MR. HAWLEY: Good morning, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to another of our regular briefings for the media. I am David Hawley from the External Relations Department of the IMF. As usual, our briefing is under embargo until 10:30 Washington, that's 1430 GMT.
Before going to your questions, let me as usual do a couple of housekeeping remarks. Press registration for the Annual Meetings of the IMF and World Bank is open, so if you intend to come, I encourage you to register. Our next press briefing will look forward to the Annual Meetings, and that's scheduled for September 8. And for planning purposes, the bulk of the media events at the Annual Meetings will be during the week beginning September 19, and the IMFC (International Monetary and Financial Committee) is at the end of that week, on September 24.
Managing Director Christine Lagarde and First Deputy Managing Director John Lipsky will attend this weekend's Jackson Hole Symposium hosted by the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City. The Managing Director will be on a panel on Saturday approximately midday or early afternoon Washington time with President Trichet of the ECB. She will make remarks to that panel and if possible we'll give you the text of them, but we'll have to confirm any arrangements of release of remarks nearer to the time. With that, over to your questions.
QUESTIONER: The situation in Libya is changing quickly, so I'd like to know: is the IMF providing assistance, or will you provide any assistance, to the (country)?
MR. HAWLEY: Thank you for your question. We at the Fund are monitoring developments in Libya and hope of course that there will be a swift end to the civil conflict. The nature of our engagement going forward will depend on the wishes of any internationally recognized government in the country. So to underline, we're following events. We will await an expression of the wishes from an internationally recognized government.
QUESTIONER: Also following-up on Libya, you talked about an internationally recognized government. Thirty governments have already recognized the rebel TNC. As I understand it, the IMF will need to recognize it officially, separate from what the U.N. or anybody else is doing, also for any kind of lending from other development institutions to happen. Do you know of any sort of movement going on now within the IMF to move that forward? The White House, the Treasury, everybody has said they recognize these guys. What formal procedures need to happen?
MR. HAWLEY: In the case of Libya as in other similar cases, the Fund's process of recognition of a new government is guided by, in other words, we follow, the views of the international community. Events are still unfolding and we're following them. When there is a clear, broad-based international recognition of a new government in Libya, it's at that point that the Fund could or would move toward recognition.
QUESTIONER: May I follow-up on that? So when you talk about the international community, you're talking about your member countries or does it have to go through the U.N.? How does that work?
MR. HAWLEY: Thanks. It's the member countries of our organization, but since there are 187, it is much the same thing as saying the entire international community, but it's following the wishes of the countries who are our members.
QUESTIONER: I have a question on Greece. We know that a mission is in Greece. Could you give us some sort of feeling on how the mission is feeling as it goes into this next process? As you know, there seem to be some delays with regard to the private-sector debt swap. I think only half of the private-sector banks have signed up for it. The Fund said last month that it was a little worried about that process, that it needed to move quickly.
MR. HAWLEY: There are several questions in one there, so stop me if I don't cover what you're asking. Let me bring you up to date on the mission. The fifth review mission is currently in Athens. It's expected to conclude its work around September 5, and assuming agreements are in place, the IMF Executive Board could be in a position to consider approval of the next disbursement toward the end of September. You had a question on PSI (private sector involvement)?
QUESTIONER: I had a question on the private sector. The Fund issued a statement maybe earlier this month expressing concern that the process should not be delayed, saying it needs to move quickly forward. Since only 50 percent of the banks so far have signed up, how is it important is it that this process gets completed and gets done for Greece to be sustainable?
MR. HAWLEY: What can I say? We're discussing with the authorities the current program review and that's what our focus is at the moment. I don't have anything to add to the earlier statement that you mentioned.
QUESTIONER: Would the PSI be part of those discussions?
MR. HAWLEY: The PSI is not contingent — is not part of the fifth program review.
QUESTIONER: May I change the subject? I wanted to ask about Ukraine. The Fund issued a statement yesterday about a meeting on Tuesday. Incidentally, Tuesday was the earthquake, so if you could mention where the meeting took place out of — but substantively, the talks resulted in the mission being postponed until late October. My question is: what was the reason for that? What needs to happen before the mission? Can the date be moved forward for the mission?
MR. HAWLEY: I haven't anything to add to what we said on Ukraine. The discussions took place in Washington. Let me underline Mr. Lipton's main expression of our views, which was the importance of strong policies, and reforms being necessary to overcome delays and complete the second review, but I don't have further detail at this stage. But I can tell you that the next mission is now scheduled for October. I don't have a time in October.
QUESTIONER: Is it true though that the mission had originally been scheduled for late August?
MR. HAWLEY: I'd have to get back to you on the original mission scheduling.
I've got a question on Turkey: when will an IMF mission come to Turkey for the next Article IV Consultation? I can say that the mission will start on September 6.
QUESTIONER: I have another follow-up on Greece in trying to understand what's going on. I think that's what I'm trying to get from you. There is discussion that there might be a follow-up program, more money for Greece. Is it the understanding from the Fund that that is going be on the table? Could a new program emerge from these discussions? Then I have another follow-up.
MR. HAWLEY: Let me make clear that what we're talking about in this mission is the current review.
QUESTIONER: Everyone is expecting Greece to come to you to ask for a second program, so I assume it hasn't been done, and we still don't know what the share of the IMF would be. Are you still of the philosophy as are the Europeans to provide a third?
MR. HAWLEY: As you know, it is not set in stone what the share of a Fund-European distribution of financial support is. As you know, in the past it has been approximately two-to-one.
QUESTIONER: You did not answer the question as to has there been a request.
MR. HAWLEY: We haven't had a request for a new program. I've got a question which is about the two-part agreement between Greece and Finland: "Do you support the two-part agreement?" We understand this discussion is continuing among Euro Area member states on the appropriateness and technical feasibility of such arrangements, but at this time we don't have a specific comment on that discussion.
QUESTIONER: I'm going to come back to Libya. Clearly the Fund has been monitoring this and you've been working in coordination possibly with the U.N. Has the Fund done any sort of assessment or have you already started looking at what sort of rebuilding is needed for Libya or what kind of possible engagement is necessary in this kind of post-Qaddafi Libya?
MR. HAWLEY: We would have to access the economic impact of the conflict. Clearly it's had an impact on crude oil exports which have largely dried up, but we haven't got an up-to-date assessment of the impact.
QUESTIONER: Is the Fund at all involved in the frozen assets issue?
MR. HAWLEY: Not that I'm aware of, no.
QUESTIONER: You mentioned crude oil exports. Have you tried to assess the impact of the halting of those exports?
MR. HAWLEY: We simply have an assessment of the drying up of the exports. They have already entirely stopped. But we'll have to wait for the situation to settle a little before we can give you a more informed view of the economic situation in Libya.
QUESTIONER: Do you expect Libya to be discussed at the IMF meetings? Is it on the program?
MR. HAWLEY: The IMFC agenda has yet to be finalized. As you know, the meetings are typically an occasion where issues of current international topicality are discussed so I wouldn't be surprised to see Libya as an object of discussion, but don't think of the meetings as centered around Libya.
QUESTIONER: Who do you expect to represent Libya in those meetings?
MR. HAWLEY: I don't know at this stage.
QUESTIONER: I know I'm jumping around a little bit, but let me come back to Greece. As you know, some emerging market countries have expressed concern about the Fund getting involved in another major bailout for Greece and I was wondering whether that sentiment is going to affect anything that the Fund does on Greece or would that have to be what the Board discusses?
MR. HAWLEY: Let me give two responses to that which are both in general terms. One is that the Fund is very adequately financed at the current time. Second, the decision to support a member country is a function of that member country's needs and financing requirements.
QUESTIONER: I was wondering if there is any plan for Dominique Strauss-Kahn to come and talk to the staff since there has been some talk about that in France?
MR. HAWLEY: Like any former Managing Director of the IMF, Mr. Strauss-Kahn would be welcome to visit the Fund and I understand that he intends to make a personal visit to headquarters.
QUESTIONER: Is it to meet with Ms. Lagarde or the staff?
MR. HAWLEY: It's a personal visit during which I expect he would meet with the staff. I don't have any further details on a visit which is not yet fully fleshed out.
QUESTIONER: I was going to ask — what time and date can we be here?
MR. HAWLEY: It could be as early as next week, but if there were such a visit, it would be a personal one and essentially a private one so it wouldn't be open to the press or the public.
QUESTIONER: I was wondering if the Fund has any updated comment on how you see the global economic environment right now. You've just come off recess. It's been a few weeks. There's been massive turmoil in the markets. Most of it seemed to be centered around advanced economies. And I was wondering if you have any comment on Japan and the yen.
MR. HAWLEY: I'll start with Japan. We don't comment on specific intervention operations. On the outlook, as you know, our flagship publications, "The World Economic Outlook" (WEO), the "Global Financial Stability Report" (GFSR) and "The Fiscal Monitor" are going to be published about a month from now, on September 20 and September 21. In general our view of the outlook is that activity has weakened and become more uneven and the outlook has deteriorated since the (June 2011) WEO, but I don't have any precision. You'll have to wait for the publication of the WEO, the GFSR and "The Fiscal Monitor."
QUESTIONER: David, is it the Fund's view that the EFSF (European Financial Stability Facility) needs to be worked on a little bit more? Is it satisfied that the Europeans have moved adequately to deal with their debt problems?
MR. HAWLEY: We earlier as you probably know welcomed the decision to increase the effective size of the EFSF, and in the same spirit, we expect that the size of this fund would be adjusted should that need arise.
I'll take a question if I may on the Horn of Africa. As you know, the Managing Director made a statement yesterday expressing the Fund's concern about the human cost of this worst drought in two generations, and I have a question on how we're responding specifically. She mentioned that we're in contact with two countries, so I don't have anything beyond that. Also what we're doing on Somalia and what the situation is on Eritrea. As you know, we don't have an operational relationship with Somalia because there hasn't been a recognized government for many years. I don't have anything specific on a timeline of contacts with Eritrea either.
QUESTIONER: Can you recap? I assume you were talking about Libya at the beginning of the briefing? Can you restate what was said there?
MR. HAWLEY: My main message was that the Fund is monitoring developments in Libya in hopes that there will be a prompt end to this civil conflict. Looking forward, the Fund stands ready to support any member country, but the nature of our future engagement with Libya will depend on the wishes of an internationally recognized government in that country. Unless there are other questions, I'll wrap up. I do have a question which is on euro bonds. He asks, "Does the IMF think euro bonds would be a good near-term solution to the current problems? Has the Fund encouraged their development and what are your thoughts on their structure?" He also asks about the Finnish collateral deal which we dealt with earlier. Let me remind you what we've said on this. There was specific language in the Euro Area Article IV report which said the European stability mechanism could evolve into a European Debt Management Agency if the political will were mustered for limited fiscal integration. That included common bonds backed by enhanced Euro Area fiscal capacity. That's making the point generally that to function well, any common currency area needs some form of fiscal integration and that means that common bonds such as euro bonds is one such option in that effort.
Thank you very much. The briefing is under embargo until 10:30 Washington time and that's 1430 GMT, and the next briefing is September 8. Thank you very much
Regulating innovation: the biggest challenge in payments
By Fady Abdel-Nour, Global Head of M&A and Investments, PayU
Over the course of the last six months, the payments industry has been lauded as one of the most impressive in its agility responding to Covid-19. Consumers and merchants have flocked online and safety has been a significant driver of the move to digital as entire countries discourage the use of cash – but what of financial and data security?
As digital payments adoption accelerates, there’s no time to waste. The pressure is on for governments and regulators to not only ensure security keeps pace with new consumer demand, but to look ahead and clear the road for future innovation.
Acceleration in digital payments
At PayU, we operate in 20 markets across the globe. Since the start of the pandemic, every single one of these markets has seen a seismic shift in consumer habits. In Poland, for example, the number of new onboarded e-shops was three times higher between March and May than in previous months. And in Colombia, e-commerce activity was 282% higher than pre-lockdown levels. Some merchants across our markets saw year-on-year revenue growth of a staggering 500-1000% during April and May.
New merchants are seeing this potential, moving online to increase their customer base and keep economies ticking. But with great innovation comes corresponding regulations. How can regulators keep up?
Innovation vs. regulation: an incompatible duo?
New ideas and technologies are undeniably critical to ensure services keep up with consumer behaviour. However, for this to happen safely, there needs to be collaboration between our industry’s innovators and regulators. Progress requires us to challenge and expand existing boundaries, holding our shared goal in mind.
Important as this concept is, it is by no means revolutionary. The widely pedalled narrative that innovators and regulators are at loggerheads is, quite frankly, outdated. It is not true that innovation in financial services has to disrupt existing systems and infrastructure. We have already seen countless examples of regulators working with the fintech ecosystem to enable and support innovation.
Across the emerging markets that PayU operates in, innovation initiatives are in place to educate entrepreneurs on the regulatory environment in which they operate. In Brazil, the central bank has established a sandbox, the Laboratory of Financial and Technological Innovation, to help fintech startups work more closely with regulators and government and accelerate the development of their ideas. The aim is to create a more efficient financial system, increase financial inclusion and reduce the cost of credit through better regulation. As the country rolls out Open Banking, acknowledging fintech’s potential to drive better socio-economic inclusion is incredibly encouraging.
It would be remiss of me not to mention The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) here. To date, it has excelled in driving positive change by ensuring new players and services can operate within regulatory constraints. If they are unable to do so, the MAS reviews its framework and, where appropriate, adjusts it to safely progress innovation rather than stifle it. In 2019, for example, it issued five new digital bank licenses. Later in the year, it launched the Sandbox Express to help create a faster option for testing innovative financial services in the market.
The open-minded and collaborative approach of these regulatory models marks the future of financial regulation to me. The world is changing quickly and the parameters that keep us secure have to adapt and morph more than ever before. The job is not simple, but it can boost innovation and build a safe and sustainable financial environment, where pioneers are empowered to set the pace for change.
Consumer demand is only one side of the (digital) coin
The other trend creating complexity for regulators is the move towards embedded finance and Big Tech’s involvement in this.
Broadly, embedded finance means that fintech services are expanding beyond the walls of banks and becoming part of other business models rather than a standalone entity. This is a challenge in itself, as regulators will need to be vigilant to ensure that payments, credit and other financial services remain secure and customers are protected.
Across Europe, the US, Latin America, Asia and Africa, governments have also been grappling with how to regulate Big Tech. Facebook, for example, has launched ‘Facebook Financial’ to pursue opportunities in digital payments and e-commerce. Similarly, regulators in Brazil and India have been trying to navigate WhatsApp’s attempts to establish its new payments feature in both markets. These features were suspended by Brazil’s central bank and have been in testing in India for over two years.
The good news is that regulators are paying attention. The pushback we’re seeing is not simply aversion to change, but industry experts exploring how these developments can keep consumer needs at the heart and enhance the current payment ecosystem. New business models and new players are important to keeping us all at the top of our game.
Regulating a changing financial ecosystem
We’re in a truly remarkable age, where the role of regulation is being tested again and again. I believe that regulators have a more vital role to play than ever. Covid-19 has been a powerful catalyst in the financial sector and there is some positive change to be harnessed from the disruption.
If navigated shrewdly, regulators will succeed in capitalising on new trends to retain their core purpose: to ensure the safety and security of the customer and support positive change. The whole industry will need to work together closely to build a regulatory framework that is fertile for innovation and allows us to realise the enormous potential of payments in this new decade. So, what are we waiting for?
How the financial sector can keep newly acquired customers returning time and time again
By Dicken Doe from Foolproof, a Zensar company
Covid-19 has changed the financial lives of millions; what worked for people and their bank six months ago might not work today. For some people savings have depleted and pensions withdrawn early. While mortgage holidays have increased the time required to pay back loans and emergency funds in the advent of job losses.
When combined with the fact that Covid-19 has rapidly sped up online migration, providers need to deeply question the design of their financial experiences. According to a recent survey from Lightico: “63% of US citizens said they were more inclined to try a new digital app for banking than they were before the pandemic. Also, 82% said they were concerned about paying a visit to their local banks.”
To be successful, both existing and new experiences must be assessed by using data and human insight to iteratively design and test solutions.
The swift response of many financial institutions to the crisis has created a number of changes to services and customer support functions. Things which have taken months of negotiation in the past have been made possible in days. However, speed does not always equal quality. Key considerations that need to be accounted for – to keep existing and newly acquired customers returning – remain. This can broadly be described under the auspice of consistent experiences that meet emerging customer needs.
Top tips to keep newly acquired financial services customers returning
Getting ahead starts with the ‘why’ customers are performing an action and ‘what’ they need. With this in mind, here are my top five tips for the financial sector on how to keep new customers coming back again and again.
Understand new and emerging needs:
People have been forced online in all-new circumstances. To respond appropriately, providers need to look at quantitative data and have a regular qualitative dialogue with new and existing online customers. This will help them spot emerging needs and behaviours which form themes and patterns in online browsing. To enable this, financial service providers must move from being reactive to proactive. This will help them to keep pace with the changes people themselves are experiencing in their own lives.
Financial businesses should look to segment, analyse and speak to customers who have started managing their finances with them since the beginning of the year and interrogate their behaviours. This will provide invaluable insight into what people are looking for and why.
Banks have an advantage here – when compared to other sectors – because saving, lending and current account journeys tend to start in apps or sites. By connecting site browsing with new customer account data, we can see individual demands expressed in the use of content, and the sorts of journeys customers are undertaking. Are these people struggling to complete a particular task i.e. setting up a direct debit? Is there something they’re entirely overlooking e.g. ISAs or loans?
At both the individual level and at an aggregate level, we can see emerging needs and trends. For example, the mortgage market has tightened up. Prior to Covid-19 there were 700+ 10% deposit home loans available, now there are less than 70. As a result, a decline in interest and a lack of ability for younger people to buy homes could signal a move towards people putting savings into ISAs. Likewise, too many customers are shifting to expensive and unsustainable debt, meaning providers need to imagine better ways to help combat this. This means designing value-adding solutions which helps maintain trust with the customer as well as encouraging them to come back.
Optimise journey flows:
The amount of tooling now available to understand journeys, identify breaks and ultimately address these issues is huge. There is no excuse not to be working hard on this, too many companies see a journey as set and overlook moments where design can be used to enhance processes. For example, why does opening online banking take five clicks and not one, and why is it so hard to find information about my pension?
Financial service providers of today cannot rely on a paradigmatic shift to new journeys with mounting financial pressures – their current ones need to evolve. If they aren’t continuously enhancing what they have today, it’s easier than ever for people to go elsewhere. Especially when 36% of people in the UK now feel more comfortable managing money online and 23% trust online money management more.
However, enhancements to services must be based on both customer needs gathered from qualitative insight and quantitative data from analytics and tracking tools to expose key problems. What you find out might mean redesigning specific moments in a journey, but it could also be done by improving signposting and information architecture, remarketing better, or tweaking content i.e. improving the findability of information connected to mortgage holidays.
Reasons to return:
Understanding people’s needs and targeting them drives better outcomes for all. Now is not the time for generic market offers because people’s immediate financial needs are significantly limited by Covid-19. The key to encouraging people to return is having a range of solutions that meet the specific needs of today. The credit card you had planned might not be what people need right now, but a compelling savings product could be. User research and insight will help you form validated hypotheses about offerings to test, and it’s precisely the kind of thing quantitative data alone will struggle to tell you.
Financial service providers also have the power to engage or reengage customers. They have ecosystems that join up channels to improve the likelihood of someone coming back. For example, if a customer opened an ISA in the past but stopped making deposits, perhaps it’s because they’re unaware of the annual limit on that sort of tax-free investment. If buy-to-let rates were reduced, perhaps they can afford that loan application abandoned last month. Financial providers need to harness the power of design to remind customers of the benefits available today.
As always, knowledge about customers and their needs has to be exposed, and new solutions devised to offer people ways back into your funnel. To do this you need a mix of research and data science to expose the problems for designers to work on.
Ease of use:
Across the financial services sector, digital design maturity is improving, but many processes are still unnecessarily cumbersome. Companies that have introduced rushed processes to support customers at a distance are likely to have solved an immediate problem, but to the detriment of the overall experience. Here, design thinking and service design can guide organisations toward optimising journeys to promote ease of use and coherent customer experiences.
Even months after the start of the pandemic, many organisations are struggling to maintain their inbound call centres and chat functions. On the whole, Help & Support pages offer just as poor an experience. These functions are often incomplete and overlooked, but are now the crux of banking experiences everywhere.
Banks must home in on these moments and provide other experiences in keeping with the standards set by the likes of First Direct’s award-winning telephone banking service. Within seconds, you’re through to an operator trained to handle loan applications, mortgage queries and more. The trick is to follow the right formula. You’ll want to avoid customers having to retain lots of information at once, navigating complex menu systems and always provide the option to speak with an operator. Services which adhere to this closely often outperform their digital counterparts – helping to relieve the strain placed on your overall experience.
Done well, conversational AI can make a big difference to customer experience and the likelihood of conversion too. Santander’s banking line harnesses this technology, and with a few vocal cues, you’re managing cash verbally. To succeed though, you must set up analytics, perform research and regularly optimise services to relieve friction and meet your customers’ ever-changing needs.
Providers are increasingly talking about optimisation but finding immediate opportunities to squeeze funnels and processes for more value cannot come at the expense of great customer experience. Now is the time for immediate changes but you need to make sure those changes are sustainable and consistent with everything else you have that supports your online ecosystem.
In essence, delivering efficiencies can’t overcome delivering a poorer customer experience long-term. Where this is true there is a customer-centred design job to be done in the better understanding of customers and behaviours, and therefore research and design more focussed on those needs.
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Increased contactless spending could be linked to higher fraud and payment disputes, warns global risk expert
The rapid adoption of contactless payments during COVID-19 may be contributing to multiple strands of fraud
Monica Eaton-Cardone, COO and Co-Founder of merchant dispute specialist, Chargebacks911, and its revolutionary new financial institution brand, Fi911, warns of the chargeback and fraud risks associated with the increase in contactless payments following the COVID-19 outbreak.
In a bid to reduce human interaction, the use of cash, and the touching of contact points such as PIN pads and cash machines, the UK’s contactless spending limit increased from £30 to £45 in April this year.
Customers across the globe have also got onboard with the payment method following contagion concerns about using cash and cards. As a result, Mastercard reported a 40% increase in contactless payment activity in Q1 of 2020.
This dramatic increase in contactless payments may be contributing to the sharp rise in chargebacks that have been recorded since the pandemic began. According to Cardone, industries are now experiencing 10 times the amount of payment disputes that were taking place prior to COVID-19.
Monica explained: “Contactless payments present a number of fraud threats. For one, if a valid cardholder’s information is stolen, it can be added to a mobile device and used to make unauthorised purchases – leaving merchants covering customers’ losses. In addition to this third-party fraud, contactless payments present a greater opportunity for genuine customers to commit first-party (friendly) fraud and lie about whether or not a transaction was actually made by them.
“These scenarios pose even more of a threat while the retail landscape is going through this turbulent period and genuine claims are on the rise, so merchants are in less of a position to dispute false claims.”
Although merchants are the ones left refunding customers and losing valuable goods due to chargebacks and friendly fraud, the issue doesn’t start and end with them. Behind a payment dispute is an intricate network of merchants, acquirers, issuers, and card schemes that deal with disputes and adopt their associated costs.
And, when merchants lose money to disputes, the cost will inevitably end up back with customers, since merchants raise prices to cope with these losses. This is likely to become a necessity in our current period of economic uncertainty.
For this reason, Monica warns everyone involved in the payment process to remain vigilant when it comes to chargebacks that stem from contactless payments.
Monica continued: “If merchants want to reap the benefits of contactless payments, they need to be aware of the threats involved and have strategies in place to respond effectively.
“At the same time, financial institutions should watch for activity that is unusual and out of line with typical consumer behaviour – for instance, a consumer suddenly making a high-value purchase at a store that’s thousands of miles away from home. They should also be on the lookout for repeated use of the chargeback process, which might indicate friendly fraud, as 40% of consumers who commit this fraud successfully will repeat the practice within 60 days.
“I also urge consumers to be aware of their account activity and to keep a close eye out for anything that may indicate that a contactless payment account has been compromised.”
Going forward, Monica is anticipating that contactless payment adoption will continue to grow, especially against the backdrop of COVID-19. To help combat the growing chargeback problem and fraud associated with contactless payments, Chargebacks911 is working closely with merchants – particularly those in the most susceptible industries – and financial institutions to tackle the issue head-on.
If you’re concerned about COVID-19 chargebacks effecting your business, speak to a member of the Chargebacks911 team at: [email protected].
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