Finance

The other day, a business in New York mailed a dollar cheque to me across the Atlantic. It was a pretty thing – multicoloured, with an anti-fraud foil hologram – and I admired it for a while before putting it into another envelope and posting it back to a friend in New York to walk up the block and deposit. After a round trip of 7,000 miles, it reached my account three weeks late.

Andrew Hill

The FCA: not to blame for social media caution (Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg)

Some British banks have a long way to go with social media. At a conference on Wednesday morning, one institution admitted its tweets were vetted by no fewer than eight different departments before they were sent.

The financial sector’s attitude to social media regulation seems to be a mix of fear and loathing. On a show of hands, only a couple of delegates at the Social Media Leadership Forum, where I was a speaker, revealed they were not scared about using social media, even though most believe it is a great opportunity. In part, this is because companies are waiting for guidance from the Financial Conduct Authority, first promised for early 2014, that the FCA says is now due later this summer. Even after this extended wait, the proposals will be subject to consultation before they are finalised. Meanwhile, other sectors’ social media strategies are evolving at web-speed. Read more

While waiting in a big Manhattan hospital about 15 years ago, I glimpsed the chairman of one of the world’s biggest banks in a consulting room. I never found out why he was there. If he was ill, his employer never said and the man is now enjoying a long and apparently healthy retirement.

John Gapper

Given that financial crises are caused by herd-like behaviour by banks, it is hard to know whether to be encouraged or dismayed by the latest mass shift – away from investment banking and toward retail and commercial banking.

The Bank for International Settlements annual report, published today, finds that one-third of banks that entered the financial crisis in 2007 as wholesale-funded or trading institutions switched to retail banking by 2012 (19 out of the 54 in its sample). Read more

John Gapper

The New York attorney-general’s complaint against Barclays over the way it ran its dark pool seems to contain clear evidence of institutional investors being misled about the amount of “toxic liquidity” provided by high-frequency traders.

More broadly, however, it raises the question of how the original purpose of dark pools – to allow institutions to make block trades away from public markets where they would move the price – was subverted by investment banks. Read more

John Gapper

No-one emerges well from the legal battle between Goldman Sachs and Deeb Salem, its former mortgage trader who claims that his $8.25m bonus for 2010 amounted to severe underpayment. It is no wonder that Goldman tried to seal the documents in what it calls an “utterly ridiculous” case.

The problem for Goldman and other Wall Street firms is that they have encouraged that sense of entitlement among employees – one that strikes almost everyone outside Wall Street as delusional. Mr Salem’s claim is merely an extreme example of a much wider problem.

 Read more

Presumably, although he denies it, Brady Dougan considered resigning as chief executive of Credit Suisse this week when it became the first global financial institution since Crédit Lyonnais in 2003 to plead guilty to criminal felony in the US. In any case, he stayed.

The recent history of Britain’s Co-operative Group is so peculiar it is tempting to paraphrase the opening lines of Anna Karenina – “Happy companies are all alike and every unhappy company is unhappy in its own way” – and dismiss it as a management aberration.