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Home » Daily Briefing » Daily briefing - 21 March 2019

Daily briefing - 21 March 2019

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IBM's new Blockchain World Wire

In the heady days of 2018, Wirecard reached a valuation of $21.3 billion, smashing past Deutsche Bank. By September it had replaced Commerzbank in Germany's DAX Index. By March 2019, Deutsche and Commerzbank were in merger talks and Wirecard had shed a third of that market value. German regulators have behaved appallingly in the matter, taking the side of plucky Wirecard against the beastly FT, which this morning suggests that Wirecard COO Jan Marsalek had oversight of the transactions in question. "The transfers in March 2018 were routed from the payment group's Munich bank to a company in Singapore as part of what whistleblowers allege was a fraudulent accounting scheme," writes the FT. "The documents indicate that Jan Marsalek, Wirecard's chief operating officer, was aware of the transactions, which were delayed in February 2018 while German and Singaporean executives awaited key information from him."

"What if messaging, clearing and settlement could be done together, in one solution?" asks IBM, as it launches its Blockchain World Wire, intended to offer an alternative to the SWIFT system, and to fend off new challenges from Visa (via Earthport) and Mastercard (via Transfast). Banks joining the system can use a stablecoin, central bank currency or other digital asset to transact. Interesting. IBM's video appears to suggest that the network will deliver bitcoin alongside dollars, rubles and yuan. Can someone explain though why multi-billion dollar companies such as IBM launch billion-dollar projects using the same tinkly beat that comes free with animation software and pollutes every event from Money2020 to the Web Summit? When is the musical future going to arrive?

Grab or GoJek? That's the battle for the hearts and wallets of Southeast Asia's 600 million strong population, pitting Singapore-based Grab against Indonesia's GoJek as both aim to be the Southeast Asian superapp or superwallet — the equivalent of WeChat Pay in China. After doing battle with Uber (ie both companies losing vast amounts of money), Uber took a share in Grab and exited the market, and now Grab is laying out its stall to include micro-loans and insurance. "Grab acquired Uber's Southeast Asia business in 2018 and it has spent the past year or so pushing a 'super app' strategy," notes TechCrunch. "That's essentially an effort to become a daily app for Southeast Asia and, beyond rides, it entails food delivery, payments and other services on demand. Financial services are also a significant chunk of that focus, and now Grab is switching on loans and micro-insurance for the first time." Grab will use its recent investment of $1.5 billion by Softbank's Vision Fund to pursue opportunities with underbanked SMEs, which may find this a great service.

New UK bank OakNorth has announced a profit of £33.9 million for 2018. In a statement, the bank announced it is committing to "donating 1% of all future net profit to charitable causes and social entrepreneurship". In 2017, OakNorth surprised observers by turning a profit of £10.6 million on lending of £850 million which increased to £2.2 billion in 2018. "OakNorth has now lent over £3bn since its launch in September 2015 without a single default to date, helping to create 10,000 new homes and 13,000 new jobs across the UK," said the bank.

Keep calm and carry on? The British stiff upper lip is quavering furiously now, and European officials who publicly lament Britain's exit from the EU are privately thrilled to see the back of the UK, which has now declared itself in crisis. On practical matters, the Bank of England has ordered UK banks to triple their holdings of triple-A bonds. According to the FT, the Bank of England has asked some lenders to "triple holdings of top-rated securities which can easily be sold at short notice," in the event of a chaotic British departure from the European Union. "Sales of public sector issued securities are up 55 percent year-to-date, according to data from Dealogic, with British banks under instructions to up their buffers of easy-to-sell assets to weather any post-Brexit crises," reports Reuters. With only eight days to go until the current exit date of 29 March, expect demand to ramp up more.

N26 hires UK country manager

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