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Home » Daily Briefing » Daily briefing - 2 July 2019

Daily briefing - 2 July 2019

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General manager of the BIS Agustin Carstens

Agustin Carstens, the chief central banker of the central banks, spoke last weekend to the Financial Times on the question of central banks issuing digital currencies. "Many central banks are working on it; we are working on it, supporting them," Mr Carstens told the Financial Times. "And it might be that it is sooner than we think that there is a market and we need to be able to provide central bank digital currencies." Mr Carstens has been a vocal critic of bitcoin, unsurprisingly for a central banker, but Facebook's Libra coin has given him a bad fright. "The issue is how will the currency be used? Will there be discovery of information, or data that can be used in credit provision and how will data privacy be protected?" Mr Carstens said. "A very simple way to regulate this is to start with anti-money laundering rules. That is a very immediate and very obvious concern." It's not clear if the FT journalist was rolling on the floor laughing at this point, given the daily flow of revelations in the last decade that suggest money laundering is almost a business model of many European and indeed global banks.

Speaking to a Basel newspaper, Mr Carstens said he wants young people to stop being creative. "Glance back into the past and you will see that creating gold or money from nothing has been a regular obsession," he said. "It never worked. Even the great physicist Isaac Newton was at one point in his life obsessed by alchemy and the idea of making gold. He was very successful in a number of fields, but in this one he failed. Newton ended up as head of the British Mint. Why? Because he could detect at once if a coin was counterfeit. After he failed in his attempt to make gold, he switched sides and sent counterfeiters to prison. So my message to young people would be: Stop trying to create money!" Lafferty News asked some young people for comments but the answers are unprintable.

Who exactly is Agustin Carstens? Prior to his elevation to the world's central bank, Mr Carstens was installed as governor of the Bank of Mexico by Felipe Calderon. "As the core of Mexico's economy was collapsing at a frightening pace in late 2008, Secretary of the Treasury Agustín Carstens, Mexico's top economic policy maker at the time, tried to laugh it off, unforgettably terming the downturn a 'little cough'." After almost driving the Mexican economy into the ground as finance minister, Mr Carstens was then elevated to governor of the Mexican central bank in 2009. For background and context of this period, we recommend that readers watch the Netflix series Dirty Money, which focuses on HSBC's acquisition of Mexican banking assets and the alleged ties between the former president, Sinaloa state and El Chapo. It's hard to see how Mr Carstens can claim even a nugget of expertise in preventing money laundering.

UK lender and fintech business OakNorth is expanding as it starts to export its technology outside the UK, announcing a new enterprise-wide deal with Dutch bank NIBC. OakNorth's specialisation in technology for lending to small and medium businesses means it is tapping into a huge and underserved market. OakNorth chief executive Rishi Khosla said that OakNorth is engaged with ten banks at the moment and working with another ten behind the scenes. "Seizing on a growing trend for banks worldwide to invest heavily in technology, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and business analytics in a bid to cut costs and improve decision making, OakNorth has grown rapidly since the February funding round," reports Reuters. "The financial technology firm's staffing levels have nearly doubled from just below 300 in February to 520 today, Khosla said, as OakNorth hires software developers, credit experts and product designers. NIBC listed in Amsterdam in March last year and is known as a mortgage broker and lender to small and medium-sized corporate borrowers in the Netherlands, Germany, Britain and Belgium.

The former chief executive of Safaricom, Bob Collymore, has died at age 61 from cancer. "Mr Collymore led East Africa's most profitable company, which announced a 63.4 billion shilling ($617m) annual net profit in May," reports Al Jazeera. "He spearheaded Safaricom from 2010 onward, and helped grow its subscriber base from 17 million to more than 30 million, according to data from the company's recent financial statements. But Collymore may be best remembered for marshalling Safaricom through its development of mobile applications that helped millions of low-income people in Kenya and across the globe gain access to banking services for the very first time."

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