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The Finanser’s Week: 14th April – 27th April 2014

Our biggest stories of the past fortnight are …

What did the Medici Bankers ever do for us?

I spent some of the recent holiday reading a great historical novel about the rise and fall of the Medici bankers.  The bank's rise was based upon dealing with the challenge of usury.  Making interest on loans was considered a mortal sin by the Church, and would result in a sentence to burn in hell should the perpetrator be caught in such acts.  As a result, people found ways around it. 

Art for art's sake

Building upon yesterday’s blog about the Medici’s and the close relationship between religion and finance, there’s another close relationship that needs to be noted: finance and art.  Obviously, artists cannot flourish without some benefactor and all the greatest art of history has been financed by Emperors, Kings, Dukes and bankers.  However, it was the Medici’s that set up the close relationship between art, religion and finance, beginning with the founder of the bank, Giovanni di Bicci de' Medici.

Art would not flourish without banks

Having spent some time talking about life 700 years ago, you relaise that some things stay constant.  The inter-twining between where the powerbase lies and finance is always a close tie.  Back in the Medici era, it was the Vatican and Pope, the Catholic Church and the Holy Roman Empire that enabled the Medici’s to cement their power and wealth. Today, it is the politicians.  Without keeping the politicians on side, the bankers lose. 

Cloud computing comes of age (thanks to vertical alignment to banking)

For some years now, banks have been grappling with the idea of cloud.  A bit like Big Data, ‘cloud’ is this amorphic term that offers a panacea of solutions and nothing specific.  This is not actually true, but the wide-ranging breadth of cloud and few and far between examples of depth, make it a term that does not sit well with most in the financial markets.

Facebook is getting regulatory approval to start financial services division

Apparently Facebook has applied for an e-money licence in Europe, according to today’s Financial Times.  That’s no big deal, as Google and PayPal have had bank licences since the mid-2000s in order to operate e-money capabilities.  It hasn’t meant that Google and PayPal intend to be banks, although they might in the future.  It does mean that, as per our regular dialogue about GAFA (Google, Amazon, Facebook and Apple), these guys want to get into payments processing.  For example, just the other day, Apple’s CEO Tim Cook said that payments is a space they want to get into …

Give merchants the finger: now you can with PayPal

We've all been saying that it's only a while before we pay for everything with a biometric, as mentioned in last weeks blog: The Age of the Password is overBringing this one step nearer to reality is PayPal with the release of the Samsung Galaxy S5 last Friday, you can now pay with a fingerprint …

 

The major general news stories of the past fortnight include …  

Chase Bank Is Shutting Down Porn Actors' Bank Accounts - Jezebel
Chase Bank recently sent letters to hundreds of porn performers informing them that their accounts will be shut down by mid-May. 

Bank clerks accused of £2m fraud involving Lloyds TSB - Oxford Mail
Three bank clerks were involved in a £2m scam using a high-tech computer, the Old Bailey has heard.

Lloyds' FX chief leaves bank – market sources - Reuters
Lloyds Bank's global head of foreign exchange spot trading has left the bank, citing personal reasons unrelated to the global investigation into currency market manipulation, sources with direct knowledge of the matter said on Tuesday.

Barclays to sell its commodities trading to focus on banking arm - The Guardian
Barclays is to announce on Tuesday that it is pulling out of commodities trading as its boss Antony Jenkins attempts to focus the investment banking arm on its most profitable and least controversial areas.

Whistleblower reveals errors in Barclays PPI calculations - The Independent
Barclays has launched an investigation after a whistleblower warned of serious errors in the way taxation of interest paid to those handed payment protection insurance compensation is being calculated by the bank.

RBS may sue over claims bank deliberately undermined SMEs - The Telegraph
The bank may have grounds to pursue libel action after an inquiry into allegations found no evidence to support claims the lender’s turnaround unit had systematically engineered the collapse of small business customers

Co-op Bank report blames governance - BBC
A major report into the near collapse of the Co-operative Bank will say poor oversight of the organisation sowed the seeds of its troubles.

Did a date calculation bug just cost hard-up Co-op Bank £110m? - The Register
A programming blunder appears to have landed the cash-strapped Co-op Bank an unexpected bill for £110m.

Tesco Bank's £63m compensation bill - Scotland Herald
Tesco Bank has been forced to shoulder a £63 million bill for customer compensation, hindering its efforts to portray itself as a new-style challenger to the ­established high street names ahead of the long-awaited launch of its current account later this summer.

Bank of England to test banks' computer systems against hacking - Reuters
The Bank of England will oversee simulated hacking attacks of more than 20 major banks and other financial institutions in the United Kingdom to test the resilience of their computer systems, the Financial Times reported on Monday citing sources.

Did Blue Arrow make bank fraud untriable? - BBC
Did a 1992 fraud trial put City titans beyond the reach of law?

Facebook targets financial services - Financial Times
Social network seeks regulatory approval in Ireland for a service that would allow its users to store money on Facebook and use it to pay and exchange money

London start-up to launch new market for Bitcoin - The Independent
A start-up is launching a new market for Bitcoin aimed at institutional investors, amid growing interest in the digital currency from hedge funds and investment banks.

Top banking executives defect as image problems and regulations bite - Financial Times
Why would anyone in their right mind want to run a big UK bank? This question, posed by a British executive working at a high level in a Wall Street bank in London, underscores the challenges facing the sector more than five years after the financial crisis.

Banking system in independent Scotland risks Iceland-style meltdown - The Guardian
S&P says it would be 'challenging' for Edinburgh government to support its banks without backing of London

Oz bank in comedy Heartbleed blog FAIL - The Register
Bank: 'We are now safely patched.' Customers: 'You were using OpenSSL?'

The Heartbleed bug poses the biggest threat to bank security by allowing hackers to snatch your credit card details online – Daily Mail
Online shoppers and internet bank customers are being warned to change their passwords to reduce the risk of falling victim to the online bug that can allow hackers to snatch credit card and bank details.

Danish mortgages: Something rotten - Economist
Mediterraneans in disguise DURING the euro crisis struggling Mediterranean economies were discovered to have been living far beyond their means. Northern Europeans sniffed at the southerners’ spendthrift ways. But not all northerners are the epitome of parsimony: Danish households have the highest debt as a share of disposable income among 

Banks fiddled while Rome burned: how to predict the next global financial crisis - The Guardian
Amid signs of another asset bubble, and as memories of the last crisis fade, we might be seeing the beginnings of the next crash

Think only an idiot would hand their bank card and PIN number to a thief? Read on… - Daily Mail
My landline rang. It was a Sunday morning and I was surprised because I’d given the number to only three people as I tended to use my mobile phone instead.

 

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About Chris M Skinner

Chris M Skinner

Chris Skinner is best known as an independent commentator on the financial markets through his blog, the Finanser.com, as author of the bestselling book Digital Bank, and Chair of the European networking forum the Financial Services Club. He has been voted one of the most influential people in banking by The Financial Brand (as well as one of the best blogs), a FinTech Titan (Next Bank), one of the Fintech Leaders you need to follow (City AM, Deluxe and Jax Finance), as well as one of the Top 40 most influential people in financial technology by the Wall Street Journal’s Financial News. To learn more click here…

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