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.

By:

Source: http://bloomberg.com

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These Are The Top Ten Boutique Investment Banks

Boutique investment banks are very different from regular investment banks. The former are smaller in size and don’t offer all investment banking services. Boutique investment banks usually specialize in one or more aspects of investment banking. Moreover, such banks are generally regional or local, but some boutique investment banks operate globally. Let’s take a look at the top ten boutique investment banks.

Top Ten Boutique Investment Banks

We have used a combination of factors, such as the size, area of operations, service quality and more, to come up with the top ten boutique investment banks. Following are the top ten boutique investment banks:

  1. Houlihan Lokey

Founded in 1972, this financial firm specializes in capital markets, valuation, mergers and acquisitions, and financial restructuring. According to the data from Refinitiv, Houlihan Lokey is the top M&A advisor in the U.S., top global restructuring advisor and the top global M&A fairness opinion advisor. Houlihan Lokey has its headquarters in Los Angeles and has offices in the Middle East, the Asia-Pacific region, the United States, and Europe.

  1. Moelis & Company

Founded in 2007, this company offers strategic advice and solutions to companies, financial sponsors and governments. Moelis & Company primarily helps its customers to hit their strategic goals by giving them integrated financial advisory services. The company is headquartered in New York, but serves its clients from offices in 19 geographic locations, including the Middle East, Australia, Europe, Asia, and America.

  1. Lazard

Founded in 1848, it is a leading financial advisory and asset management firm. Lazard advices its clients on restructuring and capital structure, mergers and acquisitions, capital raising and corporate finance, strategic matters, as well as provides asset management services to firms, governments, individuals, partnerships, and institutions. Lazard has its headquarters in New York and serves clients from over 40 cities across 25 countries in Asia, South America, North America, Australia, Central America and Europe.

  1. Guggenheim Partners

Founded in 1999, it is a diversified financial services firm that provides banking, investment management and insurance services. The company’s history dates back to the late 1800s with Guggenheim Brothers, which was Guggenheim’s family business. Guggenheim Partners’ mission is to provide unparalleled service and performance. It has over $315 billion in assets under management (as of March 2021). Guggenheim Partners is headquartered in New York.

  1. Greenhill & Co.

Founded in 1996, it is a leading investment bank that assists clients on mergers, capital raising, acquisitions, restructurings, and more. Robert F. Greenhill, who is the founder of Greenhill & Co., is the former president of Morgan Stanley and former chairman and chief executive officer of Smith Barney. Greenhill & Co. has its headquarters in New York, and has offices in many crucial financial centers, including Melbourne, Paris, Hong Kong, Houston, Sydney, Tokyo and more.

  1. Evercore

Founded in 1995, it is a leading investment banking advisory firm. The company advises its clients on mergers, restructurings, public offerings, divestitures, private placements and other strategic transactions. It also offers wealth management, institutional asset management and private equity investing services. Evercore is headquartered in New York and has offices in many major financial centers, such as the Middle East, Asia, North America, and Europe.

  1. Centerview Partners

Founded in 2006, it is a financial advisory and private equity boutique firm. The company assists companies on valuation, mergers and acquisitions and financial restructurings. Centerview, so far, has assisted in about $3 trillion of transactions. Its clients include 20% of the 50 biggest companies on the basis of market cap. Centerview Partners has its headquarters in New York and has offices in London, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Palo Alto.

  1. Cowen

Founded in 1918, it is a diversified financial services firm. Cowen, along with its subsidiaries, offers investment banking, sales and trading services, alternative investment management, and research services. The company operates through two business segments – investment management and broker dealer division. It is known for identifying emerging industries earlier than others. Cowen is headquartered in New York and has offices in major financial centers around the globe.

  1. Cantor Fitzgerald

Founded in 1945, it is a leading global financial services firm. It started as a securities brokerage and investment bank, and pioneered computer-based bond trading. Fitzgerald now is known for a diverse array of businesses, including commercial real estate finance and services, asset management and wealth management, equity and fixed income capital markets and more. Cantor Fitzgerald has its headquarters in New York.

  1. Blackstone Group

Founded in 1985, it is among the biggest investment firms in the world. This company provides investment and advisory services to investors and clients. Its asset management business includes investment vehicles that focus on public debt and equity, non-investment grade credit, real assets, private equity, secondary funds, real estate and growth equity. Blackstone’s total assets under management were about $619 billion as of 2020. Blackstone is headquartered in New York.

By:

Source: These Are The Top Ten Boutique Investment Banks

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Quick wins for business expenses

Why Wall Street Is Afraid of Government-Backed Digital Dollar

Imagine Imagine logging on to your own account with the U.S. Federal Reserve. With your laptop or phone, you could zap cash anywhere instantly. There’d be no middlemen, no fees, no waiting for deposits or payments to clear.

That vision sums up the appeal of the digital dollar, the dream of futurists and the bane of bankers. It’s not the Bitcoin bros and other cryptocurrency fans pushing the disruptive idea but America’s financial and political elite. Fed Chair Jerome Powell promises fresh research and a set of policy questions for Congress to ponder this summer. J. Christopher Giancarlo, a former chairman of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, is rallying support through the nonprofit Digital Dollar Project, a partnership with consulting giant Accenture Plc. To perpetuate American values such as free enterprise and the rule of law, “we should modernize the dollar,” he recently told a U.S. Senate banking subcommittee.

For now the dollar remains the premier global reserve currency and preferred legal tender for international trade and financial transactions. But a new flavor of cryptocurrency could pose a threat to that dominance, which is part of the reason the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston has been working with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology on developing prototypes for a digital-dollar platform.

Other governments, notably China’s, are ahead in digitizing their currencies. In these nations, regulators worry that the possibilities for fraud are multiplying as more individuals embrace cryptocurrency. Steven Mnuchin, former President Donald Trump’s treasury secretary, said he saw no immediate need for a digital dollar. His successor, Janet Yellen, has expressed interest in studying it. Support for a virtual greenback cuts across party lines in Congress, which will have a say on whether it becomes reality.

At a hearing in June, Senators Elizabeth Warren, a Massachusetts Democrat, and John Kennedy, a Louisiana Republican, signaled openness to the idea. Warren and other Democrats stressed the potential of the digital dollar to offer free services to low-income families who now pay high banking fees or are shut out of the system altogether.

Kennedy and fellow Republicans see a financial equivalent of the space race that pitted the U.S. against the Soviet Union—a battle for prestige, power, and first-mover advantage. This time the adversary is China, which announced this month that more than 10 million citizens are now eligible to participate in ongoing trials.

The strongest opposition to a virtual dollar will come from U.S. banks. They rely on $17 trillion in deposits to fund much of their core business, profiting from the difference between what they pay in interest to account holders and what they charge for loans. Banks also earn billions of dollars annually from overdraft, ATM, and account maintenance fees. By creating a digital currency, the Federal Reserve would in effect be competing with banks for customers.

In a recent blog post, Greg Baer, president of the Bank Policy Institute, which represents the industry, warned that homebuyers, businesses, and other customers would find it harder and more expensive to borrow money if the Fed were to infringe on the private sector’s historical central role in finance. “The Federal Reserve would gain extraordinary power,” wrote Baer, a former assistant treasury secretary in the Clinton administration.

Some economists warn that a digital dollar could destabilize the banking system. The federal government offers bank depositors $250,0000 in insurance, a program that’s successfully prevented bank runs since the Great Depression. But in a 2008-style financial panic, depositors might with a single click pull all their savings out of banks and convert them into direct obligations of the U.S. government.

“In a crisis, this may actually make matters worse,” says Eswar Prasad, a professor at Cornell University and the author of a book on digital currencies that will be published in September. Whether a virtual dollar is even necessary remains up for debate. For large companies, cross-border interbank payments are already fast, limiting the appeal of digital currencies. Early adopters of Bitcoin may have won an investment windfall as its value soared, but its volatility makes it a poor substitute for a reliable government-backed currency such as the dollar.

Yet there’s a new kind of crypto, called stablecoin, that could pose a threat to the dollar’s dominance. Similar to the other digital currencies, it’s essentially a string of code tracked and authenticated via an online ledger. But it has a crucial difference from Bitcoin and its ilk: Its value is pegged to a sovereign currency like the dollar, so it offers stability as well as privacy.

In June 2019, Facebook Inc. announced it was developing a stablecoin called Libra ( since renamed Diem). The social media giant’s 2.85 billion active users worldwide represent a huge test market. “That was a game changer,” Prasad says. “That served as a catalyst for a lot of central banks.”

Regulators also have concerns about consumer protection. Stablecoin is only as stable as the network of private participants who manage it on the web. Should something go wrong, holders could find themselves empty-handed. That prospect places pressure on governments to come up with their own alternatives.

Although the Fed has been studying the idea of a digital dollar since at least 2017, crucial details, including what role private institutions will play, remain unresolved. In the Bahamas, the only country with a central bank digital currency, authorized financial institutions are allowed to offer e-wallets for handling sand dollars, the virtual counterpart to the Bahamian dollar.

If depositors flocked to the virtual dollar, banks would need to find another way to fund their loans. Advocates of a digital dollar float the possibility of the Fed lending to banks so they could write loans. To help banks preserve deposits, the government could also set a ceiling on how much digital currency citizens can hold. In the Bahamas the amount is capped at $8,000.

Lev Menand, an Obama administration treasury adviser, cautions against such compromises, saying the priority should be offering unfettered access to a central bank digital currency, or CBDC. Menand, who now lectures at Columbia Law School, says that because this idea would likely require the passage of legislation, Congress faces a big decision: to create “a robust CBDC or a skim milk sort of product that has been watered down as a favor to big banks.”

By: Christopher Condon

Source: Cryptocurrency: Why Wall Street Is Afraid of Government-Backed Digital Dollar – Bloomberg

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Critics:

Wall Street is warming up to the idea that the next big disruptive force on the horizon is central bank digital currencies, even though the Federal Reserve likely remains a few years away from developing its own.

Led by countries as large as China and as small as the Bahamas, digital money is drawing stronger interest as the future of an increasingly cashless society. A digital dollar would resemble cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin or ethereum in some limited respects, but differ in important ways.

Rather than be a tradable asset with wildly fluctuating prices and limited use, the central bank digital currency would function more like dollars and have widespread acceptance. It also would be fully regulated and under a central authority.

Myriad questions remain before an institution as large as the Fed will wade in. But the momentum is building around the world. As the Fed and other central banks work through those logistical issues, Wall Street is growing in anticipation over what the future will hold.

“The race towards Digital Money 2.0 is on,” Citigroup said in a report. “Some have framed it as a new Space Race or Digital Currency Cold War. In our view, it doesn’t have to be a zero sum game — there’s a lot of room for the overall digital pie to grow.”

There, however, has been at least the semblance of a race, and China is perceived as taking the early lead. With the launch of a digital yuan last year, some fear that the edge China has ultimately could undermine the dollar’s status as the world’s reserve currency. Though China said that is not its objective, a Bank of America report notes that issuing digital dollars would let the U.S. currency “remain highly competitive … relative to other currencies.”

References:

JP Morgan Chase Launches Its Own Health Business Unit Three Months After Haven Implodes

https://g.foolcdn.com/image/?url=https%3A%2F%2Fg.foolcdn.com%2Feditorial%2Fimages%2F616249%2Fjpmorgan-branch-courtesy.jpg&w=1200&h=630&op=resize

JPMorgan Chase is staking out its own healthcare venture, after its joint project with Berkshire Hathaway and Amazon failed earlier this year. On Thursday, the financial firm announced the launch of Morgan Health, a business unit focused on improving employer-sponsored healthcare, to be led by Dan Mendelson, founder and former CEO of the Washington, D.C.-based healthcare consultancy Avalere Health.

The move comes a little over three months since the joint venture Haven Health, which also aimed to lower employee healthcare costs and boost quality services, said it would be winding down.

Morgan Health will invest up to $250 million in “promising healthcare solutions” and will also enter into strategic partnerships, the company said. The new division, which will be headquartered in Washington, D.C., will also focus on health equity issues.

“JPMorgan Chase has been focused on improving healthcare for its employees for many years,” Morgan Health CEO Mendelson said in a statement. “We are going to take what we’ve learned and accelerate healthcare innovation in the employer-sponsored healthcare market, partnering with and investing in companies that share our goals, and measuring key health outcomes to show what works.”

Mendelson has a background in both health policy and finance. He was an operating partner at healthtech PE firm Welsh Carson for the past two years and served as the associate director for health in the Office of Management and Budget in the Clinton White House prior to founding Avalere. With 165,000 employees in the United States, JPMorgan Chase provides health insurance to around 285,000 people, including dependents.

Haven was announced with much fanfare in 2018, with billionaire Warren Buffet calling rising employee healthcare costs “a hungry tapeworm on the American economy.” Around half of Americans receive healthcare benefits through their employers, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. The federal government estimates total national healthcare spending reached $3.8 trillion, or $11,582 per person, in 2019. And health spending continues to outpace inflation, growing 4.6% in 2019.

The implosion of Haven three years later demonstrated how even well-capitalized corporate juggernauts could be thwarted by the complexity of the U.S. healthcare system. “We were fighting a tapeworm in the American economy, and the tapeworm won,” Buffet said at Berkshire’s annual shareholder meeting earlier this month, according to Yahoo Finance.

“Haven was supposed to show how creativity, ingenuity and private sector, entrepreneurship could beat the healthcare sector. And it failed,” David Blumenthal, a physician and president of the healthcare think-tank The Commonwealth Fund, told Forbes in an interview earlier this year.

He said the speculation as to one of the big challenges Haven faced was that each company wanted to make its own choices for its employees, which has been the downfall of many similar coalitions. Amazon has also been making its own big push into the healthcare sector recently with a virtual primary care service called Amazon Care, the launch of its wearable Amazon Halo and its purchase of online pharmacy PillPack for $750 million.

The radical change needed to control healthcare costs requires buy-in on many levels, including some that employees might not be happy about, says Blumenthal. It could mean narrower networks of physicians to choose from or requiring travel for certain surgeries so they take place at top-ranked facilities, as opposed to the comfort of a local community hospital.

But the biggest impediments are structural—the lack of purchasing power for employers and consolidation among health systems, he said. “In the end, controlling costs in almost every other Western country is a responsibility that government assumes,” Blumenthal said. “It’s for precisely this reason that the alternatives are not effective.”

Despite what may be an uphill battle ahead, JPMorgan leadership is giving it another go. “Covid has shed light on both the greatness of our healthcare system and its challenges,” Peter Scher, vice chairman of the company who will be overseeing Morgan Health, said in a statement. “The firm has been investing in developing solutions to address social and economic challenges over the past 10 years. We plan to take what we’ve learned there and apply it to healthcare.”

Follow me on Twitter or LinkedIn. Send me a secure tip.

I am a staff writer at Forbes covering healthcare, with a focus on digital health and new technologies. I was previously a healthcare reporter for POLITICO covering the European Union from Brussels and the New Jersey Statehouse from Trenton. I have also written for the Los Angeles Times and Business Insider. I was a 2019-2020 Knight-Bagehot Fellow in business and economics reporting at Columbia University. Email me at kjennings@forbes.com or find me on Twitter @katiedjennings.

Source: JP Morgan Chase Launches Its Own Health Business Unit Three Months After Haven Implodes

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References

 

“The History of JPMorgan Chase & Co.: 200 Years of Leadership in Banking, company-published booklet, 2008, p. 5. Predecessor to J.P. Morgan & Co. was Drexel, Morgan & Co., est. 1871. Retrieved July 15, 2010. Other predecessors include Dabney, Morgan & Co. and J.S. Morgan & Co” (PDF).

Barclays Sees £900m Growth Opportunity In Payments

Barclays has identified payments as a key growth opportunity worth £900 million over three years thank to areas such as merchant acquiring and the BNPL market.

On an analyst conference call about the bank’s first quarter results, CEO Jes Staley revealed that payment now account for eight per cent of Barclays’ total income – £1.7 billion last year.

Staley says this number can grow by around £900 million over the next three years, with double digit growth in three areas: unified payments, “next-gen” commerce, and wholesale payment fees.

In November last year the bank moved into the buy now, pay later sector through a partnership with Amazon in Germany, offering customers a rolling credit line for future purchases from the e-commerce giant. The initiative is now being extended to the UK.

“This will grow our presence in e-commerce in two of the largest markets in Europe,” says Staley. “Our partnership with Amazon reflects our growing focus on payments.”
Barclays is the only major bank-owned acquirer in the UK and has managed to slash on-boarding times in the last couple of years from 14 days to two days through digitisation.

However, Staley says “we still have a long way to go,” adding that: “Perhaps the most important investment Barclays will make in the next five years is to connect our small business banking and our merchant acquiring business, particularly as it relates to e-commerce.”

Meanwhile, the bank is working on an initiative called Barclays Cubed to better connect merchants and customers.

Staley offers up a scenario: “A merchant is able to connect with a consumer digitally by offering a discount via their Barclays mobile banking app. That consumer can then make a purchase on the merchant’s website and, if they choose to, we can instantly approve them to pay for their shopping using instalments.

“Finally, the digital receipt and the loyalty points are automatically added to their Barclays wallet.”

Source: Barclays sees £900m growth opportunity in payments

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Related Links:

Jul.29 — Jes Staley, chief executive officer of Barclays Plc, discusses recent volatility in financial markets, investment banking market share, and efforts to improve diversity. He speaks on “Bloomberg Markets: European Open” after the London-based bank’s securities division reported a 60% gain in foreign-exchange, rates and credit trading revenue as the aftermath of the coronavirus pandemic whipsawed markets.

European Banking Authority (EBA) Microsoft Exchange Servers Hacked

Paris Looks to Charm London's Brexiles

The European Banking Authority (EBA) has confirmed it has fallen victim to the ongoing Microsoft Exchange attacks.

With a total of four highly valuable zero-day exploits, previously unreported vulnerabilities that give cybercriminals a head start in any attack campaign, the attacks against on-premises Microsoft Exchange servers were always going to be a big deal. Those initial attacks, which prompted Microsoft to publish an emergency out-of-band security update, were attributed to a nation state-sponsored group identified as HAFNIUM. The nation in question is China. However, Microsoft has now confirmed that it “continues to see increased use of these vulnerabilities in attacks targeting unpatched systems by multiple malicious actors beyond HAFNIUM.”

As I reported on March 6, credible sources were suggesting that the attacks against vulnerable Microsoft Exchange servers were thought to have compromised ‘hundreds of thousands’ of servers, more than 30,000 in the U.S. alone.

One of those attacked outside of the U.S. was the European Union’s banking regulator, the European Banking Authority. On March 7, the EBA issued a statement confirming that it had “been the subject of a cyber-attack against its Microsoft Exchange Servers.”

While stating that a full investigation was underway, the EBA went on to add: “As the vulnerability is related to the EBA’s email servers, access to personal data through emails held on that servers may have been obtained by the attacker. The EBA is working to identify what, if any, data was accessed. Where appropriate, the EBA will provide information on measures that data subjects might take to mitigate possible adverse effects. As a precautionary measure, the EBA has decided to take its email systems offline. Further information will be made available in due course.”

Further information was, indeed, made available by way of an update on March 8. “The EBA investigation is still ongoing and we are deploying additional security measures and close monitoring in view of restoring the full functionality of the email servers,” it read. “At this stage, the EBA email infrastructure has been secured and our analyses suggest that no data extraction has been performed and we have no indication to think that the breach has gone beyond our email servers.”

“The exploitation of the 0days in question required some specific conditions and thus raises questions what exactly happened at the EBA,” Ilia Kolochenko, chief architect at ImmuniWeb, said. “Another key question is when exactly the EBA was compromised?” Kolochenko points out that if the intrusion happened after the disclosure but prior to the emergency patch, the vulnerable systems should have been immediately disconnected to prevent exploitation in the wild. “The EBA is likely not the last victim of this hacking campaign,” he warns, “and more public authorities may disclosure incidents stemming from exploitation of the same vulnerabilities.”

I have approached the EBA for further comment.

Meanwhile, Mark Bower, a senior vice-president at comforte AG, said that “the capacity for attackers to extract sensitive data from emails, spreadsheets in mailboxes, insecure credentials in messages, as well as attached servers presents an advanced and persistent threat with multiple dimensions.”

Although it should be reiterated that, at this point in the investigation, the EBA is saying that “no data extraction has been performed and we have no indication to think that the breach has gone beyond our email servers.” Bower, like Kolochenko, warns that more incidents will be reported. “Affected entities and their supply chain partners will see a persistent secondary impact as a result over a long period of time,” he said.

I’ll leave the final word to John Hultquist, vice-president of analysis with Mandiant Threat Intelligence. “Though broad exploitation of the Microsoft Exchange vulnerabilities has already begun, many targeted organizations may have more to lose as this capability spreads to the hands of criminal actors who are willing to extort organizations and disrupt systems.

The cyber espionage operators who have had access to this exploit for some time, aren’t likely to be interested in the vast majority of the small and medium organizations. Though they appear to be exploiting organizations in masses, this effort could allow them to select targets of the greatest intelligence value.”

Update March 9

The EBA has now published a third update, which I reprint here in full:

“The European Banking Authority (EBA) has established that the scope of the event caused by the recently widely notified vulnerabilities was limited and that the confidentiality of the EBA systems and data has not been compromised.

Thanks to the precautionary measures taken, the EBA has managed to remove the existing threat and its email communication services have, therefore, been restored.

Since it became aware of the vulnerabilities, the EBA has taken a proactive approach and carried out a thorough assessment to appropriately and effectively detect any network intrusion that could compromise the confidentiality, integrity and availability of its systems and data.

The analysis was carried out by the EBA in close collaboration with the Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-EU) for the EU institutions, agencies and bodies, the EBA’s ICT providers, a team of forensic experts and other relevant entities.”

I’m a three-decade veteran technology journalist and have been a contributing editor at PC Pro magazine since the first issue in 1994. A three-time winner of the BT Security Journalist of the Year award (2006, 2008, 2010) I was also fortunate enough to be named BT Technology Journalist of the Year in 1996 for a forward-looking feature in PC Pro called ‘Threats to the Internet.’ In 2011 I was honored with the Enigma Award for a lifetime contribution to IT security journalism. Contact me in confidence at davey@happygeek.com if you have a story to reveal or research to share.

Source: European Banking Authority (EBA) Microsoft Exchange Servers Hacked

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6 Trends That Will Shape The Financial Services Industry In 2021

Financial services industry trends contactless payments data AI BeyondCorp

Financial services in 2020 was defined by a sudden acceleration in digitization and digital engagement—pushed by the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. Exchanges shut down their trading floors and moved to remote trading, mobile banking transactions spiked, personal trading apps saw record transaction volumes, and call center personnel kept customer support going by working from their living rooms.

While the financial services industry was able to weather the digital tsunami and continue its operations, it has become clear that the winds of change are not transient. Financial institutions are now thinking strategically about their technical setup and questioning whether the tools that they have previously relied on are the right ones to use going forward. Here are a few major themes we’ve identified as being likely to dominate financial industry conversations and technology roadmaps in 2021:

1. Modernizing dated core systems will be imperative

2020 was a year that put the financial infrastructure to the test and challenged existing architecture planning assumptions. Many of the core systems had not been architected to address the volume and pace of change that was suddenly required, and dated core systems struggled under the added weight.

Relief programs such as the Payment Protection Program (PPP) in the U.S. saw tremendous demand, but loan document processing, manual reviews, and approvals became bottlenecks. As the credit needs of small and medium businesses surged, lenders faced challenges updating their legacy underwriting and risk management systems to meet the demands. Batch-based, fragmented, and slow-moving information and data pipelines hindered the ability to gain real-time insights and rapid response to customer needs.

As financial services rallied to overcome what economists were calling “The Great Shutdown” or “The Coronavirus Recession,” the need for modern, agile, scalable, secure, resilient technology infrastructures became abundantly clear—and the new imperative in 2021.

Related: Lending DocAI fast tracks the home loan process

2. Banking goes beyond cash with digital engagement

The role of cash in society was in flux before 2020, with contactless payments already a way of life across Europe and Asia. Even in America, which has been resistant to move away from cash, 27% of U.S. businesses reported an increase in contactless payments by customers as a result of the pandemic, according to an April 2020 survey. That trend will continue in 2021, with 74% of global consumers saying they will use contactless payment methods even after the pandemic. Globally, the contactless payment market size is expected to grow from $10.3 billion in 2020 to $18 billion by 2025, at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 11.7% during the forecast period.

This trend toward contactless finances extends to banking. In 2020, 44% of retail banking customers relied on mobile apps to conduct business. Both traditional players and financial tech firms introduced new finance apps or upgraded existing ones to offer new services and programs to match consumer needs, such as benefit tracking for government-sponsored food allowances or access to early wages. As downloads of mobile apps soared, transaction volumes skyrocketed.

In 2021, as a direct response to consumers’ growing reliance on mobile payment and banking solutions, the financial services industry will likely continue to invest in modern data and analytics tools, artificial intelligence capabilities, and digital platforms.

3. Insurance becomes personal

In 2020, faced with a major health crisis, economic distress, and an uncertain future, insurance companies redefined how they did business almost overnight to provide stability, comfort, and peace of mind for their customers. For example, auto insurance providers offered discounts or refunds given decreased levels of driving. Health insurance companies adjusted their premiums to reflect reductions in non-essential surgeries.

It has become clearer than ever that the most useful products are tailored to the specific needs of the customer, and that hyper-personalization will continue to define the customer journey in 2021. Auto insurance products are more valuable when they are based on miles driven. Home insurance products are more effective when they are integrated with connected homes, so that they can prevent or minimize damage from water leaks or fires.

Building this level of personalization for customers requires a technology infrastructure that enables real-time insights from vast amounts of streaming data from a variety of data sources. Data and analytics, powered by AI, will enable personalized, contextualized interactions across the entire insurance life cycle, from sales and underwriting, to claims management and support.

4. Institutional and wholesale trading moves off trading floors

Suddenly, trading was no longer confined to corporate trading floors. While a small handful of firms positioned their traders as “essential workers” and required them to work on site, the majority of firms allowed traders work from the safety of their homes. As trading floors and exchanges worldwide emptied, the prior assumptions that all trading will happen from physical offices—over corporate networks and enterprise-operated data centers—were suddenly rendered obsolete. Operational resilience plans that counted on falling back to a secondary disaster recovery site became useless when all corporate sites shut down.

In the new world, financial architectures will decouple financial activities from physical facilities through the use of technologies like zero-trust networks that enable location-independent secure access. Operational resilience plans will be updated to include globally and regionally resilient infrastructures like cloud.

Related: The adoption of zero trust is an imperative for security modernization. Learn more about BeyondCorp Enterprise, Google’s comprehensive zero trust product offering.

5. Work-from-home must work across financial services

Throughout 2020, widespread stay-at-home restrictions challenged businesses everywhere to keep employees engaged, productive, and connected. With the pandemic, as corporate offices became unavailable overnight, the entire financial services workforce—from traders to bankers to support personnel—relied on their at-home internet connections along with existing VPN and virtual desktop infrastructure solutions to do their work. While it got the job done, internet connectivity issues, bandwidth limitations, security concerns, interoperability problems, and limitations in collaboration capabilities plagued the day-to-day experience.

It will take a reimagined work environment—one that combines immersive digital and mobile experiences with flexible hardware—to support in-person and remote workers.

Work-from-anywhere solutions need to take a comprehensive look at seamlessly enabling a heterogeneous, globally distributed workforce, including traders who need high-speed connectivity, quantitative analysts who need vast amounts of compute capacity, retail branch workers who need responsive insights platforms to serve customers, and more.

It will take a reimagined work environment—one that combines immersive digital and mobile experiences with flexible hardware—to support in-person and remote workers. New ways of hybrid working and connecting with customers will also lean heavily on helpful, integrated tools centered on the cloud to level traditional boundaries in 2021.

6. Embedded innovation is the new status quo

While 2020 was bleak from many perspectives, one of the rare positives is that it helped prove that agility and innovation, done right, is a game changer. The speed at which the financial services industry transformed to help their customers through the pandemic is the speed at which they want to continue operating. And that requires a culture of innovation that is embedded into the corporate culture of an institution.

From financial services institutions to vendors, regulators, and supervisors, 2021 is likely to be a year of deliberate cultural transformation to find new ways of working together to create safer, cheaper, more inclusive, and more equitable financial markets.

This year at Google Cloud, we will continue working with our customers across financial services to help them prepare for the future, through our technology, tools and innovation partnerships.

Keep learning: Discover the steps any organization can take to quickly adapt and achieve positive results with tighter resources. Get Google’s Guide to Innovation.

Ulku Rowe

At the forefront of Google’s cloud and machine learning capabilities, Ulku enables the financial services industry to take advantage of Google’s technology to fuel their digital transformation. Before joining Google, Ulku was a Managing Director of Technology at J.P. Morgan Chase and Bank of America. Ulku holds an MS degree in Computer Science from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a BS degree in Computer Engineering. She also serves on the Federal Reserve Bank of New York Fintech Advisory Group.

Source: 6 Trends That Will Shape The Financial Services Industry In 2021

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America’s Best And Worst Banks 2021

For America’s biggest banks, the past twelve months have been one of the biggest tests of their resilience in history. The Coronavirus pandemic all but shuttered the U.S. economy for months, spurring enormous shifts in business and consumer habits. Lenders big and small, from America’s four megabanks to small regional firms, have passed their test with flying colors.

Despite some of the sharpest drops in gross domestic product and employment ever witnessed, banks were able to serve their customers and remain profitable. In 2020, there were just four bank failures in the U.S., despite the extraordinary economic circumstances. Only about 5% of banks nationwide were unprofitable, according to data from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, and about 53% of banks reported annual increases in profits in 2020. 

The pristine shape is thanks to effective emergency measures implemented by Washington that thawed corporate and mortgage credit markets, offered stimulus and small business aid to Main Street, and allowed for widespread forbearance. These factors helped firms play their role as the financial cog that lubricates the American economy.

Corporations used low rates to issue and refinance debt at record rates in 2020, creating a cash cushion. Homeowners did the same, taking advantage of near-record-low interest rates to purchase homes or cut their interest costs. Technology also played a big role as the banking industry undergoes a digital transformation. Consumers could handle their finances on mobile apps during quarantine, instead of at temporarily closed bank branches, and digital change is helping to bolster profitability.

Not only did the stellar performance help the economy through the pandemic, it has positioned the United States for an enormous economic boom as Americans are inoculated from Covid-19 and the economy reopens in full. Millennials are entering the housing market in droves, industries like software and technology are growing rapidly, and businesses will soon be on the offensive in areas like travel, entertainment and retail.

Click here to see the full list of America’s Best Banks.

There are more than 5,000 banks and savings institutions in the U.S., but assets are increasingly concentrated at the top. The 100 largest have $16.4 trillion in assets, representing over 80% of total U.S. bank assets. Asset quality and profitability vary wildly among those institutions. With that in mind, Forbes examined the financial data to gauge America’s Best and Worst Banks.

Born out of the financial crisis of the late 2000s, this is the twelfth year Forbes enlisted S&P Global Market Intelligence for data regarding the growth, credit quality and profitability of the 100 largest publicly-traded banks and thrifts by assets. The ten metrics used in the rankings are based on regulatory filings through September 30. The data is courtesy of S&P, but the rankings are done solely by Forbes.

Metrics include return on average tangible common equity, return on average assets, net interest margin, efficiency ratio and net charge-offs as a percentage of total loans. Forbes also factored in nonperforming assets as a percentage of assets, CET1 ratio, risk-based capital ratio and reserves as a percentage of nonperforming assets. The final component is operating revenue growth. We excluded banks where the top-level parent is based outside the U.S.

CVB Financial, the parent company of Citizens Business Bank, was the top-rated bank in America for a second consecutive year, The Ontario, California-based small business lender was in the top-20 across every metric Forbes tracked, and it shone brightest in its efficiency ratio (39.%), operating revenue growth (41.5%) and posted a negative net charge off ratio. The median bank on Forbes’ list, by contrast, had a 57% efficiency ratio, posted operating growth of just 5.4%, and experienced a charge off rate of 0.17% of average loans. CVB, founded in 1974 and with over $13 billion in assets and over 50 branches across the state of California, has been profitable for 174 consecutive quarters, though a long streak of rising profitability was temporarily broken.

Smaller banks, and those focused on commercial lending, continued to dominate the top levels of the Forbes Best Banks list. Just one bank inside the top-20 had more than $100 billion in assets.

Houston-based Prosperity Bancshares ranked at #2, rising six spots from our 2020 list, thanks to its surging growth. Operating revenue rose 54% in 2020, and the lender performed well in efficiency and capitalization. Rounding out the top-5 were Kalispell, Montana-based Glacier Bancorp, Colorado Springs-based Central Bancorp and Conway, Arkansas-based Home BancShares. Average assets in our Top-5 was just $20 billion.

In the top-10 were McKinney, Tx-based Independent Bank Group, #6, DeWitt, NY-based Community Bank System, #7, Bank of New York Mellon, #8, Santa Clara, CA-based SVB Financial Group, #9, and Wilmington, DE-based WSFS Financial. Bank of New York Mellon was one of our biggest risers, gaining 44 spots, and outperforming on loan quality.

For the first time ever, the Big Four of U.S. banking—JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Citigroup and Wells Fargo—saw their combined assets exceed $10 trillion, or more than half the U.S. total. None of these banks finished in our Top-50, generally falling due to below-average growth as they set aside massive provisions to deal with the pandemic and were hit by plunging interest rates. JPMorgan Chase ranked highest at #51, dropping eight spots. Citigroup gained 10 spots to place at #65. Bank of America and Wells Fargo both slid, placing at #74 and #98, respectively.

JPMorgan, led by CEO Jamie Dimon, ended 2020 on a high note, reporting a record $12 billion profit as it released reserves built up to handle Covid-19 related economic stress. Despite the extraordinary circumstances, the lender saw average loans and its capital position rise to end the year, and it reported a surge in bank deposits. During 2020, the bank raised over $2 trillion of credit and capital for its clients, spanning ordinary U.S. households to the biggest corporations on the planet.

“In general, the banks have so much capital, so much liquidity and so much capability,” Dimon recently told investors in a December conference, weeks before the bank reported record annual revenues. While Dimon remains concerned about the pandemic as vaccines are distributed, and sees a varied recovery for consumers and businesses, he added of the banking industry, “I think we’re coming out of this looking great.”

Wells Fargo continued to fall in Forbes’ rankings in the wake of a 2016 fake accounts scandal that has cost the bank billions of dollars and led to dramatic change atop the lender. Wells dropped twelve spots in 2019, placing #98, due to a pronounced slump in revenues as the Federal Reserve limits its asset growth.

Over the past 12-months, JPMorgan’s stock has fallen 0.4%, making it the best performer among big banks, which all saw their stocks drop and underperform the S&P 500 Index. Citigroup shares have shed 19%, while Banks of America dropped 7%. Once more, Wells Fargo was the big laggard, falling by a third in value over the past year.

Rounding out the top-100 was Texas Capital Bancshares, #99, and CIT Group, #100.

New York-based business lender CIT Group is in the process of acquiring family-controlled First Citizens Bancshares, which ranked #62. The merger that will create a new diversified consumer and business lender with over $100 billion in combined assets, and a large presence in booming Sun Belt markets like Florida, Georgia and Tennessee. The merger comes a year after the combination of SunTrust and BB&T, which created $499 billion in assets Truist Financial, #48, which created a dominant lender in the Mid-Atlantic and Southeast.

Follow me on Twitter or LinkedIn. Send me a secure tip

Antoine Gara

Antoine Gara

I’m a staff writer and associate editor at Forbes, where I cover finance and investing. My beat includes hedge funds, private equity, fintech, mutual funds, mergers, and banks. I’m a graduate of Middlebury College and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, and I’ve worked at TheStreet and Businessweek. Before becoming a financial scribe, I was a member of the fateful 2008 analyst class at Lehman Brothers. Email thoughts and tips to agara@forbes.com. Follow me on Twitter at @antoinegara

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Clark Howard: Save More, Spend Less

Some of the biggest banks in the country were also ranked with some of the worst customer service in a recent survey. Clark tells you who ranks the worst, and which banks are the best.

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