Currency Wars: The Maple Syrup Edition [Chart]
Loonie plunges to 6-year lows, BoC concerned about “financial stability risks”
The Chart of the Week is a weekly feature in Visual Capitalist on Fridays.
Global monetary policy these days is a fast moving stream. It’s far easier to paddle along with the current and simply hope that there are no waterfalls or sharp rocks further down the way.
That’s why two days ago, the Bank of Canada decided to cut its overnight rate for the second time in the last six months. Rates now stand at 0.5%, and the the last time they were this low was during an emergency one-year stretch at the tail end of the Great Recession.
The Canadian dollar reacted as expected. The currency had gotten thoroughly crushed in trading since the beginning of the year, and the hammering didn’t stop after the rate announcement. It accelerated, putting the Canadian dollar at six-year lows in terms of dollars and pounds. It’s now down -10.2% to the US dollar and -10.4% to the pound sterling year-to-date. Somehow the loonie even managed to lose ground (-0.72%) to the euro, which is currently in the middle of a historic crisis.
All is Fair in Love and War
Even though it is knowingly participating in an ongoing currency war, Canada doesn’t really have a reputation for being a particularly aggressive nation. Heck, Prime Minister Stephen Harper has even been compared to “Jesus” for his saintly efforts in pushing through draconian terror legislation.
So why the rate cuts and competitive devaluation? The problem is that it is a “Prisoner’s Dilemma” from a global macro perspective: when every other country is either creating money out of thin air, cutting rates, using monetary stimulus, or borrowing extra debt, it makes it extremely difficult to go against the grain. Imagine playing the board game Monopoly in which other players amend the rules so they can take money straight from the bank. If you don’t follow suit, you’re going to lose.
It’s not that countries like Canada want to be in a currency war of competitive devaluation. These rate decisions always seem like a good idea in isolation because the situation always forces the central bank’s hand. We don’t blame the Bank of Canada for the decision itself – it is simply the inevitable result of loose and ineffective monetary policy worldwide that is spiraling out of control.
The gamble of this vicious cycle has been that global growth would resume and the status quo could be pieced back together. Instead, Canada finds itself in the middle of a technical recession with two consecutive quarters of negative growth, crashing commodity prices, an iffy recovery for the United States, and the eurozone held together by a thread.
Against that backdrop, there’s only one thing to do: cut rates again!
“Financial Stability Risks”
There are some interesting side effects that bubble to the top during all of this rate-cutting business. Forget the effects worldwide – to see the results of this policy, one only needs to look domestically within Canada. Even despite the Canadian economy treading water as of late, there are two concerning metrics that have been peaking.
Firstly, the Canadian housing market is the most overvalued in the world. Even last month, it continued to set records on the back of Chinese buying, with Vancouver closing 29.1% more sales in June than the 10-year average. In Toronto, luxury market sales have sailed 56% over the first six months of the year. This is what happens when the cost of money is zero.
Second, household debt for Canadians has reached an alarming 163.3% of disposable income. Since 2007, it is estimated that only Greece has grown its household debt more than Canada. Further, a recent report by BMO says that Canadian households carry an average of $92,699 in debt, and pay $1,165 each month to service it. In the poll, respondents said that if interest rates were raised two percentage points, that 64% of them would feel “stressed” servicing their debt. One quarter of respondents would feel “very stressed” if that happened. A two percent increase at the time of the poll would have brought the benchmark interest rate to 2.75%, which is basically the lowest it ever bottomed at in the ’80s and ’90s.
Stephen Poloz, the Governor of the Bank of Canada, is aware of these concerns. “Financial stability risks remain elevated,” Governor Stephen Poloz told reporters on the day of the rate cuts. “Of particular note are the vulnerabilities associated with household debt and rising housing prices. And we must acknowledge that today’s action could exacerbate these vulnerabilities.”
Paddle away, Mr. Poloz. Let’s hope there’s no rocky spots downstream that could capsize the boat.
Where the World’s Banks Make the Most Money
Last year, the global banking industry cashed in an impressive $1.36 trillion in profits. Here’s where they made their money, and how it breaks down.
Where the World’s Banks Make the Most Money
Profits in banking have been steadily on the rise since the financial crisis.
Just last year, the global banking industry cashed in an impressive $1.36 trillion in after-tax profits — the highest total in the sector seen in the last 20 years.
What are the drivers behind revenue and profits in the financial services sector, and where do the biggest opportunities exist in the future?
Following the Money
Today’s infographic comes to us from McKinsey & Company, and it leverages proprietary insights from their Panorama database.
Using data stemming from more than 60 countries, we’ve broken down historical banking profits by region, while also visualizing key ratios that help demonstrate why specific countries are more profitable for the industry.
Finally, we’ve also looked at the particular geographic regions that may present the biggest opportunities in the future, and why they are relevant today.
Banking Profits, by Region
Before we look at what’s driving banking profits, let’s start with a breakdown of annual after-tax profits by region over time.
Banking Profit by Year and Region ($B)
|Rest of World||$196||$243||$265||$285||$309||$327||$348||$361||$387||$421|
In 2018, the United States accounted for $403 billion of after-tax profits in the banking sector — however, China sits in a very close second place, raking in $333 billion.
What’s Under the Hood?
While there’s no doubt that financial services can be profitable in almost any corner of the globe, what is less obvious is where this profit actually comes from.
The truth is that banking can vary greatly depending on location — and what drives value for banks in one country may be completely different from what drives value in another.
Let’s look at data and ratios from four very different places to get a sense of how financial services markets can vary.
|Country||RARC/GDP||Loans Penetration/GDP||Margins (RBRC/Total Loans)||Risk Cost Margin|
1. RARC / GDP (Revenues After Risk Costs / GDP)
This ratio shows compares a country’s banking revenues to overall economic production, giving a sense of how important banking is to the economy. Using this, you can see that banking is far more important to Singapore’s economy than others in the table.
2. Loans Penetration / GDP
Loans penetration can be further broken up into retail loans and wholesale loans. The difference can be immediately seen when looking at data on China and the United States:
|Country||Retail Loans||Wholesale Loans||Loan Penetration (Total)|
In America, banks make loans primarily to the retail sector. In China, there’s a higher penetration on a wholesale basis — usually loans being made to corporations or other such entities.
3. Margins (Revenues Before Risk Costs / Total Loans)
Margins made on lending is one way for bankers to gauge the potential of a market, and as you can see above, margins in the United States and China are both at (or above) the global average. Meanwhile, for comparison, Finland has margins that are closer to half of the global average.
4. Risk Cost Margin (Risk Cost / Total Loans)
Not surprisingly, China still holds higher risk cost margins than the global average. On the flipside, established markets like Singapore, Finland, and the U.S. all have risk margins below the global average.
Future Opportunities in Banking
While this data is useful at breaking down existing markets, it can also help to give us a sense of future opportunities as well.
Here are some of the geographic markets that have the potential to grow into key financial services markets in the future:
- Sub-Saharan Africa
Despite having 16x the population of South Africa, the rest of Sub-Saharan Africa still generates fewer banking profits. With lower loan penetration rates and RARC/GDP ratios, there is significant potential to be found throughout the continent.
- India and Indonesia
Compared to similar economies in Asia, both India and Indonesia present an interesting banking opportunity because of their high margins and low loan penetration rates.
While China has a high overall loan penetration rate, the retail loan category still holds much potential given the country’s population and growing middle class.
A Changing Landscape in Banking
As banks shift focus to face new market challenges, the next chapter of banking may be even more interesting than the last.
Add in the high stakes around digital transformation, aging populations, and new service opportunities, and the distance between winners and losers could lengthen even more.
Where will the money in banking be in the future?
Why Anti-Money Laundering Should Be a Top Priority for Financial Institutions
Anti-money laundering cost financial institutions about $25.3B in 2018. How can organizations improve their processes & gain a competitive advantage?
Why AML Should be a Top Priority for Financial Institutions
The to-do list for any financial executive is surely daunting. From navigating technology changes to managing talent effectively, there’s many initiatives competing for attention.
One issue that’s been in the headlines for many years is anti-money laundering (AML). When criminals are able to successfully hide the illicit origins of their cash, both the financial institution and society suffer. So, what makes AML more important now than it has been in the past?
Rising up the Priority Ladder
Today’s infographic from McKinsey & Company explains the factors which have brought anti-money laundering urgently to the forefront in recent years.
1. Regulatory Action
Enforcement actions related to AML have been on the rise. Since 2009, regulators have levied approximately $32 billion in AML-related fines globally.
2. Threat Evolution
Criminals are using more sophisticated means to remain undetected, including globally-coordinated technology, insider information, and e-commerce schemes.
3. Reputational Risk
AML incidents put a financial institution’s reputation on the line. There’s a lot at stake: today, the average value of each of the top 10 bank brands is $45B.
4. Rising Costs
Most AML activities require significant manual effort, making them inefficient and difficult to scale. In 2018, it cost U.S. financial services firms about $25.3B to manage money laundering risk.
5. Poor Customer Experience
Compliance staff must have multiple touch points with a customer to gather and verify information. Perhaps not surprisingly, one in three financial institutions have lost potential customers due to inefficient or slow onboarding processes.
It’s no wonder anti-money laundering has now become a top priority for many CEOs in the financial industry.
A Wave of Innovation
In the last five years, there has been an explosion of “RegTech” startups—companies that address regulatory requirements using technology.
Global RegTech Investments, 2014-2018
|Year||Amount Invested (USD)|
Over 60% of these are focused on solving Know Your Customer (KYC) and AML issues. What does this technology look like in practice?
A hypothetical U.S. retail firm, ABC Electronics, applies online to open an account at AML Innovators Bank. Their information is verified and screened using a fully automated process.
If they are determined to be a lower-risk client, they will be fast-tracked through the approval process with decisioning in six hours or less. For high-risk clients, decisioning occurs within about 72 hours.
ABC Electronics requests to send multiple international wire payments to various beneficiaries. Each transaction is automatically screened based on various factors:
- A same name or subsidiary transfer carries the lowest risk
- Transfers to a known, similar industry in a high-risk jurisdiction carry medium risk
- Transfers to an unknown industry in a high-risk jurisdiction carry high risk
These transaction scores, combined with algorithms that track a client’s expected vs. actual transaction behavior, will update ABC Electronics’ risk rating in real time.
As risk updates occur, ABC Electronics’ rating is integrated into AML Innovator Bank’s overall portfolio risk.
Senior risk management teams will be able to view a heat map that highlights the highest risk areas of the business.
Structural Change, Big Gains
Just as financial crimes continue to evolve, so do AML schemes.
How can organizations stay ahead of the game? They can focus on actively managing risk, deliberately investing in technology and analytics, and prioritizing areas where RegTechs will have the highest near-term impact.
By investing in AML, financial institutions create competitive advantages:
- Improved efficiency
- Superior customer experience
- Readiness to adapt to new regulations
- Reduced reputational risk
- Ability to attract top talent
With such benefits on the table, one thing is clear: Anti-money laundering efforts are more important now than they have ever been.
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