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.
Visualizing the Importance of Trust to the Banking Industry
In the digital age, the issue of trust is emerging as the game-changing factor in how consumers choose financial services brands.
Visualizing the Importance of Trust to the Banking Industry
In the digital age, money is becoming less tangible.
Not only is carrying physical cash more of a rarity, but we are now able to even make contactless payments for many of the products and services we use on the fly.
Our financial transactions are starting to be analyzed and optimized by artificial intelligence. Meanwhile, investments and bills are paid online, and even checks can now be deposited through our phones. Who has the time to visit a physical bank these days, anyways?
Trust in the Digital Age
The migration of financial services to the cloud is increasing access to banking solutions, while breaking down barriers of entry to the industry. It’s also creating opportunities for new service offerings that can leverage technology, data, and scale.
However, as today’s infographic from Raconteur shows, this digital migration has a crucial side effect: trust in financial services has emerged as a dominant driver of consumer activity.
This likely boils down to a couple major factors:
Financial services are becoming less grounded in physical experiences (using cash, visiting a branch, personal relationships, etc.)
- Personal Data
Consumers are rightfully concerned about how personal data gets treated in the digital age
Further, the above factors are compounded by memories of the 2008 Financial Crisis. These events not only damaged institutional reputations, but they elevated trust to become a key concern and selling point for consumers.
Trust, by the Numbers
In general, trust in banks has been slowly on the rise since hitting a low point in 2011 and 2012.
At the same time, consumers are consistently ranking trust as a more important factor in their decision of where to bank. To the modern consumer, trust even outweighs price.
Top Five Factors for Choosing a Bank:
- Ease and convenience of service (47%)
- Trust with the brand (45%)
- Price/rate (43%)
- Service resolution quality and timeliness (43%)
- Wide network coverage of ATMs (40%)
It’s important to recognize here that all five of the above factors rank quite closely in percentage terms. That said, while they are all crucial elements to a service offering, trust may be the most abstract one to try and tackle for companies in the space.
With this in mind, how can financial services leverage tech to increase the amount of trust that consumers have in them?
Tech Factors That Would Increase Consumer Trust:
- Reliable fraud protection (36%)
- Technology solves my problems (13%)
- Useful mobile application (9%)
Better fraud protection capability stands out as one major trust-builder, while designing technology that is useful and effective is another key area to consider.
Visualizing the Future of Banking Talent
Banking talent is undergoing a fundamental shift. This infographic explores how banks are adapting to rapid automation and digitization in the industry.
Visualizing the Future of Banking Talent
View the full-size version of the infographic by clicking here
Many organizations say that their greatest asset is their people. In fact, Richard Branson has famously stated that employees come first at Virgin, ranking ahead of customers and shareholders. So, how do businesses effectively manage this talent to drive success?
This question is top of mind for many bank CEOs. As processes become increasingly automated and digitized, the composition of banking talent is changing – and banks will need to become adept at hitting a moving target.
Six Ways Banks are Becoming Talent-First
Today’s infographic comes from McKinsey & Company, and it explores six ways banks are becoming talent-first organizations:
1. They understand future talent requirements.
43% of all bank working hours can be automated with current technologies.
Consequently, talent requirements are shifting from basic cognitive skills to socio-emotional and technological skills. Banks will need to analyze where they have long-term gaps and develop a plan to close them.
2. They identify critical roles and manage talent accordingly.
It is estimated that just 50 key roles drive 80% of bank business value. Banks will need to identify these roles based on data rather than traditional hierarchy. In fact, 90% of critical talent is missed when organizations only focus at the top.
Then, banks must match the best performers to these roles and actively manage their development.
3. They adopt an agile business model.
Banks will need to shift from a hierarchical structure to an agile one, where leadership enables networks of teams to achieve their missions. As opportunities come and go, teams are reallocated accordingly.
This flexible structure has many potential benefits, including fewer product defects, lower costs, shorter time-to-market, increases in customer satisfaction, and a bump in employee engagement.
4. They use data to make people decisions.
Instead of making decisions based on subjective biases or customary practices, banks will need to rely on the power of data to:
For example, company data can be used to develop a heatmap of the roles with the highest attrition rates. Leaders can then focus their retention efforts accordingly.
5. They focus on inclusion and diversity.
Gender and ethnicity diversification leads to higher financial performance, better decision making, higher employee satisfaction, and an enhanced company image.
Industry-leading banks will set measurable diversity goals, and re-evaluate all processes to expose unconscious biases. For example, one organization saw 15% more women pass resume screening when they automated the process.
6. They ensure the board is focused on talent.
Only 5% of corporate directors believe they are effective at developing talent.
To be successful, boards will need to recognize Human Resources (HR) as a strategic partner rather than as a primarily transactional function. The CEO, CFO, and CHRO (Chief Human Resources Officer) form a group of three that makes major decisions on human and financial capital allocation.
CEOs worldwide see human capital as a top challenge, and yet they rank HR as only the eighth or ninth most important function in a business. Clearly, this is a disconnect that needs to be addressed. To keep up with rapid change, banks will need to bring HR to the forefront – or risk being left behind.
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