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Will MasterCard permanently shift to digital methods in 2021?

Monetary impact of COVID-19, along with enduring fluctuations in digital client spending habits, online banking progress, FinTech disruption and prospects to bolster financial inclusion are analysed comprehensively by The MasterCard Economics Institute and has released Economy 2021, a global outlook report. This institute was launched preceding year to analyse macroeconomic trends through the lens of the clients.  They released this report for the benefit of government and businesses of all sizes to find a path forward after a transformative and gruelling 2020. From the analyses of the crucial trends, there is the sharp swing to digital platform utilisation, powered by transformed client behaviour, flexibility margins and the requirement to produce business revenues beyond brick and mortar locations.

Digital conversion efforts are increased as 73% of clients in Middle East and Africa (MEA) were spending more online than before the pandemic. The current trend away from cash is expected to be more determined in UAE economies, which already has a young, digitally savvy population and a buoyant e-commerce organisation. According to Economy 2021, e-commerce swiftly becomes a way to embrace older generation and added convenience along with lower costs for clients will contribute to the evolution of digital demand in 2021. In regions such as East Africa, IMF research found that traditional banking service was declining but expanded access to digital tools and services increased financial inclusion. This trend can also be seen in digitally advanced areas such as Ghana, Kenya and Uganda. FinTech disruption in online banking is set to be a key driver in bringing the population into the digital economy, especially in East African economies. Leveraging cutting edge technologies to connect consumers to small businesses and micro merchants is another aspect of advancing financial inclusion as per Economy 2021.

The increasing internet access and improving digital innovation offers more possibilities for digital payments. Partnership with mobile network operators, ongoing work on government disbursement solutions, wage digitization of private sector workers etc., are the efforts taken by MasterCard to bridge the financial gap. Middle East and North African region have the largest youth population in the world and serves as a key factor for regional economies to leverage the growth of e-commerce and to advance the financial inclusion because the younger generation are mostly first-time mobile users. In addition to the advantages, this demography also sets out associated risk with increasing youth unemployment and also climate changes with both long and short-term risks. David Mann, Chief Economist, Asia and MEA, MasterCard said that they are heading for a multi-speed global recovery favouring the low touch more than the high touch, by enabling small businesses and merchants to accept digital payments. So that this can connect more people and communities to financial freedom. As the mobility restrictions are lifted gradually the increasing leisure travel serves as a key GDP factor in many MEA economies. Other traditional tourism economies such as Kenya and Egypt also get benefitted from international tourism’s eventual return.

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Goldman banker hired by the Citi bank

Citigroup has hired Luisa Leyenaar-Huntingford from Goldman Sachs. This new hire is to co-head its global infrastructure franchise. Because, it seeks to win more business from cash-rich investment firms focusing on infrastructure deals. Leyenaar-Huntingford will be based in London. Responsibility will be shared with Todd Guenther in New York.

The pair will work closely with industry teams covering healthcare, industrials, natural resources and clean energy transition (NRCET), technology and communications. Leyenaar-Huntingford helped in the establishment of the Goldman’s infrastructure franchise in her time at the Wall Street bank. They will team up with Citi’s Iberia co-head of banking, capital markets and advisory (BCMA) Jorge Ramos will continue to be a senior member of the global infrastructure franchise.

The infrastructure sector is poised for further growth, according to the memo. The memo was released by Citi’s global co-heads of the alternative assets group Anthony Diamandakis and John Eydenberg, and its EMEA head of BCMA Nacho Gutierrez-Orrantia. There was significant private investment demand across the globe to deal with environmental, energy, transportation, waste, communication, digital and other social needs.

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Banks make slow progress on UK gender pay

Major banks in Britain made a slight dent in their gender pay gaps. Several insurers went backwards. Companies in Britain with more than 250 employees have been required to publish the difference between the pay and bonuses of their male and female employees. They got a reprieve due to the pandemic, last year. The financial services sector has shown one of the largest genders pay gaps in Britain. The lack of women in senior jobs is the main reason.

Pay gap data from 21 major financial institutions showed a narrowing in their average mean gender pay gap. This is just 0.4 percentage points. Banks alone had a pay gap which narrowed by one percentage point. Ann Francke, chief executive of the Chartered Management Institute said that the UK’s financial services industry has often been singled out. It really does have to get its house in order. Goldman Sachs had the widest gender pay gap in the year to April 2020. Goldman posted a gender pay gap of 51.8%. The bank told the staffs that narrowing the gap further was a critical priority. A spokesperson for banking lobby group UK Finance said, that there is clearly more still to be done.

FTSE 100 insurers Prudential, Legal & General and M&G reported a widening in their pay gaps. Prudential’s UK gender pay gap widened to 45.2%. M&G also reported a widening in its pay gap in the most recent year to 30.5%. The M&G spokesperson said that they are determined to narrow their gender pay gap and will do this by achieving better representation of women in all roles at all levels of our organization. Legal & General’s mean gender pay gap widened to 30.8%.

The insurer said that the legal & general is tackling the underlying causes of its pay gap. This is by creating a more diverse workforce and a more inclusive culture through sustained, long-term action. Admiral had a gender pay gap last year of 12.8%. The 21 firms surveyed were Barclays, HSBC, Lloyds, NatWest, Standard Chartered, Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Goldman Sachs International, JPMorgan, Morgan Stanley, UBS, Credit Suisse, Deutsche Bank, PGMS (a Phoenix unit), abrdn, Schroder Investment Management, St James’s Place, Legal & General, Prudential, Admiral Group, Aviva and M&G.

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BOJ to lower inflation target-Japan’s finance minister

Japan’s outgoing finance minister, Taro Aso, said that he had proposed lowering the central bank’s 2% inflation target. This is when the prices took a hit from plunging oil prices. He was the finance minister for nearly nine years. The slump in oil price was among the main reasons the government could not officially declare an end to deflation. In his final news conference as finance minister, Aso said that he proposed to Governor Kuroda that, with oil prices falling this much, it would be hard to achieve 2% inflation. Hence, the target must be lowered at some point. He stated this by referring to Bank of Japan (BOJ) chief Haruhiko Kuroda.

Aso also said that the governor said he would do his best to achieve the target. This is stated by adding that policymakers must scrutinise at some point, why the BOJ’s inflation target of 2% has not been met. The remarks highlight how the government and lawmakers distanced themselves from the BOJ’s target years ago, despite central bank reassurances that achieving the target was possible by maintaining or increasing stimulus.

Aso was deeply involved in negotiations with the BOJ. After Kuroda took over as governor, he deployed a massive asset-buying program. This is for pulling Japan out of deflation. Aso supported the BOJ’s stimulus efforts. He is a member of the cabinet. And also, had raised many doubts that monetary policy alone can reflate the economy out of the doldrums. New Prime Minister Fumio Kishida is set to form a cabinet.

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