About Me

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I am deputy editor at The Banker, a Financial Times publication. I joined the magazine in August 2015 as transaction banking and technology editor, which remain the beats I cover. Previously I was features editor at Profit & Loss, an FX and derivatives publication and events company. Before that I was editorial director of Treasury Today following a period as editor of gtnews.com. I also worked on Banking Technology, Computer Weekly, and IBM Computer Today. I have a BSc from the University of Victoria, Canada.

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Temenos Outlines Corporate Banking Roadmap at Community Forum in Lisbon

31 May 2011
Temenos has made public future enhancements to its corporate banking offering in areas including: syndicated lending on the web; supply chain finance with enhanced factoring and forfaiting capabilities; trade finance internet capability; and cash management, for example multi-bank cash concentration services.

Speaking at the Temenos Community Forum (TCF) 2011 in Lisbon on 23-25 May 2011, which attracted more than 800 users and potential customers, Adrian Hadley, product manager retail, confirmed that Islamic treasury products and exchange traded options would be incorporated in release 12 (R12).

The company also used the event to announce the latest release of its core banking system T24, which is a componentised edition of the product aimed at large banks, and Metro Bank's use of ARC Mobile for mobile banking services.

Anthony Thomson, chairman of Metro Bank, the first UK high street bank launched in 150 years, spoke about his philosophy with regards to the future of banking, highlighting the holy grail of better customer experience. And certainly Metro Bank is a game-changer in terms of customer service, with seven days a week branch banking, 15 minute account opening and instant card issuance. "If we could introduce 'telepathic banking', we would," he said.

He stressed that service is more important than interest rate - and attracting customers on that basis means that they will stay customers longer because they are not driven by rate changes. "The key is to create fans, not customers," he advised. "Profit is a by-product of a great experience." And by adding mobile banking services, Metro Bank is looking to improve its clients' mobility and usability experience.

Other banks attending the TCF included Japan's Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation (SMBC) and Pakistan's Silkbank - both had recently replaced their core banking systems with T24. Each implementation came with specific challenges - for example, Silkbank, which focuses on the small and medium-sized enterprise (SME) segment, found that trade finance was the most challenging module to implement because of the country-specific requirements, according to Javed Edhi, chief information officer (CIO). However, the banks were satisfied that they were more service-oriented and customer-centric as a result of the T24 implementation.

TCF 2011 was the first major outing for the incoming chief executive officer (CEO), Guy Dubois, who is scheduled to take over from incumbent Andreas Andreades on 1 July 2011. Dubois gave the keynote speech at the gala dinner, a spot normally reserved for Temenos' founder George Koukis.

First published on www.gtnews.com 

UK Financial Services Sees Third Quarter of Strong Growth, Finds Survey

4 April 2011
The UK financial services sector saw activity grow strongly for the third quarter in a row, for the first time since the nationalisation of Northern Rock in 2007, according to the 86th financial services survey by the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) and PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC). This is the eighth consecutive survey that confidence in the financial industry has increased.

Firms considered the level of their business is only slightly below normal, the best result since the financial crisis began in September 2007. Asked how their business volumes fared in the three months to March, 33% said that volumes rose and 11% said they fell. The resulting balance of +22% exceeded firms' expectations (+15%), and was only slightly below the balances of +27% and +28% recorded in the preceding two quarters. Growth in business is anticipated to pick up a little further in the coming three months (+30%).

Business grew across each of the customer groups. Growth was particularly strong for business with private individuals, as volumes rose at the fastest pace since December 1996. Growth was slower for business with industrial and commercial companies, financial institutions and overseas customers. Business is expected to grow across all the customer groups again over the next three months.

Ian McCafferty, CBI Chief Economic Adviser, said: "A third quarter of strong volume growth shows the financial services recovery is building strength. It is particularly good news that firms consider their level of business to be only slightly below normal, for the first time since the financial crisis began in 2007."

Despite the cost pressures and narrowing of average spreads, a combination of rising incomes and the fall in the value of bad debts led firms' profitability higher in the past three months, and at the fastest rate since December 1993. A similar improvement is expected in the coming quarter.

Other findings of the survey include:

* In the next three months, the highest percentage of firms since the question was first asked in March 2009 expects that growth will come from cross-selling to existing customers and acquiring new domestic customers.
* The largest proportion of firms since the survey began in 1989 says that statutory legislation and regulation is likely to limit their ability to raise levels of business over the next 12 months.
* Concern over a further worsening in financial markets fell back in this survey, following a noticeable spike last time. However, the vast majority of respondents still think that 'normal' financial market conditions will only resume beyond a six-month period.


Banking


Banking saw little change in business volumes over the past three months, but reported that they were normal, which comes after three full years of well below normal levels of activity.

Bankers saw a steep decline in the value of non-performing loans (NPLs), relatively stable costs (despite a fall in numbers employed), and they plan to invest more in the year ahead, particularly on IT and marketing. Their profitability increased strongly after having fallen in the previous quarter.

Andrew Gray, UK banking leader at PwC, said: "There is encouraging evidence that the banks are adjusting expectations in line with what constitutes the 'new normal'. Despite a strong round of annual results, they are increasingly realistic about the challenges ahead - particularly in terms of demand and regulatory obstacles. While they report near normal business levels for the first time since 2007, their actual activity is way below that seen before the financial crisis."

Gray believes that the banks are becoming stronger and are investing in products and technology to improve customer experience. "The situation is more competitive today. The customer demand is weak, so banks are working hard to retain and expand their customer base," he said.

First published on www.gtnews.com 

Transaction Banking Commodisation is Road to Nirvana, Say Treasurers

20 May 2011
The path to a treasurer's nirvana is through the commodisation of transaction banking, according to two treasurers speaking on a panel entitled 'What do Corporates Want from Their Transaction Banks?' at the SWIFT Business Forum in London. Darsh Johal, head of global cash management at Shell, and Guy Ingram, treasury manager at SABMiller, agreed that rather than making money on payments, banks should look to provide value-add through insights into corporate-to-bank data flows.

Gary Wright, director, the SEPA Consultancy, added: "This information, which underpins all cash management flows but sits in disparate systems, is something that the banks can transform and add analysis to - and this is what corporates are willing to pay for because they can see the value in it." He believes that the true value of SWIFT connectivity for corporates is not just a single pipeline to different banks, but also the ability to have more timely and better oversight of balances and transactions.

The session began with Marcus Treacher, head of e-commerce and client experience, HSBC, asking the panellists the headline question: what do corporates want from their banks? Johal and Ingram said that they evaluate a bank on whether it listens, understands their business and exhibits a strong commitment to the relationship. "Banks need to understand our treasury model," said Johal. "I don't want them to push products at me - such as supply chain finance or prepaid cards - that are not of use to my company."

Both corporates identified pain points in the onboarding process, which remains overly complex and lacking in standards. Expressing frustration that standards are a result of a series of compromises, Ingram made the point that he wanted only one single standard - not 80% standardised with 101 options for the remaining 20%.

This is an area where corporates want their banks to use their expertise and influence in SWIFT to go to bat on their behalf. Johal believes that standardising documentation is the key priority and wants to see more collaboration on the banks' side to drive this forward. Wright pointed out that events, such as Sibos, are times when the banking community comes together, but what was missing was a forum for bringing corporate and banking communities together in order to give corporates more input.

There was some debate on whether banks should focus on better delivery of basic services or look more at product innovation. Ingram believes that basics are more important, whereas Johal thinks banks should be investing in the next generation of banking, cash management and treasury products, or they will be left behind.

The problem with some innovation, according to Wright, is that the development comes from inside the financial institution and moves outwards, instead of the other way around through customer research and advisory boards.

"It is also important that banks present new ideas early in their gestation period, and not wait until just before launch to engage with the corporate clients. They need to engage through the whole life of the product," added Ingram.

The SWIFT Business Forum, held on 19 May, was the first such event held in London and attracted over 300 participants, mainly from the banking industry. The forum also ran sessions on how London can retain its position as a leading international financial centre, rapid transformation of the payments world, the concept of 'long finance', and cross-border renminbi (RMB) trade settlement.

First published on www.gtnews.com