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Monetary policy in uncertain times

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trichet

trichetSpeech by Jean-Claude Trichet, President of the ECB
at the Bank of Finland 200th Anniversary Conference
Helsinki
It is remarkable to think that the Bank of Finland will celebrate its two hundredth anniversary this year. The ECB, as the youngest central bank in the world, but with such an extraordinarily solid historical legacy in the Eurosystem, looks at such a storied history in the European monetary team with pride.

This conference occurs at a point in time when central banks and governments of the advanced economies continue to face a wide range of challenges. I would like to start by reflecting in front of you on a challenge that, at first sight, may seem not directly related to monetary policy: strengthening economic governance in the euro area. Strong economic governance – and therefore closer economic union – is however the fundamental counterpart to the single monetary policy. With a centralised monetary policy but decentralised fiscal and economic policies – in the absence of a federal institutional framework – those policies have to be placed in a solid framework and appropriately coordinated.

The duty of public institutions is to fulfil their mandate and, by doing so, to meet the expectations of the citizens. The ECB’s Governing Council has done so and fulfilled public expectations in line with its mandate. Citizens in Europe expect overall stable prices and their purchasing power to be maintained. Over the first 12 years, the ECB has delivered an average annual rate of inflation of 1.97%.

Citizens expect a stable economy and public authorities that are alert and effective in combating crises. The ECB has taken unprecedented steps to mitigate the effects of the recent crisis on the real economy by ensuring the flow of credit to the households and firms and preserving financial stability – of which I will talk more later.

In the field of economic governance, however, public institutions still need to make a ‘quantum leap’ to meet public expectations. European citizens recognise the value of closer economic cooperation, particularly those in the euro area. Surveys indicate that, on average in euro area countries, more than four out of five euro area citizens are in favour of greater policy coordination between countries to overcome the crisis. This is something, which I consider very important: citizens want a stronger and better coordination of economic and financial policies in the euro area.

The challenge facing policymakers today is how to deliver the deeper economic union that is so fundamental to EMU and to the expectations of its citizens. All agree that the existing economic governance framework needs to be reformed. Fiscal and broader macroeconomic policies have to be consistent with rates of sustainable growth and price stability in a stability-orientated economic and monetary union. To achieve this, the Stability and Growth Pact needs to be reinforced and a strong surveillance of macroeconomic imbalances and competitiveness needs to be installed.

Important negotiations are ongoing between the Commission, the Council and the European Parliament to reach agreement on the legislative package to reform economic governance. For these reforms to reach the ‘quantum leap’ that is required, the following elements are essential:

First, greater automaticity is needed in all surveillance procedures, including the new macroeconomic surveillance framework. The Council should have less room for halting or suspending procedures against Member States. Strict deadlines to avoid lengthy procedures and the deletion of escape clauses would further automaticity. This is critical to ensure the credibility of the new framework and address spillovers in a timely manner.

Second, enforcement tools need to be more effective. In addition to financial sanctions, political and reputational measures would help foster early compliance, as would the application of earlier and more gradual financial sanctions within the macroeconomic surveillance framework. Discretion to reduce or suspend financial sanctions is undesirable as it strongly reduces effectiveness and sets the wrong incentives.

Third, more ambitious policy requirements would better match the current reality of the euro area. It makes sense for macroeconomic surveillance to have a clear focus on the euro area countries with large current account deficits, significant losses of competitiveness and high levels of public and private debt. As regards fiscal surveillance, ambitious benchmarks are needed when establishing an excessive deficit and in setting the adjustment path towards a country’s medium-term budgetary objective.

Finally, the gap between the EU and national level must be closed. New procedures will not be sufficient if they are not solidly anchored at national level. Binding commitments by Member States to swiftly implement strong national budgetary frameworks are essential.

In my view, the proposals agreed by the Council do not represent the significant leap towards closer economic union that is required. The European Parliament has been more ambitious in its approach, particularly as regards greater automaticity and the broader and more timely use of sanctions. I hope that the ongoing negotiations over the legislative package will permit the texts to be significantly improved along these lines. I believe that the citizens of Europe count on the European Parliament to take a broader perspective and drive these changes forward.

There are also some important areas in which care should be taken not to weaken the texts. In particular, softening the Stability and Growth Pact by introducing further exceptions or treating in a special way specific expenditure items, such as public investment, would create further room for unwarranted discretionary decisions. It is also of crucial importance that the economic governance reform is fully implemented as soon as possible and without any transition period.

Beyond fiscal and broader macroeconomic governance, it is important to remember that economic union comprises a third governance pillar which is equally important: the structural reforms embedded in the “Europe 2020” strategy and the Euro Plus Pact. Structural reforms are essential to elevate the growth potential of the euro area in the face of ongoing debt sustainability challenges and future age-related expenditures. A specific example where urgent progress is needed is the incomplete single market in services. It makes full economic sense and it is urgent to complete the single market in the sector in which a very large majority of people in Europe work.

When EMU was first established, many people asked how monetary union could function effectively in a Europe of sovereign states. The answer is simple: it can function effectively with an appropriate economic union.

It is fully recognised that this economic union must be one where countries that wisely follow a virtuous economic path are rewarded, and those that pursue unsustainable policies have to internalise the costs of their actions.

At the same time, economic union implies interconnectedness, and it is in all countries’ interest not to exacerbate difficulties by creating uncertainty in financial markets.

We look to an economic union where all countries face up to their individuals responsibilities, but also an economic union which remains guided by a common cause and destiny.
* * *
Turning now to monetary policy, the challenges central banks are facing in fulfilling their role of a stable anchor are large.

First, decisions have to be made in an environment marked by a very high degree of uncertainty. Although operating in an uncertain environment is common business for central banks, I would argue that structural transformations of our economies, the ever-growing complexity of global finance and the overall process of globalisation are itself creating a multidimensional acceleration of change leading to increased uncertainty on the transmission mechanism of monetary policy.

In addition, in crisis times there is an elevated degree of Knightian uncertainty. The character of this uncertainty can not be calculated or modelled. Acting pre-emptively to avoid possible grave consequences of events for which a priori probabilities do not exist implies that crisis prevention is a crucial part of policy.

This leads to another challenge, which is the need to communicate clearly the actions taken in the realm of crisis prevention. The immediate decisions that appear necessary to avoid crisis might not be fully understood by external observers, including the general public for the simple reason that they do not see the counterfactual. When measures are wisely taken ex ante, precisely to avoid the unfolding of an acute crisis, then decision-makers’ face the problem of explaining their actions in the light of something that did not happen.

This is yet one more reason for why the independence of central banks is absolutely key. It is essential to permit them to take the appropriate preventive decisions. As the world around us is rapidly changing, swift action is often called for. I have previously proposed a posture of “credible alertness”, suggesting that it was the best approach for a central bank to anchor inflation expectations firmly, while being ready to take action at any point in time without being the prisoner of previous commitments on policy actions. The threat to act will be more effective the more credible the central bank has been over time in actually delivering price stability.

In addition, the knowledge that the central bank will normally make use of all available options – as circumstances dictate – to counteract situations that have the potential for undermining confidence and perturbing market conditions enhance control of private expectations. Our readiness to act prior to the crisis, during the crisis and as far as the existing use of standard interest rate measures is concerned also currently is clearly demonstrated throughout time.

Allow me to elaborate a little bit on some of the actions taken. In the exceptional times of the past three years, the response to the crisis by central banks around the world has led to the adoption of non-standard measures. In the case of the ECB, the non-standard measures adopted during the crisis are precisely designed to help restore a more normal functioning of the transmission mechanism and contribute to recreating an environment where the “standard measures” can operate effectively. It should be clear what the non-standard measures of the ECB are not. They can not be seen as liquidity measures to stimulate activity at a lower bound for interest rate, where they would act where standard interest rate policy fails. Rather “non-standard” measures can co-exist with different levels of the policy rate.

The monetary policy stance is always chosen by the Governing Council to deliver price stability in a medium term. The non-standard measures have a clear purpose: ensuring that the standard measures themselves are transmitted as effectively as possible despite the otherwise abnormal functioning of some markets. The types of non-conventional operation implemented by the ECB fully allow us to amend the monetary policy stance, in particular through a change in the interest rates. In other words, decisions about interest rates can be separated from the non-conventional measures.

I refer to this duality as the “separation principle”. The non-standard measures have to be commensurate with what we are observing on the market, namely to help the transmission of our monetary policy to function better again. The standard measures are there to deliver price stability in the medium term.

Seen through the lens of the separation principle, I stress that we have been and will take in the future decisions on standard measures independently of our decisions on non-standard measures. For example, the ECB has indicated clearly that interest rate increases could perfectly well take place independently of the timing of the phasing out of the non-standard measures – if those non-standard measures continue to be fully justified by the situation.

The separation principle can be seen operating recently. On April 7 the Governing Council decided to increase the interest rate on the main refinancing operations of the Eurosystem by 25 basis points. I was particularly pleased that this decision was taken unanimously. That was of course a very important decision that the Governing Council was implementing as regards the “standard measures”. At the same time “non-standard measures” were maintained for the second quarter of this year, particularly the policy of full allotment and a fixed rate for the supply of liquidity with a duration of three months.

***
Let me conclude. I am convinced that when central banks and governments take up the tasks that are before them then we will surmount the difficulties our economies are experiencing. But this is no time for complacency in any respect. The ECB, for its part, will do all that is necessary to continue to be a solid and reliable anchor of stability and confidence in these challenging times. And there is little doubt that the future will continue to present new and unexpected challenges.

The citizens of Europe can rely on our strong determination to ensure a very solid anchoring of inflation expectations – something that is more important than ever in turbulent times.

Thank you for your attention.

Copyright © for the entire content of this website: European Central Bank, Frankfurt am Main, Germany.

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Grey skies ahead – Malta prepares for a gloomy 2021 if they can’t tackle financial crime

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Grey skies ahead – Malta prepares for a gloomy 2021 if they can’t tackle financial crime 1

By Dhanum Nursigadoo, ComplyAdvantage

With the summer drawing to a close, many countries who rely significantly on warm weather tourism will be assessing the impact of Covid-19. Being a small island in the middle of the Mediterranean you would expect Malta to be taking a significant economical hit – just like we are seeing in other popular European holiday destinations – but this doesn’t take into account the strength of the Maltese economy.

Emerging from the eurozone crisis with one of the most dynamic economies strategically positioned between three continents, Malta has had one of the lowest unemployment rates in the EU and has recently seen its GDP growth expand year-on-year.  But perhaps the most important aspect of the Maltese economy has been its attraction for foreign businesses with only a 5% tax on profits. It is no secret that Malta is a tax haven, probably one of the most effective tax havens in the world.

But you can’t pick and choose who takes shelter, and it’s no secret that money launderers have been taking advantage of the regulatory landscape in this archipelago.

The conditions of a tax haven suit criminal enterprises, who can take advantage of the opaque environment and blend their illegal activities with the same operations enjoyed by high net worth individuals and corporations who are looking to reduce their tax bill. And last year Malta’s keenness for secrecy and avoidance resulted in a damning report by Moneyval – the Council of Europe’s Anti-Money Laundering/Combating the Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT) body – which found that while the nation had made some efforts to curb money laundering there was still much to be desired in order to bring the tax haven up to standard. Overall, they were of the opinion that Malta viewed combating money laundering as a non-priority and this resulted in branding Malta with low to partial ratings for 30 out of the 40 Financial Action Task Force (FATF) recommendations.

The findings of the report were stated to have the potential to “create within the wider public the perception that there may exist a culture of inactivity or impunity”. This follows on from a series of international high-profile stories regarding Malta and financial crime. Most shocking was the murder of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia – who investigated corruption and money laundering in her native country – and was killed by a car-bomb three years ago leading to international outrage and condemnation.

Now Malta is in a race against time to turn their reputation around or they will suffer genuine consequences. The FATF have threatened to place Malta on a “greylist” of high-risk jurisdictions unless they have shown a genuine commitment to combatting financial crime and implemented the recommendations of the Moneyval report. If they fail, this would make Malta the first EU country to make the list and join others such as Panama, Syria and Zimbabwe.

The pandemic has actually given Malta more time to meet these obligations, and it has been widely reported that an initial summer deadline has now been moved to October due to the widespread disruption.

As we head into the autumn, there are signs that Malta has begun to take action. The Malta Financial Services Authority (MFSA) has created and established an empowered AML now headed up by Anthony Eddington, formerly of the UK’s Financial Conduct Authority and who has previous experience of tackling anti-financial crime at Deutsche Bank. This team has already begun working closely with international experts, specifically partners in the US through the US embassy in Malta and the United States Commodities Futures Trading Commission (CFTC). In May this collaboration led to 25 new cases focused on money laundering in particular, and with plans to increase standard inspections and on-site investigations into businesses in Malta, it appears there is a change to the country’s priorities.

Importantly, the report highlighted a problem for countries that choose to become tax havens. In some cases it was not that the Maltese authorities deliberately turned a blind-eye, but simply that they did not have the necessary knowledge to effectively tackle financial crime in the first place. Law enforcement appeared unable to even recognise when crime was occurring.

But this blurring of financial compliance will not help businesses if Malta does indeed become “greylisted” this year. While not as devastating as being blacklisted (the two occupants of this list are Iran and North Korea) there are significant detrimental effects to being put on the FATF greylist. Although this signals that the country is committed to developing AML/CFT plans (unlike the blacklist) it still sends out a warning signal to the world that this is a high-risk area, with the country in question subject to increased monitoring and potential sanctions from the IMF and the World Bank. Make no mistake, being put on the greylist will be catastrophic for Malta’s economy.

It remains to be seen how the work to avoid such a calamity will affect Malta’s tax haven status. Perhaps with an increased fight against financial crime there will be less ability to defend one of Europe’s most competitive tax regimes. But if Malta does not show they are genuinely committed to tackling this problem, then the pandemic disruption to the island’s tourism may be minor in comparison to the grey clouds that now approach their shores.

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How will the UK prepare a supply chain for the distribution of the Covid-19 vaccines?

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How will the UK prepare a supply chain for the distribution of the Covid-19 vaccines? 2

By Don Marshall, Marketing role at Exporta.

The challenge of mobilising a supply chain for the introduction of a global and nationwide vaccine will be enormously complex. The process will be costly, and it’s likely the figures will stretch to the hundreds of millions for both the production of the vaccine itself and its distribution across the UK. We must prepare and plan a supply chain strategy to ensure it reaches those most in need in a timely and safe manner.

The task of immunising a whole population is something that has never been planned or likely imagined by anyone within a standard supply chain. A supply chain that goes directly from the manufacturer to the end consumer, or user/ patient in this case, is complex and goes beyond the scope of any single logistics company. It would have to be conceived and delivered via a large joint effort and collaboration between multiple organisations. Effectively distributing the vaccine will depend on the source of manufacture, its storage requirements, and protection of the vaccines from manufacture through to patient administration.

The majority of vaccines require storage within a specific temperature range and need to be handled safely and in hygienic conditions. Depending on where the vaccines are manufactured, the transport legs will vary; if they are coming from overseas, air freight will increase cost and complexity. In addition to supplying the vaccine, syringes, needles and containers also need to be taken into account when preparing the supply chain.

Securing the specific types of boxes or containers i.e. the lidded containers normally used for transporting pharmaceutical products will mean acquiring them from all available stockists and manufacturers. Delivery vehicles would then need to be considered, with temperature-control factored in. The medical supply chain can inform their approach to distribution by assessing data from previous supply chains, and how large quantities of vaccines have been sent out in the past. Collating successful vaccine delivery examples from other parts of the world would be advantageous here, the more we can do to prepare for a logistical challenge of this magnitude, the better.

The distribution of this COVID vaccine will be unique in its scale and for that reason, additional supply chains will need to be mobilised. Apart from medical supply chains, those best suited for this type of transportation are the fresh/frozen food industries and supermarkets. I would mobilise these businesses to assist with the vaccine’s distribution wherever possible and use their car parks and facilities for the temporary medical centres needed to administer the vaccine to the public.

Using the food industry and supermarket networks would leave the current pharmaceutical supply chains intact for health services, pharmacies and the NHS. It would protect those vital services and continue to serve communities across the UK. Inevitably, it would place a short term strain on food supply chains, but these are supply chains that are well-equipped and versed in coping with excess demand i.e. the spike endured from the brief spell of public panic buying at the start of the crisis. With adequate resourcing and planning, I believe the UK supply chain can and will handle this challenge.

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Dealing with the loneliness crisis with assistive technology

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Dealing with the loneliness crisis with assistive technology 3

By Karen Dolva, CEO and Co-Founder of No Isolation

Humans are social beings, and for most children, school will be their most important social arena. Unfortunately, however, many children and adolescents with long-term illnesses are unable to attend school for extended periods, due to treatment plans, ill health or more recently due to the risk of infection. Research has shown that long-stints of school absence for children and adolescents with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (ME) and cancer can range from months to years.

These prolonged periods of absence, which often lead to limited interactions with other children and adolescents, can result in children completely losing their social network, leaving them feeling cut off, lonely and isolated, all as a result of something that is completely out of their control. What kind of consequences can this type of social isolation have for children and young adults?

In a recent in-depth investigation into the impact of COVID-19 on the emotional and educational development of British school-aged children, No Isolation partnered with independent researcher, Henry Peck, to look into the impact of COVID-19 on school aged children, to shed further light on the consequences of school closures, not only across the UK, but the long term effects that this can have on children and adolescents everywhere throughout the pandemic.

As a company working to abolish loneliness and isolation amongst those suffering with chronic illness, we were already aware of the effect that social isolation can have on a child’s educational development and mental health. For the investigation we collected responses from 1,005 parents and carers of 1,477 children spanning primary and secondary school.

Results of the study found that a concerning 76% of parents and carers reported that, since lockdown, they have become worried that their children are suffering from loneliness. Results also showed that parents and carers of 5-10-year-olds worry that their children are lonely often or all of the time, whilst parents and carers of 11-16-year-olds are concerned that their children are lonely at least some of the time. This is likely due to the fact that older children have greater access to social technologies, while younger children often rely on non-verbal forms of communication such as facial expression, physical contact, and through play, all of which is difficult to recreate whilst away from the school setting.

At No Isolation we are committed to creating solutions that will help children stay connected to their friends and their education, regardless of circumstance. We’ve seen first-hand the devastating impact that loneliness can have on a child, and know that children that can’t attend school don’t just miss out on learning, they miss out on friendships too. Losing this contact during the early years developmental stages can be devastating, leading to anxiousness and an increase in feelings of isolation. This report sheds light on the hundreds of thousands of young people that may not be able to rejoin their friends in school, and it is vital that they don’t fall through the cracks. We plan to continue researching the impact of this unprecedented pandemic and driving the conversation around how we, as a nation, can ensure the mental wellbeing and educational development of those most affected.

Loneliness has been found to have serious implications for both physical and mental health. People suffering from loneliness are 32% more likely to have a stroke and are 26% more at risk of early mortality. From No Isolation’s own research into the impact of school absence due to long-term illness, we have found that  children are particularly vulnerable to loneliness if they cannot attend school.

Researchers, Perlman and Peplau, define loneliness as a negative feeling, stating that a lonely person is experiencing a discrepancy between desired and actual social contact. Being socially isolated is not synonymous with being lonely, but there will often be a correlation between social isolation and loneliness. Though much empirical research on adults and adolescents shows a link between loneliness and depression, many studies have found that friendship-related loneliness is more explanatory for depressive symptoms among adolescents than parent-related loneliness. One possible explanation is that friends are the preferred source of social support during adolescence.

With that in mind, we should be both sad and alarmed by the high numbers of young people unable to attend school, and more so by the fact that we do not really know who they are or exactly why they cannot go to school. Research has shown that social isolation and loneliness often correlate with mental disorders, including depressive disorders, there are, however, options available for children and adolescents in the form of assistive technologies, enabling them to stay connected with education and their peers.

The provision of dedicated school staff, inspirational hospital schools, the use of avatars like AV1 that enable children to attend school remotely, are just a few of the ways that assistive technology and exemplary attitudes are helping children with long-term illnesses from becoming disconnected from essential social networks. There are also examples of individuals who are pushing to keep children from falling between the cracks and becoming invisible, such as Amy Dixon, who is running a petition that will do exactly that, bringing these issues to the attention of those who can make a real change. It is, and will be, thanks to these exemplary changes that more support is being offered to children that are virtually invisible across the UK at present.

However, not all children have the option to receive these kinds of provision. There are pockets of excellent practice driven on an individual and local level, but there needs to be systemic change at a policy level, to ensure everyone is supported.

Educational provision for children out of school due to illness appears to be something of a postcode lottery, with some families having to fight for 3 hours of home tuition a week, whilst others are offered 15 hours by default. This is thought to be, in part, due to the open statutory guidance which allows for flexible interpretation of government guidelines, as well as financial limitations schools and city councils face. To improve the lives and outcomes of this group of children, is to create a more accurate view and analysis. This can be done by joining up existing datasets, by asking better questions, and by building a model that predicts future numbers of children from falling outside of the system. This, in turn, will push the issue up the political agenda and drive much needed changes to statutory guidance. Most importantly, it would lead to more support for children that are seemingly invisible across the UK.

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