the 1,100 factories it uses around the world as part of its pledge to be more transparent. This comes after the firm’s supply chain came into focus when it was revealed that some factory workers in Leicester were earning below the minimum wage. Transparency over the factories Boohoo uses was one of the recommendations made by an independent review produced by Alison Levitt QC. The review delivered 17 recommendations, with these broken down into 34 deliverables. Boohoo says 28 have been completed and the remainder are expected to be signed off “in the coming months”. Boohoo has also announced it intends to sign the legally binding International Accord for Health and Safety.


Bailey sees growing case for interest rate rise

Bank of England Governor Andrew Bailey says he can see a growing case for raising interest rates, noting that other members of the Monetary Policy Committee share this sentiment. In a speech to the Society of Professional Economists, he said: “All of us believe that there will need to be some modest tightening of policy to be consistent with meeting the inflation target sustainably over the medium term”. He added: “Recent evidence appears to have strengthened that case, but there remain substantial uncertainties and we are monitoring the situation closely". The Bank last week increased its forecast for inflation at the end of 2021 to over 4%, far exceeding its 2% target rate. Although it expects the jump to be temporary, the Bank said the case for higher interest rates seems to have strengthened. Mr Bailey believes distinguishing between one-off increases in price levels and factors that could drive up the rate in the longer-term may present the Bank with a challenge, saying: “Monetary policy should not respond to supply shocks which do not become generalised through their impact on inflation expectations”.

Reeves pledges £28bn to make UK economy green

A Labour government would spend an extra £28bn a year until the end of the decade on helping Britain tackle the climate change crisis, Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves has vowed. Ms Reeves, who told the party conference of an ambition to become Britain’s “first green Chancellor”, said Labour would look to drive a shift toward greener technology. Ms Reeves told delegates: “I will invest in good jobs in the green industries of the future”. She added that the plans would be geared around “protecting and strengthening our everyday economy” and look to “protect our planet for future generations.”

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