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July 2000

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  • At last there's a business-to-consumer internet company to keep the most skeptical bankers happy. was launched on March 1st by the aptly-named Jeff Hock. "So many of my customers are investment bankers," says Hock. "Looking down the list we've got so many Wall Street names down here. Our service appeals to them because they've got no time to go shopping, are comfortable ordering on-line in the day, and can have it delivered to their doorman before they get home."
  • New Russian president Vladimir Putin is waving the reform banner but there are fears that the problems of Russia's beleaguered banks are going to be swept under the carpet.
  • Trade finance debt totals $3 trillion a year.
  • Hungary's financial markets have rebounded from Russia's August 1998 Financial meltdown but for many local investors the nightmare will continue until 2006. Last month the Investor Protection Fund started to compensate the clients of bankrupt London Bróker, whose activities had been suspended almost a year ago. But since the Protection Fund does not have the money to pay the Ft2.4 billion ($8.9 million) in losses to thousands of small investors, it must spread the payments over the next five to six years.
  • The imposition of forced administration on Investicni a postovni banka, the Czech Republic's third-largest bank, on June 16 and the bank's immediate takeover by Ceskoslovenska Obchodni Banka, is significant far beyond the change it brings to the Czech banking sector. It also represents a milestone in Czech politics, as the last major bastion of cronyism between banks and politicians and political parties has come crashing down.
  • Banks have become more assured of their internal risk management, and more worried about an external shock, such as an equity market crash, a downturn in asset quality, or getting their e-commerce strategy wrong. That is the finding of Banana Skins 2000, an annual survey of what most scares banks, their observers and regulators, conducted by the London-based Centre for the Study of financial Innovation, with technical help from PricewaterhouseCoopers.
  • Powerful international task forces charged by G7 governments with fighting money laundering have long pressured banks into taking responsibility for the activities of their customers. Now lawyers may come under the same kind of scrutiny By Nigel Page
  • Euromoney Institutional Investor plc picked the toughest piece of coast in Britain - 56 miles of the lizard peninsula, from Falmouth to Penzance in Cornwall - to run as its charity leg in the 100-day round UK Island Race. The team of 22 ran stints of four to seven miles each to cover the distance, and raised several thousand pounds for 10 separate charities.
  • One of the sicker developments of the internet age is the so-called celebrity dead-pool, sites where those with nothing better to do speculate online about the next world famous figure to suffer an untimely end, winning points based on the accuracy of their predictions adjusted for varying odds to reflect celebrities' ages and life-styles.
  • Most chairmen in the last few months of their tenure might be forgiven for winding down their workload and brushing up on their golf swings.
  • London's Hilton Hotel was running at full capacity this June with 800 delegates from some 60 countries attending Euromoney's Global Borrowers and Investors Forum.
  • With the euro and Y2K safely hurdled, the securities industry is sizing up straight through processing as the next obstacle to creating a more efficient global market. The unification of exchanges and clearing and settlement platforms, which should enable this to happen, remains stymied by political manoeuvring. But market forces, aided by technological advances are set to force change. While the front offices of investment managers have been eagerly seizing the distribution opportunities presented by the internet, their back offices have plenty of catching up to do. Those that rise to the challenge will pull ahead of the pack. Julian Marshall reports
  • Over a quick lunch between conference panels at Euromoney's Borrowers and Investors Forum, held last month at the London Hilton Hotel, the treasurer of one of the biggest liability managers voiced his growing frustration with the slow pace at which leading banks and investment banks are embracing the internet.
  • It may be 148 years since their troops last fought each other in combat and nine years since they buried their economic differences to form Mercosur, but rivalry between Argentina and Brazil still runs deep. These days South America's two superpowers fight proxy wars over credit ratings, GDP growth rates - and of course football.
  • The days of the weak euro seem to be over. The euro has bounced back from the nadir of $0.88 to $0.96 now. But it's still way below the level of $1.17, when it was launched nearly 18 months ago. At the time of its launch, I forecast that the euro would slump to 1:1 against the dollar. When it reached that level, I expected it to turn round and head back up. But that prediction has been confounded so far.
  • More than 2,000 years after Julius Caesar's death, his followers still place flowers on an undistinguished earthy mound in the historic Roman Forum, presumed to be the dictator's grave. Such is the reverence for strong leaders in Italy that the occasional barbaric act - tossing Christians to lions, killing the children and raping the wives of enemies - can be overlooked in reaching judgement on their worthiness. "Had you rather Caesar were living and die all slaves, than that Caesar were dead, to live all free men?" was how Brutus posed the question of the great man's murder to the general populace in Shakespeare's play.
  • Marcelo Barboza is chief operating officer of, Brazil's biggest financial services site with 165,000 registered users and 2 million page views a month.
  • This is not an adaptation of Rossini’s opera Il turco in Italia. Rather it is an attempt by three Turkish bureaucrats to find sustenance – outside their own country – for their ambitious economic programme. Turkey’s central bank governor, treasury under-secretary, and stock exchange chief, roadshow their country to investors in western Europe. They are later joined in London by privatization boss Ugur Bayar. Metin Munir goes along for the ride
  • Spain's savings banks have decided to dip their toes in the uncharted waters of the market by issuing shares, a move that could eventually hasten the privatization of the 48 cajas de ahorros that account for half the country's financial system.
  • South Africa has had its share of wars, protests and punch-ups: Boer against Brit, black against white and black against black. But a scrummage between white-collar corporations was something new. Starting last September a war of attrition involving some of the country’s most influential power brokers dominated the banking sector. The issue: should two successful South African banks, Standard Bank Investment Corporation (Stanbic) and Nedcor, follow the global fashion and merge – or were they already an optimal size? One said they were, the other said they weren’t. A bewildered finance minister ended up making the decision for them. This June, he pulled the fighting packs apart. Chris Cockerill reports
  • This year's awards for excellence are a final farewell to domestic banking. Definitions of domestic or foreign have acknowledged that while local banks may have the best retail and local currency wholesale operations in a country, foreign institutions, with a handful of branches, often offer the best in cross-border financing and transaction services. Consolidation will ensure this year will be the last in which this distinction has any meaning. By Simon Brady.
  • Local banks are now in foreign hands. Farewell to the domestic bank! Deutsche Bank has transformed itself. Morgan Stanley Dean Witter builds on its successful franchise. BSCH flies the flag for the Spanish. Ben Beasley-Murray, Simon Brady, Brian Caplen, Chris Cockerill, Antony Currie, Anja Helk, Peter Lee, Julian Marshall, David Shirreff.
  • President, Island
  • Few people expect a large bank to carry enough capital to meet every conceivable financial and operational catastrophe - except perhaps Daniel Zuberbühler, director of the Swiss Federal Banking Commission. In recognition of this, regulators and bankers are wrestling with the question of who should provide liquidity if a "too-big-to-fail" bank gets into trouble and threatens dislocation of the financial system?
  • Last year it was equities. Last winter it was bonds. Now this summer foreign exchange, by far the largest market, finally embraces e-commerce. Single-dealer platforms will still be needed, but might only account for 25% of the volume. The seven-bank consortium behind has grabbed all the headlines this month, but it is already a year or more behind two independent ventures, and years behind State Street’s FX Connect, which since April has allowed other dealers on to the system. Why has it taken so long for forex bankers to accept the multi-bank approach, and what are the consequences of leaving it this late? Antony Currie investigates
  • Managing director, nCoTec
  • Managing partner, European Digital Partners
  • At the start of 2000, many banks trumpeted their ability to distribute new bond issues online, fearful of being left behind by eager issuers. At the same time their trading sides announced, often with great fanfare, their own new internet-based trading sites and new multi-dealer platforms put together among consortia of banks. Since then, banks have struggled to deliver on these systems and to integrate them properly. Some now think the internet will merely make the existing market model more efficient, not overthrow it. But a few still hanker for revolutionary change in the bond market. Peter Lee reports
  • Latin America has the world's fastest-growing population of internet users. Growing nearly as fast are the internet companies feeding that demand and, on the back of that, venture capital and private equity firms trying to get in on the ground floor. Mark Piper reports