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What’s Wrong With The Global Banking System

Robert Mazur, the U.S. Customs special agent who led one of the most successful undercover operations in U.S. law enforcement history, gave us some insight into international money laundering and said the Federal Reserve needs to do more to help.

In the 1980s Mazur spent five years infiltrating the highest circles of Colombia’s drug cartels as a money launderer, transforming more than $34 million in cocaine cash into traceable, paper-trailed bank transactions under the pseudonym Bob L. Musella.

His book, The Infiltrator: My Secret Life Inside the Dirty Banks Behind Pablo Escobar’s Medellín Cartel, explains how “Operation C-Chase” led to the indictment of 85 individuals – including several officials affiliated with the then-seventh largest privately-held bank in the world, the Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI)—and the conviction of General Manuel Noriega.

Now he is on a mission to “share information with the public about how this money laundering activity has engulfed the will of the financial institutions of the world.”

Mazur says that “the international community is today doing the same thing that BCCI and their officers were doing 20 years ago”—citing the HSBC money-laundering scandal and the tax havens of the super-rich—and told BI that the problem is much larger than the estimated $2.1 trillion that crime generates each year.

“What [the corrupt bankers at BCCI] did was market flight capital, and they identified it as basically money seeking secrecy from governments,” Mazur said. “Yes it does include the items that the $2.1 trillion identifies but it’s bigger than that because there are times that you take legal money and use it for an illegal purpose, and that money is as big if not bigger than the illegal money.”

He calls the practice “a major moneymaker for the banking world” and cites the Standard Chartered scandal, in which bankers “took $250 billion worth of basically legal money and used techniques to hide from governments the fact that the money was being moved in these otherwise-legal transactions on the behalf of sanctioned nations, including Iran.”

He said the HSBC ruling listed six or seven methods “traditionally used by banks in a big way facilitate relationships with people who want to hide money from governments” and explained that bankers provide these services “to entice these people to bank with them” so that the bank is able to increase their deposits.

Mazur said that banking regulators are “not as focused on the issue of criminal conduct as they are on … making sure that the institution itself stays healthy” so investigations take years and result in a lengthy report.

There’s nothing built in the system to engage criminal investigations up front,” Mazur said.” They always come in a very rusty state after they’ve been played with by the regulators. By then everyone’s built in their plausible deniability and it’s a very difficult task to expect the investigators to then come up with the intent evidence,” which is essential for criminal prosecution.

He added that the current regulatory process ignores the fundamental problem, which is that “there are two brains in a bank—there’s this profit brain that’s motivated by earning money … and then we have a compliance department and their whole agenda has nothing to do with profit, it has to do with identifying risk and minimizing it. But when the compliance and the sales brain meet, upper management sides with sales because that’s their gig too—profits. And there has to be a way to try to begin to change that chemistry of the interaction of the two brains.”

One straightforward ways to do that, according to Mazur, would be to crack down on bankers who solicit shady business—like the ones at HSBC—by putting a few “behind bars for a very long period of time” instead of just giving them a fine.

Another simple way is to require the Federal Reserve to share information about member banks who are in the bulk bank note business. If regulators and prosecutors knew which institutions were moving much larger amounts of money through wire transfers (which the Fed tracks), they would know where to focus investigations or covert-type operations.

“You’re honing down all your information to go after, proactively, the institutions most involved in moving this type of money,” Mazur said. “It’s not complicated but the Federal Reserve doesn’t give that information out freely and that’s something that needs to change.”

He noted that concerned individuals in the military, law enforcement and intelligence community have accessed more of that information in the last 2 years than ever before, but emphasized that more has to be done.

“That’s one of the barriers that’s slowly crumbling, and it’s an important barrier to wind up crumbling, but it’s not completely accessed,” Mazur said.

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Filed under: Banking, Colombia, Latin America, Mexico, Risk Management, , , , , , , , , , , ,

HSBC blood fingers – Money Laundry Scandel a Mexican Perspective

In the most recent campaign by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC, for its acronym in English), states that organized crime generates annual revenues of a whopping 870 billion dollars.

Translation of the original article in Spanish by Dossier Politico by Saul Arellano

The most lucrative for organized crime are drug trafficking, which generates about 320 billion dollars annually, and counterfeiting, with revenues of 250 billion dollars a year.

Moreover, through human trafficking offenders get 32 billion dollars over 7 billion for alien smuggling in addition to that traffic in elephant ivory, rhino horn and tiger parts generates about 75 billion dollars.

The human costs of these activities are huge, especially considering that each year, the UNODC estimates that 2.4 million human beings fall victims of human trafficking, perhaps the most infamous crime committed in our time.

Two things are to be noted:

the first and most obvious is that these activities have a global character and can not be explained but for the existence of powerful networks operating at regional and global levels.

 The second part of a question: if this is the amount of money generated by transnational organized crime, how and by whom move? I.e. who has the power, technology and legality to embed into the legal economy  over a 1 trillion USD  from the criminal illegal organizations  world?

The answer is obvious: there is a complex global financial system that can launder money and gives criminals the ability to remain unpunished because through these resources can carry out legal transactions such as buying property vehicles, and in certain contexts, to weapons.

Why did HSBC do this? It turns out that the “angels” of this global bank “made mistakes” in monitoring suspicious accounts or regarded as “high risk”. According to the note of BBC News, signed by my colleague Julio Brito, is stated:

“HSBC said it takes Mexico´s compliance law seriously compliance (…) ‘We apologize, we will recognize these errors, accounting of our actions and commit ourselves completely to repair what was done wrong’, said the bank”.

Is this apology enough? What about Mexico´s Police Investigation ? What about the Financial Intelligence Unit of the Ministry of Finance? Surprisingly, the scandal was discovered and unrevealed by the investigations of the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations of the Senate of the United States, but in Mexico the results are and reactions are lukewarm..

I quote again Julio Brito’s note: “The subsidiary of banking giant HSBC Mexico sent seven billion dollars in cash to the bank’s unit in the U.S. between 2007 and 2008, a volume that could only reach that size if included illegal drug profits.” (http://www.cronica.com.mx/nota.php?id_nota=676540)

According to an expert I consulted, the money laundering operations in Mexico are very easy to perform because the financial system is full of holes. For example, operations that money exchange offices have with banks are extremely lax, compared with the regulations of other countries.

Add to this the ease with which managers can access customer accounts, which facilitates the actions of triangulation that due to the operation of electronic banking today can be done in minutes.

Anyway, HSBC faces one of the most embarrassing scandals in its history, which opens one more question: Is it the only bank with these weaknesses operating in our country? That is something the authorities should investigate and seriously, if you really want to win the fight against drug trafficking.

The war on organized crime in Mexico has killed more than 50 000 dead. Now HSBC is an accomplice, at least by default in their controls, as was recognized last Tuesday, so not a bad idea and that the customers of this institution to continue providing profits to reconsider a bank that has indirectly contributed significantly to the bloodshed in our country.

If sending 7 billion dollars is considered impossible for a single bank, not to include narco resources, another question arises, how is that in a country with 52 million poor (on or below poverty line),  transnational banks get their biggest gains and transfers? See if the financial reports of Citi Group, Santander, BBVA, Scotiabank and other global banking institutions operating in Mexico.

While it is true that the fees (banking, transaction and credit cards) charge by these banks are draconian and interest rates that are the worst practices of usury, HSBC scandal should lead policy makers to reconsider that the level of looting reached by foreign banks, to feed their unstable global operations.

Source: Dossier Politico 19.07.2012  by Saul Arellano sarellano@ceidas.org

Filed under: Banking, Mexico, Risk Management, , , , , , , ,

HSBC ‘sorry’ for aiding Mexican drugs lords, rogue states and terrorists

Executive quits in front of US Senate as bank faces massive fines for ‘horrific’ lapses that resulted in laundering money for drugs cartels and pariah states.

Executives with Europe‘s biggest bank, HSBC, were subjected to a humiliating onslaught from US senators on Tuesday over revelations that staff at its global subsidiaries laundered billions of dollars for drug cartels, terrorists and pariah states.

Lawmakers hammered the British-based bank over the scandal, demanding to know how and why its affiliates had exposed it to the proceeds of drug trafficking and terrorist financing in a “pervasively polluted” culture that persisted for years.

A report compiled for the committee detailed how HSBC’s subsidiaries transported billions of dollars of cash in armoured vehicles, cleared suspicious travellers’ cheques worth billions, and allowed Mexican drug lords buy to planes with money laundered through Cayman Islands accounts.

HSBC’s Mexico nightmare on money laundering – FT.com
How Much Will Mexico Money Laundering Cost HSBC? – Forbes
HSBC money laundering probe: Bank ‘allowed flow of Mexican drug

Other subsidiaries moved money from Iran, Syria and other countries on US sanctions lists, and helped a Saudi bank linked to al-Qaida to shift money to the US.

David Bagley, HSBC’s head of compliance since 2002, and who had worked with the bank for more than 20 years, resigned before the committee.

“Despite the best efforts and intentions of many dedicated professionals, HSBC has fallen short of our own expectations and the expectations of our regulators,” he said.

The bank has been under investigation for nearly a decade, and faces a massive fine from the US justice department for lapses in its safeguards. Senators Carl Levin and Tom Coburn, who conducted the hearing, said the permanent subcommittee of investigations had examined 1.4m documents as part of its review and thanked the bank for its co-operation.

The bank has apologised for its lapses and said reforms had been put in place. Paul Thurston, chief executive of retail banking and wealth management, who was sent in to try and clear up HSBC’s Mexican banking business in 2007, said he was “horrified” by what he found.

“I should add that the external environment in Mexico was as challenging as any I had ever experienced. Bank employees faced very real risks of being targeted for bribery, extortion, and kidnapping – in fact, multiple kidnappings occurred throughout my tenure,” he said.

The committee had released a damning report on Monday, which detailed a collapse in HSBC’s compliance standards. The report showed executives at the bank has consistently warned of problems. At its Mexican subsidiary, one executive had warned the bank was “rubber-stamping unacceptable risks”, according to one email gathered by the committee.

HSBC’s Mexican operations moved $7bn into the bank’s US operations, and according to its own staff, much of that money was tied to drug traffickers. Before the bank executives testified, the committee heard from Leigh Winchell, assistant director for investigative programs at US immigration & customs enforcement. He said 47,000 people had lost their lives since 2006 as a result of Mexican drug traffickers.

The senators highlighted testimony from Leopoldo Barroso, a former HSBC anti money-laundering director, who told company officials in an exit interview that he was concerned about “allegations of 60% to 70% of laundered proceeds in Mexico” going through HSBC’s affiliate.

“In hindsight,” said Bagley, “I think we all sometimes allowed a focus on what was lawful and compliant rather than what should have been best practices.”

Levin and Coburn directed particular ire at a Cayman Islands subsidiary set up by the Mexico division of HSBC. That bank handled 50,000 client accounts and $2.1bn in holdings, but had no staff or offices. Money from the Cayman Islands was used to buy planes for Mexican drug traffickers, said the senators. Bagley said those accounts were all now in the process of being closed.

“Forget hindsight,” said Levin. “Is there any way that should have been allowed to happen?”

“No, senator,” said Thurston.

Levin repeatedly said that HSBC must have been aware of the problems. “This is something that people knew was going on at the bank,” he said.

Bagley and Thurston said that HSBC’s compliance had been fragmented and that oversight had been poor. They said that had now been changed. The bank has now adopted a global compliance structure and doubled the amount of money it is spending on oversight.

“Criminals operate globally and if we are to combat them and stop them from accessing and abusing the financial system, we must look at issues from a global perspective. Institutions which operate internationally, like HSBC, will be targeted by these criminals, and our experience in Mexico vividly demonstrates that you are no stronger than your weakest link,” said Thurston.

While much of the hearing focused on Mexico, the senators also slammed the bank for dealings in Iran, Syria, Cuba, and other countries on US sanctions lists. HSBC executives continued to so business with Al Rajhi Bank in Saudi Arabia, even after it emerged that its owners had links to organizations financing terrorism and that one of the bank’s founders was an early financial benefactor of al-Qaida.

While Coburn was unsparing of his criticism of HSBC, he thanked the bank for its co-operation and said there were issues at other institutions including Citigroup, Wachovia and Western Union.

But the report comes at a highly sensitive moment for British banks in the US. Following Barclays fine in the Libor-interest rate scandal and the massive losses at JP Morgan Chase’s London offices US politicians have become increasingly critical of the UK’s financial services sector.

At a recent hearing into the JP Morgan losses, Carolyn Maloney, a Democratic representative from New York, said: “It seems to be that every big trading disaster happens in London.”

Source: The Guardian, 18.07.2012

Filed under: Mexico, Risk Management, , , , , ,

Vietnam hikes interest rates and devalues currency

The central bank raises interest rates to 8% and devalues its currency – moves needed to keep inflation in check and growth on target.

Vietnam is first out of the gate in a race no one wants to be in. It is the first nation in Asia to raise interest rates in an effort to put a stop to rising inflation.

The State Bank of Vietnam will increase its benchmark interest rate to 8% from 7% as of December 1. This is the first increase since January, as for most of the year the government has been focused on achieving its 5% economic growth target. And indeed, while analysts said the hike was needed it was also a surprise — the central bank had earlier announced that the basic interest rate would be kept stabilised at least until the end of the year.

“The move came as a surprise, well sort of. We did expect interest rates to increase, but expectations were for early next year. The fact that inflation came in today at 4.4% year-on-year against 3.0% year-on-year last month, and that the currency kept weakening in the black market (not to mention the surging price of gold internationally)… probably prompted earlier action than what we believe authorities would have liked,” noted Ho Chi Minh-based analysts at VinaSecurities in a research report issued last night.

The State Bank of Vietnam also reset the US dollar reference rate to 17,961 dong from its current level of 17,034 dong, in its third devaluation of the currency in two years. The central bank will also narrow the trading band of the dollar against the dong to 3% from 5%.

This is an effort not only to bring confidence to the currency, but also to correct the difference versus where the dong is trading on the black market, which has been at about 19,700 per US dollar in recent weeks. The governor of the State Bank of Vietnam, Nguyen Van Giau, acknowledged to Vietnamese press on Wednesday that foreign currency is now overly hot and so the government had to intervene.

Investors were spooked by the moves, with the Ho Chi Minh City Stock Exchange’s VN Index falling 4.5% to a three-month low of 503.41, the biggest slide since April 20. But most analysts praised the government’s efforts as prudent.

At 4.4%, consumer price inflation is at its highest since May and more than double the multi-year low of 2% in August. The food part of the basket registered 3.5% inflation, up from 2.5% in October. Housing inflation rose to 8.4% from 2.4%, while transport/communication inflation went from -4.6% to 2.2%. Inflation isn’t a worry — it has arrived.

Also consider that total outstanding loans are currently up 34% versus this time last year, which means the nation is grappling with a rising credit problem. Non-performing loans, of course, have long been a concern.

“In summary, inflation is heading higher which, together with the recent and alarming deterioration in the trade deficit and associated downward pressure on the currency, has finally triggered a policy response from the authorities. The response is also most unlikely to be the last,” wrote Robert Prior-Wandesforde, senior Asian economist for HSBC, in a research note yesterday.

Other moves bandied about by specialists include the Ministry of Finance raising import tariffs and the Ministry of Industry and Trade taking measures to limit imports.

While Vietnam’s currency issue is unique, the inflation issue is potentially not. China, South Korea and Taiwan will no doubt have to start raising rates next year as their stimulus efforts to spur growth may also lead to inflation.

Source: FinanceAsia.com, 26.11.2009

Filed under: Asia, Exchanges, News, Vietnam, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

HSBC Brazil Fund outperforms Asia Pacific Rivals on Economic Outlook, Currency

Nov. 18 (Bloomberg) — HSBC Global Asset Management’s Japan-based mutual fund investing in Brazilian stocks has beaten its biggest peers this year in the Asia-Pacific region as the stronger real boosted returns from bets on JBS SA and Duratex SA.

The 224.36 billion-yen ($2.5 billion) HSBC Brazil Open (Japan) fund has risen 170 percent in 2009, the steepest gain among 2,361 funds tracked by Bloomberg and based in the Asia- Pacific region with assets of at least $100 million.

Brazil’s Bovespa stock index has surged 80 percent this year, buoyed by the outlook for economic growth and by winning bids to host the 2014 World Cup soccer matches and 2016 Olympics. Further boosting returns at HSBC’s yen-denominated fund is the real’s 33 percent appreciation against the Japanese currency. Adjusted into yen, the Bovespa has soared 139 percent this year, the most of 89 benchmarks worldwide tracked by Bloomberg.

“Brazil’s economy is showing a strong recovery, led by domestic demand,” Pedro A B Bastos, chief executive officer of HSBC Global Asset Management in Brazil, said by e-mail. “With the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, interest in investment into Brazil has grown significantly.”

The country’s economy will expand 3.5 percent next year after a 0.7 percent contraction this year, according to forecasts published Oct. 1 by the International Monetary Fund. The real has strengthened against most currencies this year on the prospects for growth, increased commodity prices, rising stocks and an improved credit outlook.

Brazilian Stock Market

The Bovespa’s percentage gain in yen terms this year compares with increases of 25 percent for the MSCI World Index, 83 percent for the Sensitive Index in India, 78 percent for the Shanghai Composite Index in China and 130 percent for Russia’s dollar-denominated RTS Index.

JBS SA, the world’s largest beef producer and the HSBC fund’s largest holding, has climbed 95 percent this year.

“As emerging economies grow, diets change and more people eat meat, so demand is growing outside of Brazil too,” said Kenji Yamamoto, corporate director at HSBC Global Asset in Tokyo.

Duratex SA, a maker of bathroom fittings and wood panels that has gained 273 percent this year, and BR Malls Participacoes SA, Brazil’s biggest owner of shopping malls, with a 154 percent increase this year, are also among the HSBC fund’s top holdings, Bastos said.

Source: Bloomberg,18.11.2009

Filed under: Asia, BM&FBOVESPA, Brazil, Exchanges, Japan, Latin America, News, Services, Wealth Management, , , , , , , , , , , ,

Shanghai Stock Exchang International listing Board on track

Positive signals for an international board on the Shanghai Stock Exchange point to a nearing launch. But major obstacles remain.

A growing din within financial circles suggests China’s proposed international board for foreign company stock trading is on the runway and approaching takeoff.

On September 8, Commerce Minister Chen Deming said at an investment conference in Xiamen that China would indeed allow listings by qualified foreign invested companies on mainland exchanges.

The same day, CITIC Securities International Chairman Ted Tokuchi said at a Caijing conference that if the Chinese stock market remains stable, a first draft for board listing rules could be released after China’s national holidays in early October. The news drove the A-share Shanghai Composite Index up 1.7 percent to close the day at 2930 points.

One or two foreign companies are expected to list through the board on the Shanghai exchange early next year, announced Fang Xinghai, director of the municipal Shanghai Financial Office, while describing Shanghai’s effort to build a new trading platform during a London visit in mid-September.

In another positive signal, Caijing learned that the China Securities Regulatory Commission (CSRC) has set up a working group under CSRC Vice Chairman Yao Gang that’s specifically dedicated to the task of building an international board.

At the Shanghai exchange, General Manager Zhang Yujun is in charge of a separate working group preparing for the board’s launch. And it’s been confirmed that the yuan will be the currency for all trades.

Nevertheless, several key issues remain unsettled. Yet to be decided are questions about accounting standards, listing requirements, share sale limits, and rules governing how raised funds can be used.

Indeed, there are plenty of controversies that could affect the launch of the international board, for which an official target startup date has not been announced. At worst, unsettled issues could park the project on the runway.

Longing to List

Tokuchi said up to six foreign companies have shown interest in listing on the Shanghai exchange. These include the banks HSBC and Standard Chartered, and the stock exchange NYSE. “It is very likely that they will list in the next two to three years,” he said.

Responding to a recent rumor that a red chip company would list on the Shanghai market this year, Tokuchi said that listing may be delayed until 2010. But he said the first company to list on the international board probably will be a red chip company.

A source tied to regulators told Caijing that a stable stock market could lead to a speed-up in preparations for red chip stocks now trading in Hong Kong to join the A-share market. Reportedly, these would include China Mobile and CNOOC.

Tokuchi predicted two to three companies, including red chips and foreign invested companies, would list on the Chinese stock market next year. Over the next five to six years, 20 to 30 companies will list. And within 15 years, he said, more than 100 mature companies will have listed on the Shanghai exchange.

According to Tokuchi’s analysis, foreign companies willing to list in Shanghai are mainly multinationals with fairly big stakes in China. Companies such as NYSE and HSBC aim to further integrate China into their global strategy maps.

However, some foreign companies are quite reserved about listing in Shanghai. Key reasons include listing requirements, fund-raising target rules, share price differences and delisting requirements.

Step By Step

The public first heard an official proposal for opening an international board in April 2007, when the Shanghai Stock Exchange released a Market Quality Report suggesting a new way for overseas companies to issue A shares.

CSRC released a draft regulation for a pilot program a month later, allowing overseas red chip companies to list on the A-share exchange. But for various reasons, the red chip A-share return plan was postponed two years.

Two years passed before the State Council confirmed that Shanghai would be promoted as an international center for finance and shipping – a move that brought the idea of an international board back to the table. After that, for the first time, CSRC and Shanghai exchange officials added the international board concept to the government’s working agenda. Last May, exchange chief Zhang publicly called for steadily advancing preparations for the international board.

Tu Guangshao, deputy mayor of Shanghai and former CSRC deputy chairman, later said overseas companies should be given access to the A-share exchange as part of the city’s long-term goal to build an international financial center.

Technical Bumps
Some technical issues, such as what kind of accounting standard should be used, market pricing and whether companies on the international board should be required to invest in China, are still being discussed.

Industry professionals say it’s unrealistic to require companies to comply with certain Chinese bookkeeping rules. “It is too costly for an international company with assets all over the world to comply with Chinese auditing standard,” said Zhu Junwei, general manager of capital markets with UBS Securities.

Changing to Chinese from international accounting could cost a company from US$ 5 million to more than US$ 10 million. “This is not even a one-time charge,” Zhu said. “Every year, a listed company would have to pay auditing fees.”

A senior executive at a securities firm, who asked not to be named, said international board listings should not follow in the footsteps of so-called panda bonds — yuan-denominated bonds issued by foreign companies in China.

Friction was apparent in October 2005 when International Finance Corp. (IFC) issued 1.13 billion yuan in pandas, and the Asia Development Bank used the bonds to raise 1 billion yuan. Both offered the bonds on interbank markets.

Neither issuer would accept a Chinese regulation requiring panda bonds to comply with Chinese accounting standards. After lengthy negotiations, IFC and the bank were exempted from the accounting rule and allowed to follow international credit rating and accounting standards. But they paid a price: Their bond offers were postponed several times by regulators.

Zhang recently told Caijing, “Listed companies on the international board should comply with Chinese regulations.” But he also noted that, as the nation’s corporate and securities laws currently only apply to domestic companies, the legal framework should be restructured for foreign companies that want to list A shares.

Other technical challenges surround IPOs. Lou Gang, a China strategist with Morgan Stanley, said launching an international board would test the current system for launching IPOs.

“With too much intervention by the government, listing access has become an asset,” Lou said, adding that the current review and approval procedure has become an obvious obstacle.

China could learn from its neighbor Japan, which set up an international board in the 1980s. By 1991, up to 131 foreign companies had listed on the Tokyo Stock Exchange.

Later, with the collapse of an asset bubble, many foreign companies delisted. And in April 2004, the Tokyo exchange canceled its foreign division. It then gave foreign and domestic companies equal rights and status.

Chen Changjie, an attorney with local law firm Guangda, said Japan’s international board failed due to a complex, tedious review and approval process.

Another issue for architects of a Chinese international board is that the proposal has intensified competition between Shanghai and Hong Kong.

“This affects the status of Hong Kong and Shanghai, and which one is more important,” said a Beijing-based securities executive. “In the environment, in which the yuan currency is not exchangeable, Shanghai can hardly be called an international financial center.

“All these issues are not easily resolved in the short term,” said Lou. “So the international board does not present a rosy picture.”

Source: Caijing Magazine, 15.10.2009 by staff reporters Fan Junli and Shen Hu

Filed under: China, Exchanges, News, , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

HSBC in China JV talks with Industrial Securities

HONG KONG -(Dow Jones)- HSBC Holdings PLC (HBC) is in advanced talks to set up an investment banking joint venture in China with Industrial Securities Co., a person familiar with the situation said Wednesday.

The UK-listed HSBC, which already has a wide-reaching presence in China, is seeking to join the handful of foreign firms with a presence in the mainland’s lucrative underwriting and advisory markets.

The person familiar with the situation said it is difficult to say when HSBC and Industrial Securities will agree on a deal, and declined to elaborate.

Industrial Securities is a Fujian-based brokerage with a registered capital of CNY1.93 billion, according to its website. It provides a full-range of services in China, including broking, advisory, and new listing underwriting.

The Apple Daily reported Wednesday, citing unnamed sources, that the two sides may strike a deal by the end of this year to set up the venture, subject to agreeing on the terms and regulatory approval.

HSBC wants management rights over the entity, a model that UBS AG (UBS) and Goldman Sachs Group Inc. (GS) used when setting up their Sino-foreign brokerage joint ventures, according to the report in the Chinese-language newspaper. China has capped the maximum stake foreign banks can have in a Chinese brokerage venture at 33%, though a few of the tie-ups have accorded management control to the foreign firm.

If its venture is approved, HSBC would be joining a list of just a handful of foreign brokers that have set up shop in the mainland through joint ventures in recent years.

In December, the Chinese government ended an almost two-year moratorium on approving new joint ventures, as it shielded its domestic brokerages from foreign competition. Since then, China has approved ventures by Credit Suisse Group and Deutsche Bank AG (DB), though those tie-ups are only allowed to underwrite and sponsor deals domestic securities and debt deals, and not the trading of Chinese-listed shares.

But the list of foreign firms seeking entry is long, especially with China’s stock market being one of the world’s best performers this year. Many Shanghai-listings also registered gains of more than 90% on their first-day of trade.

Australia’s Macquarie Group Ltd. (MQG.AU) has signed a memorandum of understanding with Inner Mongolia-based Hengtai Securities Co. on setting up an investment banking joint venture, while South Korea’s Samsung Securities Co. (016360.SE) said earlier it was finalizing which domestic partner it is going to team up with.

Citigroup Inc. (C) and Morgan Stanley (MS) are also awaiting regulatory approval for their China joint ventures. Morgan Stanley has a stake in China International Capital Corp, but it is a passive financial investor.

“I’m not surprised to hear of more joint-venture acquisitions by HSBC in local financial institutions rather than in banks,” said Dominic Chan, an analyst at BNP Paribas.

“I think HSBC has been focusing on mainland China and Asia, and this deal is part of its ongoing program to divert effort and capital from Europe and America back to Asia,” he said.

A brokerage in China would add another crucial leg to the bank’s already dominant presence in the country. In China, HSBC has an 18.6% stake in Bank of Communications Co., the nation’s fifth-largest lender by assets; a 16.7% holding in Ping An Insurance (Group) Co. of China Ltd.; 8% ownership of Bank of Shanghai Co., and a 49% stake in HSBC Jintrust Co, a Shanghai-based fund company. HSBC’s 50-50 life insurance joint venture with Beijing-based financial services provider National Trust Ltd. was approved by regulators recently and is set to be up and running in the third quarter.

The lender has also hired investment bankers to advise it on listing on the Shanghai bourse next year, in potentially the country’s first listing by a foreign company. Although based in the U.K., HSBC made a quarter or around US$2.98 billion of its first-half pre-tax earnings from China.

Source: Dow-Jones, 19.08.2009

Filed under: Asia, Banking, China, News, Services, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Mexico Central Bank prohibit some Lender/Credit/Banking Fees

July 21 (Bloomberg) — Mexico’s central bank said it will prohibit commercial banks from applying some fees in a bid to make charges more transparent and bolster competition.

Starting Aug. 21, banks won’t be able to charge fees for depositing checks that are returned, for exceeding debit card limits or for canceling deposit accounts, credit cards, debit cards or online banking services, the central bank said today in an e-mailed statement.

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The measures may force Mexican banks to issue more loans to compensate for revenue they currently get from fees, which may open up credit channels that seized up amid the global financial crisis, said Gabriel Casillas at UBS AG in Mexico City. Fees and commissions accounted for 20 percent of the Mexican banking industry’s operating revenue in 2008, Standard & Poor’s says.

“This is an important blow to one of the biggest sources of revenue for Mexican banks,” said Casillas, who is chief economist for Mexico and Chile. “This should give them an incentive to increase credit and obtain revenue from there.”

Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria SA, which controls Mexico’s largest lender BBVA Bancomer SA, fell 1.4 percent to 9.675 euros at 12:15 p.m. New York time from 9.81 euros at 10 a.m., when the measures were announced.

Banks will also be unable to charge customers for opening or managing accounts that were opened in order to receive a loan, the bank said.

Antitrust Chief

Mexican antitrust chief Eduardo Perez Motta said in a July 17 interview that authorities needed to make it easier for customers to switch banks so they could more easily shop for low-cost services, which would in turn boost competition.

“When you tell your bank you want to leave, they make your life difficult,” Perez Motta said.

Still, Angelica Bala, an S&P credit and banking analyst in Mexico City, said increased regulations won’t improve competition or transparency.

“The central bank is doing this because there has been a big political push against banks charging so much for fees and commissions,” Bala said in a telephone interview. “But putting a cap on fees and commissions is not a good thing. It has to be driven by competition.”

Source: Bloomberg, 21.07.2009 by : Jens Erik Gould in Mexico City at jgould9@bloomberg.net.

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Singapore’s Take on Islamic Finance

Singapore’s plunge into the Islamic finance scene did not come as a surprise to many in the industry. Seeing the Islamic finance industry take-off in Malaysia and with Hong Kong and Indonesia playing catch up, Singapore’s obvious move was to take on this ethical form of financing with formidable force. Despite being the first Asian country to fall into a recession, which prompted the government to declare the situation as the worst ever for it, the Lion City was still optimistic about launching its first Sukuk at a signing ceremony last month. Eureka – Islamic_Finance_News article

Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) managing director Heng Swee Keat described the Sukuk as the Shariah-compliant equivalent of Singapore Government Securities (SGS) and said it was of the highest credit standing. He assured investors that it would be given equal regulatory treatment as SGS, such as qualifying as an asset in the computation of capital and liquidity requirements, and as eligible collateral for tapping MAS’ liquidity.

“MAS is committed to the facility, issuing to meet the needs of financial institutions that are carrying out or plan to carry out Shariah-compliant activities in Singapore, as this will strengthen their ability to meet their capital and liquidity requirements.” He added.

Research and consulting firm Cerulli Associates released a report recently on the Islamic finance industry in Singapore, focusing on the Islamic funds available in the republic. According to it, Hong Kong and Singapore have been financial services hub rivals in Asia and their competition has now extended to Islamic finance. The report states that the Islamic finance is not to cater for their relatively small Muslim populations, but rather to encompass all areas of financial services as well as attract the petro-dollars from the Middle East.

Describing Hong Kong’s and Singapore’s effort as wholesale as opposed to Malaysia’s and Indonesia’s “more retail approach”, Cerulli said the Singapore government had decided several years ago that as trade with its Middle East counterparts increased, there would be a need for an Islamic finance industry. Its Middle East trade doubled to US$37 billion in four years to the end of 2007.

“MAS has been proactive in trying to create a level playing field for the conventional and Islamic approaches – in 2005, for example, it remitted the additional stamp duties that Islamic financing arrangements on property were incurring, and allowed banks to offer Murabahah financing,” the report stated.

Cerulli added that income tax and goods and services tax (GST) treatments for Shariah-compliant financing arrangements and Sukuk were clarified and given a level playing field as conventional products. “Retail investors in Murabahah are now given the same regulatory protection under Singapore’s Bank Act as any conventional depositor. And a 5% concessionary tax rate was announced in February 2008 on income derived from qualifying Shariah-compliant financial activities, including lending, fund management, insurance and reinsurance.”

Cerulli noted that the significant step in Singapore’s Islamic finance push came with the formation of the Islamic Bank of Asia (IB Asia) in June 2007. Singapore’s largest bank, DBS, holds the majority share in the bank together with Middle East investors. IB Asia has since opened a representative office in Bahrain. It focuses on Shariah-compliant commercial banking, corporate finance, capital market and private banking services.

According to Cerulli, the Sukuk issuance working on reverse inquiry that would be issued based on the needs of the republic’s financial institutions could boost the development of Islamic finance. However it would not be the republic’s first issuance as there have been several other issuances such as the MBB Sukuk Inc established by Maybank that raised US$300 million two years ago.

Cerulli observed that Singapore has its own Shariah index, the FTSE SGX Asia Shariah 100 Index, which is designed to be used as a basis for exchange-traded funds and over-the-counter trading instruments although it maintained that none have yet been launched. “There are currently six managers with Shariah funds registered in Singapore who are collectively responsible for assets worth about US$470 million, although this figure was somewhat higher prior to the current financial crisis.”


Click on the image for an enlarged preview

Shariah-compliant funds have also found a place in Singapore. Cerulli states that NTUC Income, a cooperative insurance society and a leader in life and general insurance with more than 1.8 million policyholders, currently offers the republic’s two largest Shariah funds.

The Amanah Bond Fund is managed by RHB Investment Management and CIMB-Principal Asset Management. It had US$157 million under management at the end of October last year. The other fund is NTUC’s Amanah Equity Fund, described by Cerulli as a global passive product, which is managed by State Street Global Advisers and has US$164 million under management. NTUC also offers a Takaful fund, jointly managed by NTUC Income and Wellington International Management with US$55 million under management.

Cerulli’s report also notes that other local players offering funds include UOB Asset Management, Singapore Unit Trusts (SUT) and Swiss-Asia Financial Services. UOB Asset Management offers the Afdaal Asia Pacific Equity Fund, for which CIMB-Principal Asset Management is the advisor. SUT, a member company of Malaysia’s Permodalan National Berhad (PNB) Group, has two Shariah-compliant funds: the Ethical Value Fund and Ethical Growth Funds, both being global equity products; while Swiss-Asia Financial Services launched its first Shariah fund, an absolute return Asian equity product named the Mashriq Fund, in July 2006.

According to Cerulli, the largest Shariah-compliant investment product sold in Singapore to-date was by a group called Pacific Star Investment and Development, which sold the now closed Baitak Asian Real Estate Fund at US$600 million. On offshore funds, Cerulli states that the available Shariah-compliant funds from the offshore managers are the DWS Noor range, including an Asia-Pacific equity fund, China equity fund, Global select equity fund, Japan equity fund and a precious metals securities product. “All are sold in Singapore (though they are domiciled in Ireland), as are CIMB Islamic’s Asia-Pacific equity fund and several HSBC products, domiciled locally under the HSBC-Link Ethical brand,” it added.

Source: Eurka Hedeg, Islamic Finance News, 22.04.2009

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HSBC Mexico Upgrades Its Core Banking Systems in One Big Bang

HSBC Mexico decided to upgrade its core banking applications in one shot, tapping CSC’s automated upgrade program to govern the implementation.

If a bank is going for a “big bang” core systems upgrade, it seems appropriate to launch the new systems on July 4, even if the bank is based in Mexico and its customers don’t celebrate the United States’ day of independence. Before Mexico City-based HSBC Mexico (HBMX), part of HSBC Group (London; US$2.5 trillion in assets) went live with new core applications on Independence Day in 2008, it had been using a mix of legacy versions of core banking applications from Hogan Systems, which was acquired by CSC in August 1996.

According to Arturo Rivera Fermoso, IT director, core systems, for HBMX, the aging software prevented the bank from leveraging state-of-the-art hardware. “In some cases, the oldest applications within our Hogan suite prevented us from fully using the new capabilities of our hardware system,” he relates. “For example, we were limited to batch processing on some functions but wanted to move to all real-time and achieve 24×7 availability.”

Still, HBMX approached the possibility of upgrading the heart of its operations with caution. “Our core banking applications are mission-critical, so we had chosen not to upgrade to current application versions until the benefits of the upgrade outweighed the cost and risk,” Fermoso says, adding that the bank decided to take the leap in 2006.

Click here to read full article

Source: Bank System & Technology, by

Filed under: Banking, Latin America, Mexico, News, Services, Trading Technology, , ,

Mexican Senate to limit Excessive Credit Card charges by foreign banks, observed by U.S. Senate

[16.04.2009] Mexico’s Senate banking committe approved changes to the financial services law. The Central Bank will be allowed to set limits on the rates that commercial banks can charge on loans.

Banco de Mexico will not set of specific limits to rates; instead, the central bank will set references as to how much banks should be charging for the loans and also have the ability to highlight to the public which banks are charging more than others. “Banco de Mexico will ensure that institutions give loans or credit in accessible and reasonable conditions, and it will take corrective measures so that operations are offered under those terms,” the bill says.

The initiative will now move to the floor of the Senate. The bill doesn’t specify a maximum interest rate. Instead, it calls for policy makers to cap interest rates if they are deemed to be too high or if they prevent low-income Mexicans from obtaining credit.      The legislation would prohibit banks from charging fees that “distort healthy banking practices,” according to the initiative. Banks wouldn’t be able to charge fees for consulting account balances under the measure.

Source: IXE 16.04.2009

[26.03.2009] Two Mexican Senate committees approved proposals to overhaul financial sector regulations that if passed into law would give authorities greater scope to limit the interest rates and commissions that banks charge their customers.

Mexico is not alone. The U.S. Senate Banking Committee will meet on March 31 to consider pro-consumer credit card legislation.

The current credit cards comissions and interest rates in Mexico, charged by foreign banks are the higest in the World and cause to great concern for social instability, for example:

HSBC                 charges 72% p.a. in Mexico  vs.  16%  in the UK

ScotiaBank     charges 61% p.a. in Mexico vs.  18%  in Canada

BBVA                 charges 80% p.a. in Mexico vs. 25% in Spain

Citi/Banamex charges 77% p.a. in Mexico vs.   9% in the US

According to Mexico Bankers Association (ABM) in 2008 there where  26.2 milion credit card holding individuals, which spend  478 Bn pesos ( 33.7 bn US$).

Credit cards might as well be the next bubble to burst, see the Reuters special on consumer credit concerns.

The Finance Commission and the Legislative Studies Commission approved the bill late Wednesday with the backing of senators from the three largest political parties. The commissions said they hope to submit a final draft to the full Senate as soon as possible, according to a Senate press release.

The measure would then be sent to the lower house. The plan would give the Bank of Mexico greater power to regulate commissions and interest rates, ban fees for checking balances at bank branches and require lenders to offer a basic credit card product without “excessive charges.”

Fees and commissions of close to 56.3 bn pesos (3.97 bn US$) last year accounted for about 27% of banks’ operating income, according to National Banking and Securities Commission data.

Five of Mexico’s top seven banks are owned by foreigners. Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria SA (BBV) and Banco Santander SA (STD) of Spain, Citigroup Inc. (C) of the U.S., HSBC Holdings PLC  ( HBC) of the U.K., and Canada’s Bank of Nova Scotia (BNS) control 68% of bank loans and 69% of deposits.

Source: El Financiero, El Economista,Dow Jones,Reuters,AFP  26.03.2009

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HSBC Mexico Upgrades Its Core Banking Systems in One Big Bang

HSBC Mexico decided to upgrade its core banking applications in one shot, tapping CSC’s automated upgrade program to govern the implementation. To read full article click here.

If a bank is going for a “big bang” core systems upgrade, it seems appropriate to launch the new systems on July 4, even if the bank is based in Mexico and its customers don’t celebrate the United States’ day of independence. Before Mexico City-based HSBC Mexico (HBMX), part of HSBC Group (London; US$2.5 trillion in assets) went live with new core applications on Independence Day in 2008, it had been using a mix of legacy versions of core banking applications from Hogan Systems, which was acquired by CSC in August 1996.

According to Arturo Rivera Fermoso, IT director, core systems, for HBMX, the aging software prevented the bank from leveraging state-of-the-art hardware. “In some cases, the oldest applications within our Hogan suite prevented us from fully using the new capabilities of our hardware system,” he relates. “For example, we were limited to batch processing on some functions but wanted to move to all real-time and achieve 24×7 availability.”

Still, HBMX approached the possibility of upgrading the heart of its operations with caution. “Our core banking applications are mission-critical, so we had chosen not to upgrade to current application versions until the benefits of the upgrade outweighed the cost and risk,” Fermoso says, adding that the bank decided to take the leap in 2006.

Source: Bank Systems & Technology, b13.04.2009

Filed under: Banking, Mexico, News, , , , , ,

Mexico: Foreign banks highest charges, lowest services

According to a survey by “La Expansion/CNN” the service quality of the 8 biggest banks in Mexico (Banamex, BBVA-Bancomer, HSBC, Santander, Scotiabank, Banorte, Ixe and Inbursa) scored an average of 6 out of 10 in service quality.

IXE Bank led with 8.6 score as the best and most customer friendly service provider, while CitiBanamex and HSBC where below average.  The 8 banks cover 80% of the Mexican market.

According to the survey the bank clients rated woerse the commisions the banks are charging for the value added (or the abscence of it) by the financial service providers.

See the rating chart below: 10 = excellent, 9 = very good, 8 = good, 7= average, 6 = sufficent, below 6 = failed.

Source: La Expansion, FiNETIK,  19.03.2009

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Mexican Bank Outlook update 2009

Mexican Senate to limit Excessive Credit Card charges by foreign banks, observed by U.S. Senate – 28.03.2009 Update

Mexico: Big foreign banks highest charges, lowest services – 20.03.2009 Update

Banamex  Citibank Earnings (Excerpt from Bloomberg article  17.03.2009)

Profits at Mexico City-based Banamex doubled from 2002, the first full year it was part of the U.S. bank, through 2007, Citigroup Latin America Chief Executive Officer Manuel Medina- Mora said last year. Banamex revenue climbed 6.3 percent in 2008 to 85 billion pesos ($5.86 billion), Chief Executive Officer Enrique Zorrilla said last month. Citigroup’s 2008 sales fell 33 percent to $52.8 billion, according to Bloomberg data.

Now, after New York-based Citigroup received $45 billion in government rescue funds and its shares tumbled 73 percent this year, the outlook for Mexican banking subsidiaries also is dimming as the country heads for its first recession in eight years. The deepening slump in the U.S., the destination for 80 percent of Mexican overseas sales, is curbing export revenue and trimming remittances that help keep up local consumer demand.

Mexican banks will have a “complicated year because of pressures from defaulted loans, a byproduct of the economic backdrop,” said Juan Partida, a banking analyst with UBS AG in Mexico City. UBS estimates Mexico’s economy will contract as much as 4 percent this year.

Paulo Carreno, a spokesman for Banamex in Mexico City, didn’t return calls seeking a comment. Ovidio Cordero, a press representative for Madrid-based Santander, declined to comment. Ruth Lavelle, a press officer at London-based HSBC, didn’t reply to an e-mail request seeking a comment.

Shrinking Economy

Mexico’s economy will shrink 1.9 percent in 2009, according to the average forecast of 30 economists surveyed by the central bank and published this month. Morgan Stanley said yesterday that the economy will contract 5 percent this year. Mexico’s gross domestic product expanded 1.5 percent in 2008, central bank Governor Guillermo Ortiz said in January, after growing 3.2 percent in 2007.

Migrant worker remittances will decline this year after falling in 2008 for the first time since the central bank began tracking transfers in 1995, Mexican Deputy Finance Minister Alejandro Werner said last month. Mexico’s unemployment rate surged to 5 percent in January, the highest since the statistics agency began measuring the data in 2000.

Consumer Lending

While Shaw wrote in a report last month that bad loans will keep rising, Deutsche Bank AG recommended last week that investors take an “overweight” position in Mexican financial stocks. New York-based strategist Guilherme Paiva said Mexican banks will benefit from an increase in lending to consumers who have low debt levels relative to disposable income.

The recommendation helped send shares of billionaire Carlos Slim’s Grupo Financiero Inbursa SA to their biggest gain since 2002, and pushed up Grupo Financiero Banorte SAB, Mexico’s largest publicly-traded bank.

“Banks are going to suffer, but the year is not going to be a catastrophe,” said Angelica Bala, a banking analyst with Standard & Poor’s in Mexico City. “The capitalization of the Mexican banks is the system’s strength.”

Legislators from the nation’s three biggest political parties and bankers will get together on March 19 and 20 in Acapulco, Mexico. President Felipe Calderon, Ortiz, Finance Minister Agustin Carstens and former U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan are scheduled to speak at the conference.

Source: Bloomberg, 17.03.2009  Jose Enrique Arrioja at jarrioja@bloomberg.net; Valerie Rota vrota1@bloomberg.net.

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IXE Grupo Financiero high capitalization ratio earns S&P rating raise

S&P raised its credit rating outlook to stable from negative for IXE Grupo Financiero and its subsidiaries.

 

IXE Grupo Financeiro has shown a strong financial performance and is one of the soundest financial institutions in Mexico.

 

In this time of turmoil and when others are receiving downgrades (see list below), IXE has emerged as a bright star. IXE Banco’s capitalization ratio as of year end 2008 stands at 18.5%, the second highest in the Mexican Financial Sector just behind Inbursa. Furthermore, IXE Banco continues to have outstanding liquidity, as it has significantly more deposits than loan portfolio. 

 

Bank                                       S&P Rating

IXE                                        A, Raised to Stable from Negative

Banamex:                               BBB+, lowered to Negative from Stable

Banorte:                                 BBB, Stable

Santander:                              Lowered to Negative Outlook

Merrill Lynch/BofA:               A, Lowered from A+

MBIA:                                   BBB+, lowered from AA

HSBC Mexico:                      Lowered to Negative Outlook

 

 

Source: IXE Casa de Bolsa, 06.03.2009

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