Morgan Stanley has acquired Solium, the stock plan manager. One commenter described the acquisition as a good plug-in for the existing business. Morgan Stanley is paying $900 million for the business, at a 43 percent premium to the closing price last Friday, and, in the words of one Canadian newspaper, "shrinking the field of billion dollar tech companies" in Canada. Solium Capital manages equity plans for employees and its clients include Stripe, Instacart and Spotify. The FT reports that Solium will add a million clients to Morgan Stanley's existing stock management business, which already has 1.5 million clients. "Morgan Stanley has grown into the third-biggest wealth manager in the world based on assets under management. The bank purchased Smith Barney from Citigroup in a hard fought 2012 deal that valued the wealth management unit at $13.5bn."
Patrick Akinwuntan, Ecobank's MD in Nigeria, is a keen advocate of using digital technology to drive that "last mile" for financial inclusion. Mr Akinwuntan visited the International Market in Alaba to launch an Ecobank Pay zone. "According to Akinwuntan, the bank has designated Alaba market as an EcobankPay zone, meaning that patrons of the market, Ecobank and non-Ecobank account holders, have more easy, secure and convenient ways to pay when they visit the market," reports . He added that EcobankPay's unique offering is that anyone from any bank in Nigeria can pay with MasterPass, mVISA and mCASH with any phone by scanning QR code or using USSD."
The Securities and Exchanges Commission is looking to release guidance around which securities laws will apply to cryptocurrency token sales according to SEC Commissioner Helen Pierce. During 2018, more than $7.8 billion was raised in ICO token sales, according figures compiled by icodata.io, despite the lack of legal clarity around which tokens qualified as securities. "Peirce argued that the SEC sometimes can be 'impulsive' in dealing with crypto projects and offerings. 'We owe it to investors to be careful, but we also owe it to them not to define their investment universe with our preferences,' she said." Many countries and city states looking to offer clarity around cryptocurrencies, digital assets and tokens in order to attract developers and capital. Regulatory clarity in the US would be a big step forward.
Can SME lending be automated? Absolutely, yes. Should it be? That is the real question, and the extent to which relationships drive SME business is greater than for consumer banking. The silk and cotton weavers of Tamil Nadu are famed for their textile making prowess, a tradition that has carried on for centuries and survives unbowed because of the quality of the materials and the skill of the workers. In this milieu, Bloomberg picks out an example of a smaller Indian bank that is thriving in the SME segment. ""Unlike larger lenders, City Union does more relationship-based lending, catering to the needs of the SME borrower, which can be quite volatile," analyst Pankaj Agarwal tells Bloomberg. "That's why they can charge a premium in this relatively untapped segment."
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