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August 2012

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  • Standard Chartered’s senior bankers admit there is something old fashioned about the way the bank does business. Even its CEO, Peter Sands, is a throwback – a banker mostly lauded rather than criticized for his performance. StanChart has consistently delivered a level of income and profit growth most of its peers can only dream of. Is its traditional approach a model for modern banking?
  • Perhaps it should come as no surprise after a month in which two big UK banks have been at the centre of global scandals that the country might cast around for possible new, untarnished entrants to the sector.
  • Brazil’s wealthy have traditionally based their investments on products tapping the country’s high interest rates. But with rates now much lower private bankers are seeking to persuade their clients to transform their strategies.
  • The British public could justifiably claim to have been let down by their bankers. In late June, a computer problem meant that RBS and its subsidiaries were unable to process numerous client banking transactions for several days. Then in early July, it transpired that Barclays bankers were running amok manipulating a key customer benchmark rate. And now in late July, we learn that HSBC has been cosying up to some of the world’s most undesirable individuals and that the bank’s client records might be synonymous with the FBI’s most wanted list.
  • Bankers were in subdued mood when they gathered in early July for Euromoney’s 2012 Awards for excellence dinner. Bob Diamond’s abrupt resignation a few days’ earlier was on everyone’s mind. And anxiety about the Libor rigging investigations cast a pall on proceedings. "It feels as if the industry itself is on trial," one guest murmured. Another 50-something senior banker was more vehement: "I don’t think this blood-letting will stop until my whole generation has been forced to step down."
  • Europe’s commitment to environment-friendly energy projects is being undermined by financing constraints springing from the economic downturn, the sovereign debt crisis and a capital-strapped banking system.
  • Bob Diamond resigned from Barclays on July 3 and as I write this, some three weeks later, bankers are starting to talk in hushed tones about the "Libor rigging scandal" being the financial industry’s "tobacco moment".
  • As the start date of the London Olympics approached in July, the big story was not one of sport but one of corporate ineptitude.
  • It’s hard to imagine it was ever a good idea – setting up a Facebook page for a bank. Yet several PRs were forced to do just that and are now regretting it.
  • Santander’s 2010 acquisition of a 70% stake in Poland’s Bank Zachodni put it in a strong position in Europe’s most resilient economy. Now, in a smart all-share deal, the Spanish bank is adding Kredyt Bank to its Polish portfolio.
  • "Banking is a horrible business – we just haven’t figured out a better way of making sure things are funded. Once we have, then we can get rid of it"
  • "I told my banker that while it looked like the bank was lending me £5 million and it was certainly charging me for £5 million, it was really only lending me £2.5 million. I wonder how many times that has happened"
  • The world’s top banks have little to celebrate at the moment. But a silver lining might come in the form of sports teams or individuals sponsored by banks racking up successes.
  • Lord Myners – formerly the financial services secretary in Gordon Brown’s government and before that a member of the court of directors of the Bank of England – informed Parliament this month of a particularly cunning ploy that one member of the BoE’s financial stability committee devised in 2006 or 2007 in response to the looming crisis.
  • HSBC’s advertising slogan for many years was the "world’s local bank", now media headline writers are dubbing the bank: "The world’s local money launderer". Always considered conservative, well run and frankly a bit stodgy, HSBC has stumbled badly. And we are all like stunned moles blinking in the sunlight, following a 340-page report from a US Senate subcommittee accused HSBC of laundering cash for terrorists, drug barons and dictators through many of its subsidiaries.
  • Construction industry in dire state; Unions no bar to sector shrinkage
  • Clarification of roles in ABS structuring; Should enhance interbank liquidity
  • Only Latin American corporates that offer clear business models and high dividend yields are finding investor interest as risk aversion blights the region's primary equity capital markets.
  • The precise impact on Asian markets of the eurozone’s troubles is as yet a matter for debate. Although Asian banks have relatively small exposures to Europe, macroeconomic effects are a cause for worry.
  • Just when you thought banks’ reputations couldn’t get any worse, their standing collapses almost completely. The recent travails of JPMorgan, Barclays and HSBC will adversely affect the whole industry and raise demands to cut big banks down to size once again. But in tackling banks’ problematic complexity, let’s not forget the benefits of diversification.
  • For fee-hungry global investment banks, Asian debt capital markets seem to be an earnings dream. Are the region’s DCM bankers finally stepping out of the shadows of their equity capital markets peers?
  • The pressure is on for the US to get its private and public sector debt down – through inaction.
  • Pro-cyclicality is the curse of our times, thanks to the magnifying effects of ill-timed actions and inaction – but not so in Chile and Norway.
  • $2.6 billion Islamic loan maturity; Paves way for takeover battle
  • Post-merger rise to second; VTB’s market share declining
  • FIG pipeline much healthier than Europe’s; Growing intra-regional investor demand
  • Prime brokerage revenues are under pressure but increasing investor appetite for hedge funds means that staying in business is a priority. So prime brokers are rethinking their models.
  • Long-term hedging put in place before 2007 has become an extremely expensive problem for banks looking to sell down their real estate exposure.
  • With a bleak economic outlook and business models that look outdated, a shake-up is necessary among Italian banks. They need to slim down and change focus in a drive for profitability.
  • Spain should have established a bad bank long ago.