Tag: banks

Did the banks collude with the Guptas?

Source: The Citizen 

The EFF has criticised South Africa’s major banks, calling them opportunistic and hypocritical “in their testimony given to the state capture inquiry”.

Standard Bank’s retired head of legal testified at the inquiry on Monday giving reasons that led the bank deciding to close the business accounts of the controversial Gupta family.

Former FirstRand Group – which First National Bank (FNB) is a division of – chief executive officer (CEO) Johan Burger is testifying at the commission today.

“These banks were very happy to do business with the Guptas until the unceremonious December 2015 removal of Nhlanhla Nene as finance minister when South African stocks were severely devalued,” the EFF said in a statement.

The red berets added that by the time of Nene’s axing, the Guptas and former president Jacob Zuma – who are commonly referred to as the Zuptas – were already carrying out corrupt activities “facilitated by the very same banks”.

The EFF said: “It is impossible that the banks only started to notice the suspicious transactions of the Guptas and their companies in 2016 as they now want us to believe.

“The truth is that these banks colluded in the looting of the country for as long as it was feeding into their profit maximisation motives and greed. These are the only driving forces behind the commercial banks. For them, it’s profit before people and the country.”

The party said it hopes the chair of the commission Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo would not be fooled by the testimony of the banks.

“We call on the South African Reserve Bank (Sarb) and the Financial Intelligence Centre to launch a separate probe into the complicity of South African banks in the Gupta state capture and why they turned a blind eye towards an obviously suspicious transactions before 2016 and to hold them accountable for their part in state capture,” the EFF said.

The party added that if the Sarb fails to institute such a probe the party would take it upon itself to initiate a parliamentary probe into the matter.

Meanwhile, Burger testified on Tuesday that FNB had closed the accounts of the Guptas due to associated reputational and business risks.

The dangers of instant EFT services

By Jamie McKane for MyBroadband

Sending money to others over EFT is a common action, but these transactions can take some time if you do not pay an additional fee for express payment.

To circumvent express fees and improve the transfer time of EFTs, many South Africans opt to use third-party instant EFT services.

Using third-party instant EFT platforms requires the user to supply the provider with their online banking details, including their username and password.

The instant EFT service then logs into the user’s online banking account and makes the transaction on their behalf, with the user receiving an OTP confirmation.

While this can result in faster EFTs, it also places the user at risk of having their online banking credentials compromised – and can be a violation of a bank’s terms and conditions.

MyBroadband asked major South African banks about their stance on instant EFT services and the possible security risks involved in using these platforms.

Absa
Absa told MyBroadband it does not approve third-party EFT services.

“Absa does not approve of third-party service providers who utilise screen scraping to facilitate these EFT payments,” the bank said.

“Only approved vendors will be allowed to enter the Absa domain to facilitate third-party EFT services via secure API.”

Absa added that customers who use these services would be liable in the event of their credentials being compromised, as they provided them to the third-party service.

“Absa’s terms and conditions stipulate that customers should never provide their security information to anyone,” Absa said.

“Should customers knowingly provide third-party vendors with their online banking logon details, the customer will be held liable in the event of cybercrime.”

Absa added that it is in the process of enabling more secure connection models via the utilisation of secure API’s for use by third-party payment service providers.

FNB
FNB EFT Product House CEO Ravi Shunmugam told MyBroadband they do not support third-party instant EFT providers.

“FNB does not support the practice of third-party services providers requesting customers to enter their banking login credentials into third-party websites or applications,” Shunmugam said.

“The bank is working with the payments industry bodies, PASA and SABRIC to highlight this practice and potential risks to customers at an industry level.”

“These services are not PCI DSS-certified and we are working with the industry to have similar standards established and enforced,” he added.

Shunmugam said that customers should not share their online banking credentials with any third parties.

“We would like to remind our customers not to enter their login credentials into any third-party website or application and to safeguard their login credentials at all times.”

Shunmugam said customers who have entered their login credentials in any website or application other than their bank’s platforms are advised to change their passwords.

Nedbank
Nedbank Emerging Payments head of business development Clinton Leask said that clients voluntarily disclosing their banking credentials to third-party EFT services were putting themselves at risk.

“We continually advise our clients to ensure the safekeeping and confidentiality of their banking information and not disclose such information to unknown or unauthorised third parties,” Leask told MyBroadband.

“In instances where clients voluntarily disclose their confidential information to a third-party they put themselves at risk by giving third parties the ability to access information about their accounts, banking history, and other confidential information,” he added.

“Consumers currently have the ability to effect instant payments, other than instant EFT, with real time credit payments, which is accessible via Internet banking and with card via 3DSecure.”

Standard Bank
MyBroadband contacted Standard Bank for comment, but the bank did not provide feedback.

By Emily Glazer, Deepa Seetharaman and AnnaMaria Andriotis for Wall Street Journal 

The social-media giant has asked large U.S. banks to share detailed financial information about their customers, including card transactions and checking-account balances, as part of an effort to offer new services to users.

Facebook increasingly wants to be a platform where people buy and sell goods and services, besides connecting with friends. The company over the past year asked JPMorgan Chase JPM 0.37% & Co., Wells Fargo & Co., Citigroup Inc. C 0.01% and U.S. Bancorp USB 0.70% to discuss potential offerings it could host for bank customers on Facebook Messenger, people familiar with the matter said.

Facebook has talked about a feature that would show its users their checking-account balances, the people said. It has also pitched fraud alerts, some of the people said.

Data privacy is a sticking point in the banks’ conversations with Facebook, said people familiar with the matter. The talks are taking place as Facebook faces several investigations over its ties to political analytics firm Cambridge Analytica, which accessed data on as many 87 million Facebook users without their consent.

One large U.S. bank pulled away from the talks due to privacy concerns, some of the people said.

Facebook has told banks that the additional customer information could be used to offer services that might entice users to spend more time on Messenger, a person familiar with the discussions said. The company is trying to deepen user engagement: Investors shaved more than $120 billion from its market value in one day last month after it said its growth is starting to slow.

Facebook said it wouldn’t use the bank data for ad-targeting purposes or share it with third parties.

“We don’t use purchase data from banks or credit-card companies for ads,” spokeswoman Elisabeth Diana said. “We also don’t have special relationships, partnerships or contracts with banks or credit-card companies to use their customers’ purchase data for ads.”

Facebook shares climbed sharply Monday on the news, rising 4.45%, marking the biggest one-day gain since last month’s historic drop.

Banks face pressure to build relationships with big online platforms, which reach billions of users and drive a growing share of commerce. They also are trying to reach more users digitally. Many struggle to gain traction in mobile payments.

Yet banks are hesitant to hand too much control to third-party platforms such as Facebook. They prefer to keep customers on their own websites and apps.

As part of the proposed deals, Facebook asked banks for information about where their users are shopping with their debit and credit cards outside of purchases they make using Facebook Messenger, the people said. Messenger has some 1.3 billion monthly active users, Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg said on the company’s second-quarter earnings call last month.

Alphabet Inc.’s Google and Amazon.com Inc. also have asked banks to share data if they join with them, in order to provide basic banking services on applications such as Google Assistant and Alexa, according to people familiar with the conversations.

Facebook has taken a harder public line on privacy since the Cambridge Analytica uproar. A product privacy team has announced new features such as “clear history,” which would allow users to prevent the service from collecting their off-Facebook browsing details. It also is making efforts to alert users to its privacy settings.

That hasn’t assuaged concerns over Facebook’s privacy practices. Bank executives are worried about the breadth of information being sought, even if it means their bank might not being available on certain platforms their customers use. Bank customers would need to opt-in to the proposed Facebook services, the company said in a statement Monday.

JPMorgan isn’t “sharing our customers’ off-platform transaction data with these platforms, and have had to say no to some things as a result,” spokeswoman Trish Wexler said.

Banks view mobile commerce as one of their biggest opportunities but are still running behind technology firms such as PayPal Holdings Inc. PYPL 0.62% and Square Inc. Customers have moved slowly, too; many Americans still prefer using credit or debit cards, along with cash and checks.

In an effort to compete with PayPal’s Venmo, a group of large banks last year connected their smartphone apps to money-transfer network Zelle. Results are mixed so far: While usage has risen, many banks still aren’t on the platform.

In recent years, Facebook has tried to transform Messenger into a hub for customer service and commerce, in keeping with a broader trend among mobile messaging services.

A partnership with American Express Co. AXP 1.04% allows Facebook users to contact the card company’s representatives. Last year, Facebook struck a deal with PayPal that allows users of that payment service to send money through Messenger. And Mastercard Inc. MA 0.54% cardholders can place online orders with certain merchants through Messenger using the card company’s Masterpass digital wallet. (A Mastercard spokesman said Facebook doesn’t see the card users’ information.)

South Africans love loyalty programmes

By Stephen Cranston for Financial Mail

According to research firm AC Nielsen, SA has the highest penetration of loyalty programmes anywhere, with almost two-thirds of the population belonging to more than one programme.

There are two broad categories of reward programmes in financial services. One is rewards for doing business, which would apply to all the bank programmes.

FNB’s eBucks has been the most successful of these (the eBuck itself was an online currency long before anyone had thought of bitcoin). The other bank programmes — Nedbank’s Greenbacks, Absa’s Rewards and Standard Bank’s UCount — have similar methodologies to eBucks.

Then there are the wellness programmes, which were pioneered in SA. Discovery Vitality is dominant in this sector, with Momentum Multiply in a respectable second place. They both encourage fitness, particularly through discounted gym membership.

Johan Moolman, head of eBucks, says the programme has paid out more than R10bn in its 18-year history.

Customers can spend these rewards on regular purchases such as groceries, fuel and airtime, or they can save them for Christmas gifts or travel,

To stay competitive the number of points needed to move to a higher level has reduced. The ability to accrue eBucks at level 5 is quite substantial, with a 3% accrual on credit card payments, 0.25% on cheque cards, and 15% discounts at Shoprite/Checkers, Gautrain and Uber, the airtime provider FNB Connect and even on FNB Life Cover.

Absa Rewards differs from eBucks in that it pays cash rather than a phantom currency. Head of Absa Rewards Sonja Fourie says Absa’s experience shows that it drives engagement. “Many loyalty programmes are engineered with an overriding goal to drive deals with partners. We need a shift so that programmes are engineered to drive value for the customer and provide the customer with a choice of where to use the rewards.”

Fayelizabeth Foster, the executive head of loyalty and rewards at Standard Bank, disagrees. She was one of the founders of Absa Rewards, but when she was hired to start Standard’s UCount programme five years ago she took a different approach.

“Just giving cash which then gets swallowed up by the monthly bills isn’t the best way to build up loyalty. It is better when a rewards programme gives you something specific that is important to you.”

This could mean a bucket-list holiday, or for example the opportunity to participate in crowd-funding for students.

Nedbank Greenbacks has been successful at encouraging its clients to use their points to buy unit trusts.

It enhances the value of Greenbacks by more than 20% for those who choose to buy unit trusts instead of goods.

The bank programmes do not have the paternalistic approach of Vitality which, for example, only gives discounts at Woolworths and Pick n Pay when it comes to paying for healthy foods.

Foster says UCount is more concerned about helping its clients through the month and pays back up to 20% of the shopping baskets at Pick n Pay and Woolworths. It includes nonfood items such as shampoo and washing powder.

It even has KFC as a partner as it believes that a monthly family treat is valuable for many of its clients.

Unlike its main competitors, UCount points expire after five years. Foster believes this boosts engagement as it forces customers to make an active choice about what to do with their rewards, as they don’t accumulate indefinitely.

Setting up these programmes is complex, time-consuming and expensive and it does not work for everyone.

In March 2017 Liberty cancelled its Own Your Life rewards programme. It was no longer considered to be aligned to Liberty’s strategic direction, with its focus on nice-to-haves such as car hire, accommodation and flight bookings.

Old Mutual has been conspicuous by its absence from rewards programmes, but Jean Minnaar, GM for customer solutions, says the new Old Mutual Rewards programme is being rolled out to staff. It is designed to encourage good financial habits: taking control of finances and working towards financial goals. It will be available even to people who do not own an Old Mutual product though, of course, the group plans to build up enough goodwill to win them over.

In contrast, its rival, Sanlam Reality, encourages people to take out as many products as possible from the life office and its strategic partners, such as Santam and Bonitas medical aid. Ultimately, these programmes would not be worthwhile if they did not add new business.

By Linda Ensor for TimesLive

Treasury estimates that the total debt that could fall under the debt extinguishment proposals made in the National Credit Amendment Bill proposed by Parliament’s trade and industry committee could range between R13.2bn and R20.7bn.

Banks and retailers would be the most heavily affected by the proposed scrapping of debt‚ Treasury said in a presentation to Parliament’s trade and industry committee on Tuesday during public hearings on the proposals.

The committee has proposed amendments to the National Credit Act‚ which include writing off the debt of those earning below R7‚500 month and who fall within the threshold of realisable assets.

According to research by consultancy firm Eighty20‚ about 56% of the credit active market of about 18-million has an income of R7‚500 a month or less.

“Based on the income estimates approximately 9-million borrowers could potentially meet the eligibility criteria for debt intervention as per the draft bill‚” the organisation said in a presentation to the committee.

“In total borrowers that could qualify for debt review hold over 16-million loans. 29% of these loans (4‚7-million) are three months or more in arrears belonging to borrowers who could qualify for debt intervention. The total outstanding balance on these loans is around R20‚7bn.”

The Black Sash said in its presentation that the debt relief proposals would provide much-needed assistance to social grant beneficiaries who are prey to loan sharks.

The Black Sash has been at the forefront of exposing the vulnerability of social grant beneficiaries to unlawful deductions and the predations of loan sharks. The organisation welcomed the R7‚500 income threshold as this would cover many social grant recipients.

Black Sash national advocacy manager Hoodah Abrahams-Fayker noted that the Easypay bank account – a joint operation between Grindrod Bank and Net1 subsidiary Moneyline – had fuelled indebtedness “as many loan sharks use this card to provide loans often with no affordability tests‚ no proper avenues of recourse‚ no administrative justice and no debt counselling.

“Grant beneficiaries are trapped in a vicious cycle using debt to pay for food and basic living needs. Overindebtedness is a social and economic challenge with far-reaching consequences for vulnerable social grant recipients (who) can become easy prey for moneylenders as they are receiving a guaranteed monthly income from the state.”

Treasury noted in its presentation that there were currently gaps in the protection of the overly indebted. For example‚ there were weaknesses in the insolvency framework as sequestration did not work for those with no income and no assets. The debt review system only worked for those earning more than R7‚500 per month.

Treasury proposed that the debt review system be improved for those with some income. This could be completed “relatively quickly”. However‚ a mechanism was needed for those with no income. A revision of the Insolvency Act was under way but could take some time to finalise.

The Department of Justice and Constitutional Development also made technical suggestions to improve the proposed National Credit Amendment Bill.

Reserve Bank fines two banks R77.5m

By Sibongile Khumalo for News24

The South African Reserve Bank in 2017 imposed a total of R77.5-million in administrative fines to China Construction Bank and VBS Mutual Bank for failure to comply with the Financial Intelligence Centre Act.

The Bank Supervision Department annual report released on Tuesday indicated that the banks were penalised for “not identifying and verifying their customers’ details, not keeping records of customer identification, inadequate controls and working methods pertaining to the reporting of suspicions transactions”.

The heaviest fine of R75m was given to the Johannesburg branch of China Construction Bank Corporation – R20m was suspended for a period of three years.

The Venda-based VBS bank, which made headlines in 2016 when it granted former president Jacob Zuma a R7.9m loan for his Nkandla home, was fined R2.5m, of which R2m was suspended for a year.

The Reserve Bank last year placed VBS under curatorship, as details of its financial management came to light.

The report stated that the decision to impose the sanctions was not based on any evidence that the banks had “facilitated transactions relating to money laundering and/or the financing of terrorism”.

Illegal schemes

It revealed that its assessment of financial institutions showed that banks still needed to strengthen their controls when it comes to compliance with the FIC Act.

Compliance with Pillar 3 disclosure system, which require banks to publish easily accessible information that reflects their financial conditions, performance, risk exposure and corporate governance policies and policies was also a key area of focus.

During the 2017 period, a total of 28 illegal deposit-taking schemes were under review, 21 of them were carried over from the previous years, while 7 were new investigations. There are currently 19 schemes still under investigation, slightly higher than the 21 cases in 2016.

The bank said the regulation of schemes was done to ensure “the safety and integrity of the banking system and to protect the general public”.

Market uncertainty

According to the report, macroeconomic conditions continue to be unsupportive of meaningful and robust growth in credit extension, as appetite for household credit also remains sluggish.

Credit extension to the corporate sector grew modestly.

“Although household debt metrics continue to show signs of improvement, household debt remains persistently high.”

The report also noted that market uncertainty was seen throughout the year, both at global and domestic level.

The rand weakened over the period by 1.3%, and bonds also weakened with the depreciation of the currency.

Black Friday has evolved into so much more than just finding the best discount. It has also become a clever way to earn points and rewards from your bank and loyalty programmes, with several leading lenders taking part in the retail phenomenon this year.

Dr Christoph Nieuwoudt, CEO of FNB Consumer says that e-commerce is likely to get a boost around Black Friday and Cyber Monday as some consumers will be looking to avoid the long queues associated with such shopping sprees.

“Any savvy shopper can cash-in on the specials without spending time in queues and traffic, trying to move from one destination to another. While e-Commerce is still in its infancy in South Africa compared to global standards, both the consumer and retail sectors are warming up to the use of technology to deliver and acquire goods and service.

“From placing a food delivery order, buying clothing, booking a taxi ride or renewing your license disc, it’s all being integrated into the virtual world and available at your fingertips.”

Dr Nieuwoudt said, broadly, the use of online shopping is a trend that has been gradually gaining momentum locally, pointing to the growing number of customers who are using the bank’s digital platforms to purchase goods and services.

“We expect the use of technology, especially for day to day services, to increase significantly over the next few years, partly because consumers are starting to realise that it’s both inevitable and a much better way to do a lot of things,” he said.

And while digital transactions may be on the rise, Geoff Lee, Absa head of card, noted that approximately 65% of all transactions in South Africa are still done in cash, which he warned was dangerous and inconvenient.

“The perks of plastic are fast eclipsing those of hard cash, particularly when you take into account the loyalty programme benefits that also come with card purchasing,” added Lee. “So the reasons for adopting this behaviour are simple and logical: it’s faster when you Tap-and-Pay, it’s safer than carrying cash, you earn rewards when you swipe, and you can easily track your spend.”

BusinessTech looks at what some of the major banking groups will be offering on Black Friday 2017.

Absa

To help customers save and start using cards more, the bank said it has partnered with a number of leading retailers to bring customers registered for Absa Rewards ‘even better’ specials this Black Friday, 24 November 2017.

Absa’s one-day-only Black Friday specials include:

Every customer that opens a Dynamic Fixed Deposit account and keeps it running for 12 months will earn up to 8.20% when the account is opened at any Absa Branch, or through your Private Banker.

You won’t pay commission when you buy your Forex from any Absa branch on Black Friday.
Absa Rewards members will enjoy as much as 7% cash back when you swipe your Absa card at any Tiger Wheel & Tyre for transactions greater than R4 286.

Instead of earning up to 15%, you will earn as much as 30% in Cash Rewards when paying with your Absa card at hi-stores, which are owned by The Foschini Group and offer a comprehensive portfolio of 18 retail brands that cover clothing, footwear, jewellery, sportswear, mobile phones and technology products, and home stores.

Relax at select Mangwanani African Spas on Black Friday and pay R599 for a half day spa which includes three treatments and a meal. Bookings must be made and paid for by card on 24 November 2017; the deal will be applicable for Tuesday and Friday bookings until 24 December 2017.

Get 1% cash back when you purchase a 2017 Toyota RAV 4 and get 7 years / 150 000 km Service Plan and an eight-year Unlimited mileage warranty. Or get R15 000 deposit assistance from McCarthy.co.za when you buy a 2017 Polo Vivo Trendline 1.4 and still earn 1% cash back.
Get as much as 50% off on back-to-school bundles, IT hardware, stationery and more when you use your Absa card for online purchases made on Bidvest Walton’s website, www.waltons.co.za. You will also receive your normal benefit of 3.5% in Cash Rewards.

Standard Bank

With Standard Bank, customers will be able to collect double UCount Rewards Points when swiping their Standard Bank Credit Card at the group’s Rewards Retailers this Black Friday.

The bank will also run special offers through its business banking unit, which will be announced on Black Friday.

FNB

FNB, through its rewards programme, eBucks, will offer Black Friday deals with an 80% discount on its products for members.

The company told MyBroadband that Black Friday fits in well with a bigger campaign it is currently part of – Tap Into Summer with FNB & eBucks.

The Tap Into Summer campaign started on 1 November and offers FNB customers and eBucks members good deals from the eBucks Shop.

“In addition, during this campaign eBucks Shop offers great deals daily which are valid for one day,” it said.

On Black Friday, a discount of 80% will apply on its products – including electronics, appliances, gaming, and consumables.

The eBucks Shop will also offer free delivery on selected products during this period.

Source: Business Tech

EFF calls for the nationalisation of our banks

If Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) leader Julius Malema has his way, a “Banks Ownership Act” would be passed by Parliament, ensuring the State nationalise commercial banks in South Africa without compensation.

Introducing a debate on the issue in the National Assembly on Tuesday, Malema said: “There are no banks in South Africa that have meaningful ownership by black people”.

Malema said his party’s manifesto appreciates other forms of ownership are not excluded — including ownership by private individuals, the State and pension funds.

No single investor will own more than ten percent, he said.

“Our view is that the State ownership should be prioritised but should not completely close out other forms of ownership,” the fiery EFF leader said.

“This model of combined ownership, anchored by the State, makes sure banks are democratised…”

The ruling African National Congress (ANC) rejected Malema’s proposal.

ANC Member of Parliament (MP) Adrian Williams said banks would not just surrender their money.

“They are going to force this government to pay back the money,” Williams said.

“South Africa does not exist in a vacuum. When it comes to international finance we are just a cog in the capitalist wheel.”

He cited various examples where the State took over the ownership of banks and failed.

Williams said government would also assume the liabilities and debt, which would have an impact on the fiscus, and would result in poor South Africans and not the rich suffering.

The Banking Association of South Africa (BASA) also responded, saying the National Assembly entertaining the debate was “alarming”.

“Any nationalisation of banks will have a direct impact on stability, and will seriously undermine what fragile levels of confidence remain in our economy and society,” BASA said in a statement.

“We cannot allow ourselves to be in a position where we are further undermining the competitive positions that remain because of political expedience.”

BASA called on Treasury to provide certainty about its policy position regarding banks.

By Chantall Presence for IOL 

UK financial watchdogs are to probe HSBC and Standard Chartered for possible links to the Guptas‚ while the FBI has launched an investigation in the US‚ the Financial Times reported.

Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond said he had passed concerns raised by Peter Hain on to the Financial Conduct Authority‚ the Serious Fraud Office and the National Crime Agency.

Hain has not accused the banks of wrongdoing‚ but has asked that evidence from whistle-blowers and other sources be investigated.

In the US‚ investigators have in recent months started probing individuals‚ bank accounts‚ and companies in the US for ties to alleged graft involving the family‚ people familiar with the matter told the FT.

The US probe has focused in part on US citizens Ashish and Amol Gupta.

Source: Times Live

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