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Policy discipline and spillovers in an interconnected global economy

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Speech by Gertrude Tumpel-Gugerell, Member of the Executive Board of the ECB  at the SNB-IMF High-Level Conference on The International Monetary System
Zurich

In May 1351 – so from today almost exactly 660 years ago – Zurich became the fifth member of the Swiss Confederacy, which at the time was a loose confederation of de facto independent states to better coordinate policies and lawmaking among these states within the confederacy.
This example links nicely to the current need of better policy coordination and collaboration in today’s world of growing global integration and interconnectedness through trade and financial links than ever.
The topic of today’s session “policy discipline and spillovers in an interconnected global economy” is therefore extremely timely both from a global and European perspective.

In my intervention, let me, therefore, briefly touch upon four questions:

  1. Under what circumstances can a lack of policy discipline lead to macroeconomic imbalances with destabilizing effects for the economy?
  2. How can such imbalances spill over to other countries and the global economy?
  3. What are recipes to prevent imbalances and their spillovers?
  4. What can we learn from all this for the current situation in Europe?

So let me turn to the first question:

1. Under what circumstances can a lack of policy discipline lead to macroeconomic imbalances with destabilizing effects for the economy?

Prior to the crisis, the deficiencies of macroeconomic policies and the lack of sufficient international cooperation led to the build-up of unsustainable external imbalances among key deficit and surplus economies. Such global imbalances paved the way and contributed to the financial crisis to unfold. This has not only revealed insufficient policy discipline and cooperation, but also the lack of an effective mechanism to influence macroeconomic and structural policies in key countries where those appeared unsustainable from the standpoint of global economic and financial stability.

The global economy has become increasingly interconnected and its degree of integration will most likely continue to increase in the future. [Foreign trade is projected to exceed the pre-crisis levels next year, reaching a new historical high of about 64% of the world’s GDP. Financial openness, defined as the amount of foreign assets and liabilities, is estimated to be more than 300% of the world’s GDP in 2009 ]. This interconnectedness brings externalities and policy challenges. And the recent global financial crisis has been a reminder that this can have dramatic consequences on the stability of the international financial system and that national policies do not suffice in preventing such imbalances from occurring.

The growing integration of the world economy has contributed to create another dimension of loose policies: the failure to recognise the impact of domestic policies on other countries or the global economy, where the policies’ externalities can be detrimental to global growth and the stability of the global economic system. This lack of policy discipline is often an outcome of an excessive focus on short-term objectives as opposed to long-run sustainability.

The exit from monetary policy easing and fiscal accommodation after a recession is a case in point. A delayed exit from accommodative monetary policy after a recessionary period may contribute to excessive risk taking and large international capital flows. As you know the ECB Governing Council decided to raise by 25bp its official rates in April. Similarly, exiting too late from stimulative fiscal policy may run the risk of triggering an adverse adjustment in global asset prices and global exchange rate configurations. In this respect, the commitment taken by the G20 countries to reduce their deficit by half by 2013 is of utmost importance.

2. How can such imbalances or policy failures can spill over to other countries and the global economy?

There are a number of historical examples, in which loose policies and the neglect of negative spillovers – led to imbalances and disorderly adjustments in international markets. In the late 1970s, the US was criticised by some observers for conducting an overly loose monetary policy, which allegedly led to a decline of the US dollar to historical lows. External imbalances widened (to about 2 per cent of GDP in aggregate terms at that time only!), and many countries, especially Japan and Germany, accused the US to seek gaining competitive advantages. It was the Fed’s decisive policy action under Paul Volcker, raising the Fed’s policy rate to a peak of around 20 per cent in 1981, which ended this “Great Inflation” experience.

Another – more recent – example for a lack of policy discipline comes from the euro area. Fiscal indiscipline in some – but not all! – euro area Member States had widespread financial markets implications. It is clear that there is a need to strengthen fiscal discipline significantly.

The ECB has called repeatedly for a “quantum leap” in this respect that would go beyond current proposals made by EU Heads of States and Governments, though the package proposed by the European Parliament is already an improvement in some respect. This “quantum leap” would include quasi-automatic applications of sanctions on the basis of clearly pre-defined criteria and without scope of discretion or waivers. I will come back to that later.

These examples show that many policy makers – even today – believe that the “put your own house in order” approach is a sufficient recipe for international cooperation. International cooperation is solely an exercise in which the national authorities have the main responsibility for identifying and solving problems, albeit in a process which is monitored by other parties. Advocates of such a form of cooperation tend say that national authorities ‘know best’, or that full sovereignty and the absence of finger-pointing increase the chances of achieving cooperative outcomes. Moreover, if each party managed to keep its own house in order – the theory goes – policy failures would not occur, negative spillovers would be contained, and crises would not happen.

I strongly believe that the ‘putting-your-house-in-order’ concept is not sufficient in today’s globalised economy. Raghuram Rajan wrote in his book “fault lines”: “in an integrated economy and in an integrated world, what is best for the individual actor or institution is not always best for the system.” Therefore, just as micro-prudential regulation has failed to identify key systemic risks in international financial markets, a narrow focus on national policies alone is unlikely to deliver the global public good of a stable global monetary system and sustainable growth. Failing to properly recognise the impact of domestic policies on others, and the second round feedbacks on the domestic economy can be detrimental to growth and stability.

An excessive focus on the domestic economy may exacerbate global economic and financial imbalances, ultimately making future global crises more likely and more severe. This is all the more true for systemically relevant countries, which have a special obligation for international cooperation.

3. What are recipes to prevent imbalances and their spillovers?

Sound macroeconomic policies at the national level can – of course – help to address external shocks and spillovers. But – as mentioned – there are clear limits of national policies with regard to fully prevent spillovers from systemic shocks or economic imbalances in an increasingly integrated world economy.
Moreover, a global economy requires global policies.

The G20 Framework for Strong, Sustainable and Balanced Growth, which is the first systematic multilateral assessment of global imbalances, is therefore welcome. It is a constructive approach to ensure that macroeconomic and structural policies of key countries take into consideration their external spillovers, and in particular the risks they entail for the global financial system. The recently agreed set of indicative guidelines for global imbalances is an important milestone in that respect. By using structural approaches, the G20 Framework will help us in benchmarking acceptable levels of global imbalances, and provide guidance on how to deal with unsustainable imbalances in an orderly manner. It is now of foremost importance to implement the Framework effectively, and to fully live up to the expectations that the G20 process raised internationally.

Multilateral surveillance on domestic policies of systemic countries to ensure their orientation towards medium term stability and sustainability should be strengthened on other fronts as well. The ECB has always been supportive of the IMF’s Multilateral Surveillance Decision in this respect, and the recently conducted first round of IMF spillover reports can be seen as a step towards a broader and more comprehensive framework. Moreover, today’s multilateral surveillance framework is probably insufficient with respect to disciplining mechanisms, and what is needed is a mechanism that ensures that IMF members look beyond their short-term policy goals and internalize their impact on the global system. What is needed more than ever, is a mechanism to ensure that the concept of external stability becomes a cornerstone of multilateral surveillance. This means that it needs to be taken into account whether a country’s exchange rate, monetary, fiscal and financial sector policies are destabilising for other countries or regions. This would be a considerable strengthening of international cooperation to achieve our common goal of economic and financial stability.

4. What can we learn from all this for the current situation in Europe?

Also Europe had to learn the hard way that loose policies and large imbalances also in the private sector, rather than only the public sector, may have severe implications for public sector budgets and risk systemic crises. Especially in the banking sector, our regulatory framework and surveillance turned out to be insufficient. While finance was getting increasingly regional or global, regulation remained mainly in the national realm, and discipline was delegated too much to the markets itself.

But in less than two years, the institutional structure of the EU and the euro area has changed significantly to take some of these lessons into account. These changes were driven by the insight that both mutual solidarity and policy discipline are needed to restore confidence, and to prevent further divergences. With this in mind, the EU Heads of State have created a new financial supervisory architecture, increased macroprudential supervision, and introduced new measures for macroeconomic surveillance. All the more, it was recognized that even with the highest degree of regulation and surveillance, crises may occur, and a speedy, transparent and predictable emergency response mechanism is needed to secure financial stability. The creation of the EFSF and the ESM are important milestones towards this end.
Can similar results be achieved at the global economic governance level? What are the “common goals” that we are sharing at the international level? Our previous quid-pro-quo multilateralism has left us with high risks for economic and financial stability, and ultimately growth and prosperity. It is therefore in a country’s own interest to better internalize externalities of domestic policy making for the greater public good of global economic and financial stability. International policy coordination like this may provide us with Pareto-superior solutions, and the recent commitmens made at the IMF and the G20 level – which are means towards this end – are good starting points to deliver such progress if implemented effectively.

Let me say in conclusion:

The economy is global. So policies cannot remain local. Having experienced the worst financial and economic crisis since WWII, we know that policies and policy coordination at a global level are needed. The most important areas on the global policy agenda are the reform of financial regulation and policies to address macroeconomic imbalances. On both fronts we have already made a lot of progress. But continued efforts are needed. Equal regulatory treatment of financial institutions, regulating the shadow banking sector and structural reforms to improve competitiveness will be needed for a sustainable and stable economic and financial system for the future.

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

Banking

The future of offshore banking

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By Granville Turner, Director at Turner Little.

Despite its misconceptions, the popularity of offshore banking is growing. Not only is it a perfectly legal way of holding your money, but with the right professional advice, it is also reassuringly simple to open an account.

This ease-of-use is prompting many offshore banks to change their offering to compete and make overseas banking even more accessible. No longer is it limited to just the super-rich.

So, what does the future look like for offshore banks? We’ve compiled a list of the top fundamental changes happening in the realm of offshore banking.

Catering to niche markets is the future

Rather than managing account holder’s money in general, offshore banks are tapping into how they can best serve different demographics. Essentially, it is about taking a more bespoke approach to managing money at various stages of life.

But catering to a variety of markets doesn’t just stop there. Many overseas banks are now accepting crypto as a form of currency to appeal to digital, tech-savvy generations.

Cryptocurrency is also attractive for those who see the security benefits it can offer.

Paper chains are fast becoming a thing of the past

As banks move away from paper in favour of digital, security is on everyone’s minds. This is because information is an important asset to many businesses, so protecting it is vital. As such, banks are securing data with the most vigorous encryption security standards.

For account holders, this means digital bank transfers and communication become less of a risk and the smarter thing to do. Paper chains are fast becoming a thing of the past.

Instant access, day or night

In today’s digital world, you don’t need to travel overseas to open an offshore bank account; everything can be done online or over the phone. And like most UK standard current accounts, many offshore accounts now offer online and mobile banking features. So account holders can manage their offshore finances and investments while transferring funds with ease.

Branchless banking

Offshore banks are following the same route of challenging onshore banks by going branchless. This offers substantial benefits for account holders, as branchless offshore banks don’t pass on as much overhead costs to the customer. Ultimately, this means customers can earn better interest rates and other returns on their investments.

Happy to help

At Turner Little, we work closely with offshore banks to provide you with quality service tailored to your needs. With over 20 years of international banking experience and specialist expert knowledge, we will assist you with your enquiries, no matter how complex. And every account we arrange comes with internet banking, card facilities and the ability to transact internationally.

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Banking

Hong Kong’s First Multi-Cloud Challenger Bank Goes Live with Temenos

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Hong Kong’s First Multi-Cloud Challenger Bank Goes Live with Temenos 2
  • WeLab Bank designed, built and launched using cloud-native Temenos Transact in less than 10 months
  • WeLab offers next generational digital services for the 7.5m people in Hong Kong to access from their mobile phones
  • Customers can open accounts remotely in just 5 minutes with bank reporting 10,000 account openings within 10 days of launch

Temenos (SIX: TEMN), the banking software company, today announced that WeLab Bank, Hong Kong’s first homegrown virtual bank, has publicly launched using cloud-native Temenos Transact to provide a range of next generation digital services for customers to enjoy 24/7 from their mobile phones. Designed, built and launched in less than 10 months, the fully digital bank has seen rapid take up with a reported 10,000 account openings within the first 10 days of launch.

WeLab Bank is powered by cloud agnostic Temenos Transact for core banking along with Temenos Analytics and Financial Crime Mitigation. Implemented on Amazon Web Services and Google Cloud, WeLab is the first multi cloud digital bank in Hong Kong. Operating on multiple clouds at the same time gives WeLab increased operational resilience and disaster recovery capability and is a regulatory requirement of the Hong Kong Monetary Authority for new digital banks. According to the Economist Intelligence Unit 2020 report for Temenos, 81% of global banking executives surveyed believe a multi-cloud strategy will become a regulatory prerequisite.

Developing a cost-effective and scalable core banking solution was paramount for WeLab. Temenos cloud native software is built for the digital age using API-first and DevOps principles and engineered to deploy in containers and microservices. This makes it easy for WeLab to scale for future business growth efficiently and eliminates the need to provision for peak processing volumes so that the bank only pays for its actual usage, yielding significant cost savings.

Critically, with NuoDB the solution delivers a cloud-agnostic, distributed relational database that enables WeLab to deploy an active-active on-demand database across multiple cloud providers with near zero downtime failover.

Temenos Transact is a preconfigured system and so requires very little coding and with Temenos model bank to address local practices and regulations, WeLab was able to bring its service to market faster and extend its innovation with more than 400 out-of-the-box APIs.

With Temenos, WeLab bank is set to transform banking in Hong Kong. In as fast as 5 minutes, customers can remotely open a WeLab Bank account with $0 monthly fees and start enjoying differentiated services such as time deposits with competitive rates, an interest-bearing deposit account with an instant virtual Debit Card, and real-time payments powered by Faster Payment System (FPS). Everything can be done on a mobile phone, simply and effortlessly.

Adrian Tse, CEO at WeLab Bank, commented: “WeLab Bank was born from an initiative to reimagine the banking experience for the 7.5 million people of Hong Kong. From the start, we knew this vision needed the most advanced cloud native technology and a partner that shared our vision for digital transformation. With Temenos we have efficiently built WeLab Bank from scratch, free from any legacies, with innovative features that proactively help customers to take control of their money and their financial journey.”

Max Chuard, Chief Executive Officer, Temenos, said: “Congratulations to WeLab Bank on the launch of their trailblazing new digital bank. Building and launching a licensed bank in such a rapid timeframe is a fantastic achievement and we are proud to have supported them in becoming the first multi-cloud digital bank in Hong Kong. Temenos cloud-native, cloud-agnostic strategy means we can satisfy the needs of the most innovative and ambitious neobanks like WeLab Bank to run on multiple cloud providers. We know this is just the beginning for WeLab and we are excited to be part of their story as they revolutionize banking for people in Hong Kong.”

Bob Walmsley, CEO of NuoDB said: “We are excited to be partnering with Temenos to help WeLab Bank achieve their aggressive launch timelines and deliver innovative banking services to its customers. We were inspired by the technical vision of WeLab and knew that executing an on-demand, multi-cloud strategy was a perfect fit for NuoDB. Our enterprise-class, distributed SQL database combined with Temenos’ cloud-native technology helps banks of all sizes around the globe migrate to the cloud to improve agility and reduce costs.”

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Banking

The Bank is Where the Heart Is

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By Nick Barnes, Practice Director, Financial Services & Customer Success at JRNI

When unexpected events occur, people turn to their banks to provide a sense of trust, security, and stability. They need to be available anywhere, anytime, and from any device. As it’s a business based on trust, one-on-one communication is key.

With the world still emerging from the COVID-19 crisis and endeavouring to avert a possible second wave, every country, state, and region has their own unique requirements. Plus, every customer or member has their own demands. Experts and pundits have discussed a new normal, but what’s normal for now involves keeping customers and employees safe while also providing the same sense of stability as before.

For banks, building societies and credit unions, the main concerns include how to maintain personal relationships amidst social distancing; how to be available at any time on any device; and how to provide a sense of calm and security amidst the chaos.

Adapt or fall behind

Customers are quickly learning which of their service providers are adapting best to this new world. Are financial services providers like banks and credit unions adapting, or falling behind?

Finances are a highly personal topic, and often, illogical or emotional. Will I have enough? Will it be available when I need it? It is always a hot topic of conversation, but especially during a pandemic when unemployment rates are rising, and the economic landscape is unsettled. In the past, a customer could walk into the bank, have a reassuring conversation with a representative and move on.

So, how can banks help their customers through tough financial times during the current crisis, when in-person communication is nearly impossible? One solution is to provide helpful, personalized customer service through digital channels.

While in-person assistance will remain important after COVID-19, customers are looking for assistance now.   Banks are turning to remote video and voice appointments to boost customer satisfaction and meet customer expectations.

3 reasons to use remote appointments

1. To comply with social distancing

Our Modern Consumer Banking Report​​​​​​​ last year showed that when consumers visit branches, it’s primarily to talk face-to-face and ask questions/get help.  Research from Bain reinforces this, and emphasizes that “many retail banking customers think it’s easier to purchase through a human channel, or prefer to speak with an employee before buying a product.”

Due to social distancing measures, branches cannot be customers’ primary way of managing their finances during this pandemic. However, this doesn’t mean that customers aren’t interested in personalized attention that can be made available via video and voice.

2. To meet new demand 

Although spending habits may have changed, consumers are still making critical financial decisions during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Individuals: The financial effects of coronavirus are drastically different from one customer to the next. While some are counting down the days to receipt of their unemployment check, others may be taking advantage of low-interest rates to buy a house. Ultimately, banks and credit unions need to address each customer segment with a unique message and way of providing assistance.

Small business banking: Countless small businesses around the world have been forced to close their doors. Whether they’re needing loans, payment deferrals, or advice, small businesses are looking to their bank as a guide, and a comfort.

Investment management: A recession is upon us, and with that comes a new approach to investing. Financial advisors are fielding questions, providing recommendations, and staying up to date on the market. Beyond this, many are building entirely new strategies for their clients.

Regardless of customer type, it’s clear that each subset of customer needs help from their financial institution at this time.

3. To boost customer retention

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Financial institutions cannot afford to lose customers during the pandemic, so customer retention is crucial.  Great customer service boosts customer loyalty, and research from Bain shows that loyalty is key to retention:

  • Customer loyalty increases revenue, and loyal customers are less likely to switch to a competing bank.
  • Customers who are a bank’s “promoters” recommend the bank to others as much as six times more than “detractors.”
  • A bank’s “promoters” spend one-quarter more than detractors on their primary credit card.

Ultimately, being able to connect with a customer in need using video or voice can give customers peace of mind and boost loyalty. Delivering personalized financial services without interruption is crucial.

Initial results from video banking show that consumers consider the service valuable. Phoenix Synergistics’ survey from December 2019 found that 17% of customers polled had used video chat through a website or app with their financial institution. Of those that had used video chat, 89% found video chat valuable.

Some suggestions for banks using remote video or voice appointments would be to: firstly ensure your solution is secure and doesn’t expose personal information outside of the conversation; secondly create a culture of consultation to alleviate outstanding fears; thirdly leverage appointment setting to allow customers to pre-schedule consultations and enquiries; finally include remote appointments as part of a wider suite of ‘touchless’ offerings.

The dos and don’ts for bank branches

Forty-three percent of banking customers have expressed their desire to change the way they bank due to the pandemic. As with retail and hospitality, several key customer segments have doubts about visiting physical locations and are transacting more remotely.

The challenge for banks is to make services available wherever customers want to bank – be it by phone, online, or in branch – and when it comes to any transaction, the key is to make customers feel cared for, heard, and secure.

With social distancing parameters in place along with other health and safety measures, there’s significant focus on the need to retool the branch experience. Here are a few suggestions as we move into that next stage of business and interaction:

DO: Have a plan.

Nick Barnes

Nick Barnes

Think about how customers will enter and exit each location. Plan for increased space between people in line, how to attend to at-risk customers, properly spaced lobbies, and waiting areas. Consider your employees and what they need in order to stay safe including break rooms with increased space between lounging areas, removal of shared snacks, availability of hand sanitizer and masks.

DO: Make sure you can effectively manage footfall.

Overcrowding will create fear and loss of trust. Make sure you have plenty of directional signage, crowd control measures, and staffing. Solutions including people counters, occupancy managers, and pre-booked appointments​​​​​​​ both allow for the throttling of traffic, and the ability to build in cleaning time.

DO: Hire the right team and staff adequately.

Being courteous and in control will be the most important ingredient to success. Have enough staff, you will need the extra hands to ensure that all staff is properly trained and ready to enforce new protocols.

Some customers will be understandably anxious going into branches, and some will want to feel that everything has returned to normal, so staff may need to be very firm and well-versed in a new operating style.

DO: Offer customers the ability to bank when and how they prefer.

We’re not suggesting that you remain open for 24 hours, but the goal is to make it easy for the customer. Adding the ability to set an appointment with a wealth manager or an advisor online will enable customers to bank from home, and will enable banks to provide the personalized service customers have come to expect.

Leverage online appointment confirmations to remind customers to have key documents available if they need them. Virtual solutions position the bank to serve as an advisor rather than just a financial institution.

DO: Demonstrate your commitment to a safe environment.

Use clear signage to convey the measures in place to ensure customer and employee safety. Make hand sanitizer or wipes available throughout the branch, and in all high-touch areas. Ensure cleaning supplies are visible, around doorways and ​​​​​​​near greeters to provide customers with an added sense of security. And make sure that employees are following every measure required of customers.

DON’T: Lose customer confidence.

If you are not prepared, it will show, and it will be very hard to gain back customer confidence once compromised. Social media will not be your friend. Forrester Research reports that 52% of US online adults prefer to buy from companies that demonstrate how they are protecting customers against the threats of COVID-19.

DON’T: Overcrowd or fill your branch to capacity.

Consumers are being trained to avoid crowds, so failure at the branch to comply could result in losing their business. Most physical locations are operating with fewer staff and accommodating 10 – 25% of the traffic once allowed. Keep in mind that you only have one opportunity to make a first impression on customers, and they’re looking to trust you have their best interests in mind.

DON’T: Understaff.

You will need to expect the unexpected and having more hands-on deck will prove to be beneficial in the long run.  Having the wrong staff, or those that don’t take the time to learn new operating procedures or feel comfortable telling that customer who won’t keep a mask on, may not be the best fit.

DON’T: Make it difficult for customers to do business with you.

Social distancing introduces a number of disruptions to the way you’ve traditionally done business. So limiting options to customers – providing no ability to bank online or via phone, not having a live customer service voice or chat option – is not going to help. In addition to making sure the services are available, it is imperative to communicate all options to customers.

DON’T: Assume someone else will do it.

Bank staff need to show that the branch is being tended to, cleaned between visitors, and before opening each day. It is important that staff jump in to help move customers safely through the branch, ensure their questions are answered and overall, take a proactive approach to service without assuming that a sign or another staff member will take care of it.  Customers will come to the branch, but gaining their confidence is everything. Don’t lose it by not being prepared. It will be very hard to win it back.

With the constant threat new restrictions in response to COVID-19 outbreaks, banks will need to take a long view on how they enable the operational flexibility that will be needed to adapt to fast-changing conditions.  As people prepare to live more risk-averse lives, banks will need to go the extra mile to ensure customers feel less wary about visiting in person whilst also offering a seamless experience for those customers who prefer to remain in the safety of their homes.  Those that manage to do so will emerge from the crisis with a sustainable advantage over their competitors.

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