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Daily News Roundup: Wednesday, 18th May 2022

Posted: 18th May 2022


UK banks are helping refugees

The I reports on how UK banks have worked “quickly and diligently” to ensure refugees coming to the UK from Ukraine are able to open an account safely, without the usual requirements. It highlights that HSBC UK was one of the first banks to allow Ukrainian refugees to apply, introducing the new account-opening process on March 14. This follows a scheme launched last year to allow Afghan settlers to open bank accounts. Maxine Pritchard, head of financial inclusion and vulnerability at HSBC UK, said: "It's a sad fact that many people arriving in this country face difficulty accessing our financial system.” She added that HSBC is “proud to have helped over 1,100 Ukrainian refugees so far.” Santander, Lloyds, Halifax, Bank of Scotland, Barclays, TSB, NatWest and Nationwide all have processes in place to help refugees applying for a bank account, taking into account the challenges they may be facing with documentation. Meanwhile, the European banking regulator last week said that banks need to make it easier for refugees to open accounts. The European Banking Authority said banks and supervisors should ensure that refugees can access the EU's financial system without having to navigate all elements of anti-money laundering rules.

UK cloud banking fintech Thought Machine doubles valuation to $2.7bn

Thought Machine, a cloud banking fintech firm, has doubled its valuation to $2.7bn. This comes via a $160m funding round led by Temasek alongside Intesa Sanpaolo and Morgan Stanley.


KKR to buy power plant owner for £1.75bn

KKR is to acquire power plant owner ContourGlobal in a £1.75bn deal. The FTSE 250 company said that its board intended to unanimously recommend the “fair and reasonable” all-cash acquisition by the private equity giant. ContourGlobal owns 138 power plants across Europe, the Americas and Africa.


JPMorgan shareholders refuse to back CEO payout

JPMorgan shareholders have rebelled against a $52.6m stock option handed to CEO Jamie Dimon. In an advisory referendum on pay, only 31% of votes cast endorsed JPMorgan’s executive payments for 2021. In eight of the last 12 years, JPMorgan had won approval from more than 90% of votes cast in its annual compensation ballots. Advisory firms ISS and Glass Lewis had criticised Mr Dimon's options as lacking performance criteria for vesting. It is noted that average support for pay packages at S&P 500 companies was 88.3% in 2021, down from 89.6% in 2020 and 90% in 2019, according to consulting firm Semler Brossy.

Sberbank CFO exits sanctioned Russian lender

Three board members of Russia's Sberbank have left their posts, in the latest in a series of senior departures from the state-owned lender since Russia invaded Ukraine. CFO Alexandra Buriko and deputy board chairman Sergei Maltsev decided to terminate their employment with the bank, while board member Natalia Alimova has also resigned.

SocGen chief to step down

Société Générale has announced that Frederic Oudea, its chief executive since 2008, will not seek to renew his mandate after his term in office comes to end in May 2023. Chairman Lorenzo Bini Smaghi said the board of France's third-biggest listed bank had begun a process to select Mr Oudea’s successor, which it planned to complete by the end of 2022.


CMA investigates LSE Group’s Quantile acquisition

A plan by London Stock Exchange Group to buy trading services business Quantile faces an in-depth investigation by the Competition and Markets Authority. The competition regulator said the takeover had been referred for a detailed inquiry after the two companies failed to assuage its concerns over the potential £274m deal. The CMA recently said it was concerned LSE Group’s LCH could use its influential position in over-the-counter derivatives to disadvantage Quantile’s rivals following the takeover. While the companies had submitted proposals to rectify the situation, the CMA said they were not “a clear-cut solution to the competition concerns identified arising from the merger.”

CII: Industry needs to be in sync

The Chartered Insurance Institute (CII) says insurance and personal finance professionals need to be in sync to meet the regulator’s consumer duty requirements, insisting that they should “be singing from the same hymn sheet.” CII president Peter Blanc says the Financial Conduct Authority's consumer duty puts the onus on industry members to show customers and clients understand the products they purchase and advice they receive. He told the Ambassadors in Action conference: “The importance of advice and professionalism and consumer trust is common across general insurance and financial planning, and this should be the common thread which joins the CII and Personal Finance Society.”


Hospitality sector squeezed by cost pressures

The hospitality sector has warned that modest sales growth following the pandemic is being swallowed by rising operational costs. Restaurants have seen 5% like-for-like sales growth compared to pre-pandemic levels in April 2019, while bars saw 4% growth and pub sales were flat. Although businesses say they have been resisting raising prices for consumers amid the cost-of-living crisis, rising food and ingredient costs are a "hurdle" facing the whole sector.

McDonald's partners with Deliveroo in UK

McDonald's has partnered with Deliveroo in the UK, as the food delivery firm aims to become the "definitive online food company". The fast food giant will be listed on Deliveroo's app in the coming weeks in the UK, while the two firms are already partnered in other countries including France, Italy, Belgium, Australia, Hong Kong, UAE and Kuwait.


Derby bidder exchanges contracts

Prospective Derby County owner Chris Kirchner, the chief executive of software company, says he has exchanged contracts with administrators on a takeover of the football club.


Unemployment falls while job openings hit a new high

While the average annual salary rose by 7% in March, most workers saw a fifth consecutive month of declining living standards. Office for National Statistics data shows that without bonuses, workers saw an average 4.2% wage increase in the first three months of the year. However, this fell well short of the 7% inflation rate recorded in March. The report also revealed that the unemployment rate fell to 3.7%, the lowest since 1974. With job openings rising to a new high of 1.3m, it means there are more vacancies than unemployed people in the UK for the first time since records began. The number of UK workers on payrolls rose by 121,000 between March and April, hitting 29.5m. About 83,000 workers re-joined the jobs market in March, up from 10,000 in February. Darren Morgan, director of economic statistics at the ONS, noted: "Total employment, while up on the quarter, remains below its pre-pandemic level.” Commenting on the ONS figures, Chancellor Rishi Sunak said: “It’s reassuring that fewer people are out of work than was previously feared, and we are helping them to keep more of their hard-earned money through tax cuts, changes to universal credit and support with household bills worth £22bn this financial year.”


Nearly half of savers do not research investments

Data from the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS) and the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) shows that almost half of those who hold investments do not research them. The report also shows that 44% of UK investors wish they had spent more time researching their investment before making a decision. The FSCS and FCA said the findings raise concerns around the potential risks consumers face if they are unaware of where they are investing their money, pointing to issues such as investment scams. FSCS spokesperson Lila Pleban, said: “Carving out time to research and look into investment opportunities is not always top of people’s to-do lists and unfortunately, puts them at a higher risk of being scammed or putting their money with an unprotected platform or provider.” FCA director of enforcement Mark Steward, said: “Fraudsters will always find new ways to target consumers, so make sure you do your homework and spend some time doing research.”

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