The World’s Best Banks 2022: As Covid Recedes, Banks Get A Boost From Higher Rates But Inflation Could Spoil The Party

After more than a decade of declining interest rates, the Federal Reserve announced a quarter-point rate hike last month, the first since 2018, and signaled more to come in 2022, as many as six, in order to combat inflation.

This should improve banks ability to earn net interest margin, the lifeblood of most banks from an earnings standpoint and could be mimicked in other large economies at a time when inflation is causing damage to global economies and other central banks look to take similar action.

Mike Mayo, managing director and head of U.S. large-cap bank research at Wells Fargo Securities, says that 2021 was a strong year for large investment banks that could aggressively take advantage of a bull market and tailwinds of a soaring stock market.

However, Mayo says 2022, with its troubled markets, will produce headwinds for those financial titans and serve as a “passing of the baton in the banking industry” to Main Street banks that will thrive amidst the pandemic recovery that brings along more volumes of deposit and loans along with the aforementioned rising interest rates.

As the world emerges from two difficult pandemic years, the U.S. the economy has improved dramatically at a breakneck pace. Gross Domestic Product grew at 5.7% in 2021. However, the pandemic has left behind supply chain challenges and outsize inflation that keeps hitting new highs, the latest being a 8.5% measurement for March, the highest since 1981.

Despite runaway inflation, economists think inflation will soon recede. Swiss banking giant UBS is predicting that inflation for the rest of 2022 will drop to as low as 3.4% by December.

“The US economy is coming online faster and stronger than other parts of the world,” Mayo says. “As a result we will likely see a pickup in Main Street banking in terms of companies increasing their buildup of inventory and their capital expenditures and consumers drawing down their excess savings to spend and travel.”

Bank stocks have had an underwhelming run in early 2022. While there have been marketwide struggles, the S&P 500 is down nearly 6.7% year to date, financial stocks have suffered even greater losses with the iShares U.S. Regional Bank ETF down 9.18% year to date. This comes on the heels of a strong year for bank stocks, with that same iShares ETF up 38.9% last year, outpacing the S&P 500 at 26.89% in 2021.

“We are facing challenges at every turn: a pandemic, unprecedented government actions, a strong recovery after a sharp and deep global recession, a highly polarized U.S. election, mounting inflation, a war in Ukraine and dramatic economic sanctions against Russia,” said Jamie Dimon, CEO of the largest bank in the U.S. JPMorgan Chase JPM , in his annual letter to investors.

Looking forward, Dimon said he does not envy the Fed because it is likely to have to raise rates significantly higher than expected. While Dimon struck an optimistic tone that “if the Fed gets it just right, we can have years of growth, and inflation will eventually start to recede,” he conceded that the road to those greener pastures will be paved with consternation and volatility.

“The Fed should not worry about volatile markets unless they affect the actual economy. A strong economy trumps market volatility,” he added.

Outside the U.S., the economic recovery from the pandemic has not been as rapid, particularly in the world’s second largest economy, China, where a policy of “zero Covid” and less effective vaccinations than Western nations has led to a seemingly unending pandemic and shutdowns as recently as this month in Shanghai.

In the midst of global turmoil and a naggingly persistent pandemic, Forbes’ fourth annual list of the World’s Best Banks, which is published in partnership with market research firm Statista, surveys more than 45,000 customers in 27 countries to determine its ranking. Survey participants were asked their opinions on both their current and former banking relationships, defined as all financial institutions that offer a checking and/or savings account.

Click here for the Forbes list of World’s Best Banks.

Banks were rated on overall recommendation and satisfaction which were weighted the most as well as five other subdimensions: trust; terms and conditions; digital services; customer services; and financial advice.

The results yielded between 5 and 75 banks per country with a minimum score of 70 out of 100 and selected depending on the score achieved, the number of evaluations collected, the number of active banks in the specific country as well as the respective population in the country and number of banks with enough evaluations.

The U.S. has the largest number of awarded banks at 75, followed by Japan with 45 and Germany with 35 while 7 countries had the lowest number of 5. There were 27 countries with awarded banks.

The top five banks from the U.S. were Lincoln, Nebraska based Union Bank & Trust, Fargo, North Dakota-based Gate City Bank, Georgia-based United Community Bank UCBI , USAA, a lender open to members of the U.S. military and their families, making the cut as well as Boston-based Eastern Bank Corporation, a sign of the strength of regional banking with all but USAA having less than 2500 employees.

In Japan, SBI Sumishin Net Bank, an internet bank founded in 2007 by SBI Holdings and Sumitomo Mitsui Trust Bank, which was also listed, took the top spot showing the strength of upstart banks leading into the fintech space.

The top German bank was Sparda-Bank Hessen, a subsidiary of a series of cooperative banks known as Sparda-Banken that has a small employee count of 254 and was founded in 1897.

I’m a wealth management staff writer at Forbes based in New York. Prior to joining Forbes, I was on the same beat for Private Asset Management. I also

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Credit Suisse To Tighten The Reins After String of Scandals

Credit Suisse will unveil a new centralized structure on Thursday in an attempt to bring its far-flung divisions to heel and draw a line under a string of scandals that have cost the Swiss bank billions of dollars, two sources said.

Over the past year, Credit Suisse has been fined for arranging a fraudulent loan to Mozambique, tarnished by its involvement with defunct financier Greensill, racked up $5.5 billion in losses when U.S. family office Archegos collapsed, and been rebuked by regulators for spying on executives.

Credit Suisse drafted in seasoned banker Antonio Horta-Osorio as chairman in April to stop the rot and he will lay out his charter to reform Switzerland’s second-biggest bank on Thursday when it presents third-quarter results.

One key change is expected to be the creation of a single wealth management division that caters to a global elite, centralizing oversight at the bank’s headquarters in Zurich, two people familiar with the matter told Reuters.

Under the current structure put in place six years ago, wealth management straddles three divisions: a Swiss business, an Asia-Pacific arm catering mainly to rich Chinese and an international arm based out of Switzerland.

Merging the wealth division would make Credit Suisse simpler and potentially pave the way for cost cuts.It would also rein in local bankers who have enjoyed much autonomy, making them more answerable to senior managers who have often been blindsided by the risks that triggered past scandals, the sources said.

One of the people told Reuters that managers at the bank’s headquarters had become very risk averse and they did not want to give leeway to local bankers, regardless of how much profit they were making. A spokesman for Credit Suisse declined to comment.

Credit Suisse’s financial humiliation stands in stark contrast to its cross-town rival UBS (UBSG.S). In the wake of massive losses and a bailout during the financial crisis, UBS successfully pivoted away from investment banking to wealth management and is now the world’s largest wealth manager with $3.2 trillion in invested assets.

Its shares have climbed 57% in the past 10 years while Credit Suisse has slumped 53% over the same period.Shareholders have deserted Credit Suisse this year following the slew of bad headlines. Its shares are down 12% while UBS is up 36% while Wall Street rivals are riding high on the back of a boom in equity trading and M&A.

Andreas Venditti, an analyst at Swiss private bank Vontobel, said it would take more than “minor changes and a new divisional set-up” at Credit Suisse to reverse the trend.The expected revamp at Credit Suisse has also encouraged some high-profile dealmakers to approach the bank’s senior management to suggest it merges with a rival, another person with knowledge of the matter said.

Those ideas have been rejected so far, however, the person said. Nonetheless, the prospect of a challenge by investors demanding the break-up of the bank, or that its shrinking market value makes it a target for a hostile foreign takeover, have long troubled managers, sources told Reuters earlier this year.

‘WARNING SIGNALS’

With a market value of $28 billion, Credit Suisse is worth less than half of UBS and a fraction of Wall Street giants such as JPMorgan (JPM.N) weighing in at half a trillion dollars. But an approach from the United States would not go down well in Switzerland. Relations between Swiss banks and Washington were damaged when the United States pressured them into giving up their strict secrecy code more than a decade ago.

A combination of Credit Suisse and UBS, which has been touted as an alternative alliance, would face its own problems. For one, it would dominate the Swiss market. Another source said that while Credit Suisse had examined a sale or spin-off of its asset management business, that had been shelved. The person said, however, that once further efforts were made to cut costs and boost growth, a sale, or listing of the business on the market, could be back on the cards.

The bank’s drive to centralize its operations is drawing on lessons from some of its recent failures, including Archegos. Earlier this year, Credit Suisse published a report blaming a focus on maximizing short-term profits and enabling “voracious risk-taking” by Archegos for failing to steer the bank away from catastrophe.

Despite long-running discussions about Archegos – by far the bank’s largest hedge fund client – Credit Suisse’s top management were apparently unaware of the risks it was taking.

The bank’s chief risk officer and the head of its investment bank recall hearing about it first only on the eve of the fund’s collapse. “There were numerous warning signals,” the report said. “Yet the business … failed to heed these signs.”

By and ,

Source: Credit Suisse to tighten the reins after string of scandals | Reuters

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B. H. Meyer; Hans Dietler (1899). “The Regulation and Nationalization of the Swiss Railways

Hill, Kelly (1999). Cases in Corporate Acquisitions, Buyouts, Mergers, and Takeovers. Gale. ISBN 0-7876-3894-3.

Atkinson, Mark (4 August 2000). “Swiss banks agree $1.25bn Holocaust deal”. The Guardian

Grant, Linda (19 August 1996). “Will CS First Boston Ever Win?”. Fortune. pp. 30–34. Archived from the original

Strom, Stephanie (30 July 1999). “Japan Revokes Credit Suisse Unit’s Banking License”. The New York Times.

Kandell, Jonathan (March 2012). “Swiss Banks Adjusting To Radical New Regulations”. Institutional Investor. Vol. 46 no. 2. p. 33.

Crawford, David (8 November 2012). “Germany Probes UBS Staff on Tax-Evasion Allegations”. The Wall

Owen Walker (30 July 2020). “Credit Suisse launches restructuring after trading profit boost

Apple Pay Fees Vex Credit-Card Issuers

Banks are nudging Visa to change the way it processes some Apple Pay transactions, according to people familiar with the matter.

According to people familiar with the matter, banks are pressing Visa to change the way some Apple Pay transactions are processed. Some banks are pushing back, weakening the card network Visa Inc.

To change the way some Apple Pay transactions are processed, according to some. This change will reduce the fees that banks pay to Apple.

According to people familiar with the matter and a document seen by Businesshala, Visa plans to implement the change next year. Apple executives have told Visa officials they oppose the change, the people said. The two companies are in discussion and it is possible that the planned change will not start.

Currently, banks pay the fee to Apple when their cardholders use Apple Pay. Under the new process planned, the fee will not apply to automatic recurring payments such as gym memberships and streaming services.

The dispute reflects a long-running tension between the tech and finance giants. Companies like Apple and Amazon.com Inc.

Consumer payments have been expanding over the years. Banks often bargain with them for fear of being left behind. But deals don’t always work out: Alphabet Inc. NS

For example, Google is dropping plans to introduce bank accounts to users. Apple said in a statement that “our banking partners are an important part of the growth of Apple Pay.”

The company said, “Our bank partners continue to see the benefits of providing Apple Pay and invest in new ways to implement and promote Apple Pay for our customers for secure and private in-store and online purchases. “

Major networks including Visa and MasterCard Inc.

There are effective gateways between banks and Apple Pay, as they help to load banks’ cards into mobile wallets. The change will apply to Visa-branded cards, though other networks may follow suit.

Mobile wallets are smartphone apps on which people can load their debit or credit-card credentials and use their phones instead of tangible cards to make payments. The transaction fee is charged to the buyer’s card.

When Apple introduced Apple Pay in 2014, the iPhone had already discontinued the music player, camera, and GPS system. Banks and card networks are worried it will displace card payments as well.

Banks agreed to pay 0.15% to Apple for every purchase made by their credit cardholders. (They pay a separate fee on debit-card transactions.) Those charges account for most of the revenue Apple makes from its digital wallet, according to people familiar with the matter.

The terms had the potential to be uniquely attractive to Apple. Banks do not charge Google for its Wallet.

Visa and MasterCard also agreed to make an unusual concession to Apple: Apple will be able to choose which issuers it will allow on Apple Pay and which issuers will accept cards, according to people familiar with the matter. Visa and MasterCard generally require that all entities that accept their credit cards must accept them. Apple agreed not to develop the card network to compete against Visa and MasterCard, the people said.

But since then, customers have been slower to adopt Apple Pay than bank and card network executives expected. And some bank executives were outraged when Apple launched its own credit card with Goldman Sachs Group in 2019 Inc.,

People familiar with the matter said, because it made Apple a direct competitor.

Apple said in a statement that it “works closely with approximately 9,000 banking partners to offer Apple Pay to customers in approximately 60 countries and territories.”

Visa has shared its planned technological change with at least a few banks in recent months. A document reviewed by the Journal explains the new process that doesn’t mention fees, but details a change to so-called tokens issued by Visa for mobile-wallet payments.

When consumers load their credit cards on Apple Pay, Visa issues a special token that replaces the card number. This allows the card to work on Apple Pay and also helps protect the card in a potential data breach, among other benefits.

Visa is planning to start using a separate token on recurring automatic payments. This effectively means that after making the first payment on the subscription, Apple will not receive a fee on the following transactions.

According to people familiar with the matter, some of the larger banks first tried to lower their Apple Pay fees around 2017, but were not successful.

By: AnnaMaria Andriotis

AnnaMaria Andriotis reports on credit cards for The Wall Street Journal. She covers Visa, Mastercard, American Express and Discover as well as the big banks’ credit-card divisions. She also writes about consumer credit broadly, with a focus on issues that have a big impact on U.S. borrowers. She has been a reporter with The Wall Street Journal since 2014 and got her start at Dow Jones more than 10 years ago. You can email AnnaMaria at annamaria.andriotis@wsj.com and follow her on Twitter @AAndriotis.

Source: Businesshala News Exclusive | Apple Pay Fees Vex Credit-Card Issuers

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CBA To Automate Least Cost Routing For SME Merchants; Lower Merchant Fees

The Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA) announced that transactions between Eftpos and international schemes like Mastercard and Visa would be automated using the least-cost routing method (LCR), making it one of the first major banks to commit to automatically routing transactions for small business merchants.

“CBA will centrally route transactions in the most cost-effective and competitive way, so businesses don’t have to spend their valuable time managing their routing options, CBA said in a statement.

“CBA will also take the hassle out of payments by automatically routing transactions between eftpos and international schemes for eligible small business customers.”

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg pressed the Reserve Bank of Australia earlier in September to lower expenses for small businesses by requiring commercial banks to provide cheaper debit card solutions to consumers making tap-and-go payments in stores. Frydenberg wrote to the Payments System Board, urging it to require major and medium-sized financial institutions to issue dual-network debit cards.

Debit card costs for Mastercard/Visa are on average 0.5 per cent, compared to 0.3 per cent for eftpos. According to official statistics, small businesses suffer greater fees on average.

Commenting on the significance of LCR for newsagents and lottery agents, Australian Lottery and Newsagents Association (ALNA) CEO Ben Kearney said: “The substantially growing costs of accepting payments for newsagents and lottery agents is one of their top daily concerns.

“They do not have the same level of control over commercial levers in different parts of their business as some other retailers. They are characterised by modest margins on volume products with fixed pricing.”

As an example, the cost of acceptance of card payments for lottery tickets – one of ALNA members’ largest categories – can be as much as 9% of their total commission for the sale of these products.

“The most important mechanism for doing this recently, when customers increasingly want to use contactless payments, has been LCR.

“This generally increases the number of debit transactions that occur, saving hundreds of dollars a month for many of our members,” Kearney continued.

Meanwhile, the government has said that it aims to implement least cost routing for tap-and-go debit transactions so that commercial merchants can avoid paying higher fees by using the relatively cheaper domestic eftpos system instead of the services of US card giants Visa and Mastercard.

According to James Fowle, CBA’s Executive General Manager, Everyday Business Banking, the announcement follows feedback from its merchant customers on Least Cost Routing (LCR) in recent months

“The overwhelming feedback from our small business customers is that they want simple competitive pricing without the hassle. They want the benefit from least cost routing without having to manage the routing themselves,” Mr Fowle said.

“Our new flat rates are designed to offer that by removing complex pricing structures and managing the routing of transactions for them. We’ll automatically and centrally route transactions in the most cost-effective and competitive way, saving businesses a lot of time and money.”

Lower rates

In addition to automating transaction routing, the bank said that all in-store card transactions will be charged a flat rate of 1.1 per cent, and all online payment transactions will be charged a flat rate of 1.5 per cent, irrespective of interchange rate or card type.

“To lower the cost of doing business, CBA will be offering 1.1 per cent for all in-store card transactions, and 1.5 per cent for online transactions, regardless of the interchange rate or the type of card (debit, credit or Amex),” CBA said.

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To provide a further cash injection in the lead up to Christmas, CBA will automatically waive three months of merchant fees for small businesses that have been hardest hit by the latest COVID lockdowns. This equates to more than $7 million dollars back into the pockets of merchant customers.

“From next week, we’ll be letting more than 50,000 customers know we are automatically waiving their standard merchant fees for three months from September through to November.

This translates into approximately $7 million back into their pockets leading up to Christmas,” said Mr Fowle.

Additionally, CBA said that an additional $3 million has been returned to retailers who have been facing financial difficulties since the outbreak began. Customers who are having financial difficulties can contact CBA for a refund on a variety of applicable fees for a period of up to 90 days.

Yajush Gupta

By: Yajush Gupta

 

Source: CBA to automate least cost routing for SME merchants; lower merchant fees

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SoftBank Makes First Saudi Deal Together With Wealth Fund’s Unit

SoftBank Group Corp. has made its first investment in a company based in Saudi Arabia, partnering with a unit of the kingdom’s sovereign wealth fund to lead a $125 million financing for customer communication platform Unifonic.

Proceeds will be used to fund growth in the Middle East and expansion into Asia and Africa, Unifonic co-founder and Chief Executive Officer Ahmed Hamdan said in an interview. The company will also look at acquisitions in those regions to help it expand faster, he said.

The Unifonic deal is funded through SoftBank’s Vision Fund 2, and follows on from July’s $415 million fundraising by Dubai-based cloud kitchen startup Kitopi, which was SoftBank’s first in a business based in the United Arab Emirates and took that company’s valuation past $1 billion. Last month, it also co-led a financing round for Turkish e-commerce company Trendyol.

SoftBank’s foray in the Middle East comes with a growing number of so-called unicorn businesses worth at least $1 billion. More investors from outside are looking to bet on a shift to online services that has lagged other regions.

Read more on SoftBank’s deals in Middle East and Africa:

Swvl, a Dubai-based provider of mass transit solutions, said in July it expects to list on Nasdaq in a combination with special-purpose acquisition company Queen’s Gambit Growth Capital, with an implied equity value of about $1.5 billion.

Unifonic provides cloud-based software to send automated messages. As the pandemic spread, businesses turned to these services to send one-time passwords or shipping updates to customers. The company processed 10 billion transactions last year, charging a small fee for every message it sends to customers.

Hamdan declined to comment on the latest valuation, but said the company is forecasting sales for the year of more than $100 million and will start planning a listing on a global exchange in the next three years.

“Being able to attract one of the top international funds to invest in Saudi Arabia is a big milestone that will encourage more foreign direct investment to come into the digital and technology space,” Hamdan said. “We will optimize to list on a global market that can provide the best valuation.”

STV, Sanabil

Founded by Ahmed and his brother Hassan Hamdan in 2006, Unifonic was largely self-funded for the first decade. It raised $21 million in 2018 led by STV, a $500 million venture fund established by Saudi Telecom Co.

Sanabil, a unit of Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, was also an investor in the company. The PIF, as the wealth fund is known, put $45 billion into the first Vision Fund, which backed many of the largest technology startups including Uber Technologies Inc., Opendoor Technologies Inc. and DoorDash Inc.

“Over the next five years, we see the business growing by 10 times,” Hamdan said. “So we could process 100 billion transactions, impact 400 million people, and potentially be working with 50,000 companies.”

The valuation of Twilio Inc., which operates a similar business and is listed on the New York Stock Exchange, has more than tripled to almost $60 billion since the pandemic forced more transactions to move online.

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Source: http://bloomberg.com

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