View from the Top
Moving away from strict lockdowns has opened the door for debates about how to interpret changing government orders – from the courts in America to tussles between the trade unions and ministers in Britain – the devil is, as always, in the details.
The vast majority of states in America are moving in the right direction, with COVID-19 rates of infection coming down, but there are outliers in the South. This Axios chart lays things out on a simple two-variable axis.
As for government responses, the House of Representatives passed a $3 trillion response bill that seems unlikely to move through the other parts of government. Londoners got more sobering news when a transit bailout included the first fare hikes in four years. Eastern European countries are hoping their coronavirus recessions will be comparatively mild.
Looking ahead, China's main annual political event, the National People's Congress (NPC), kicks off on Friday following a two-month delay.
This week: Join the head of Cognito’s APAC region, Darrell Wright, together with Sid Kapur, APAC’s Digital Director, for a CogCast virtual discussion on what it means to engage with the media in the region. They will provide guidance on how to navigate the subtleties of executing communications and digital strategies across more than 29 countries and dozens of major cities. The discussion is meant for audiences outside the region. This Wednesday, May 20 at 11 a.m. ET/ 4 p.m. GMT. Register here.
Banking and capital markets
Bank of America jumped into the emerging $65 billion Covid-bond market last week with a $1 billion issuance “to fund lending to hospitals, nursing facilities and healthcare manufacturers.” This is reflective of a larger rebalancing of debt markets to more social-oriented investments, including green and social bonds.
Big news out of Hong Kong today as reforms to the Hang Seng Index were approved to allow China’s tech giants to join the benchmark in the biggest reforms since 2006, as reported by the South China Morning Post’s Enoch Yiu.
This is a fascinating and quite detailed look at how the websites of the UK’s five main banks provided information to customers online during the outbreak. In sum, tiny text is confusing and the right choice of image is critical.
The Financial Times wrote a lengthy overview of how banks around the world are preparing for “the great return to the office.”
Firmer numbers on how much value the crisis wiped off privately held firms is beginning to emerge. Monzo raised money at a valuation 40 percent below its last round, wiping nearly a billion pounds off the balance sheets of current investors. This rather provocative opinion piece argues that European firms avoiding large numbers of layoffs is a bad thing, as it could stifle necessary change.
Singapore’s Monetary Authority announced another S$6 million grant scheme to support local fintech firms, in addition to the S$125 million support package announced in April.
We promised to be on the bleeding-edge of Covid-related news in our digest, but this Medium post from May 7 offers a definitive look at the cyclical and structural changes impacting fintechs and financial institution incumbents.
Private equity valuations are, in short, a mess.
This Bloomberg piece argues that investors may increasingly turn to under-valued European markets to find values as American markets remain relatively pricey. In an attempt to tamp down on inaccurate or imprecise word usage, the ICMA clarified the definition of a series of terms involved in sustainable terminology.
As an example, sustainable finance is defined as “incorporating climate, green and social finance while also adding wider considerations concerning the longer-term economic sustainability of the organizations that are being funded, as well as the role and stability of the overall financial system in which they operate.”
Lloyd's of London estimated that it will pay out around $3-4.3bn in Covid-19-related losses this year, and that this number could rise if global lockdowns continue into the next quarter.
British regulators stepped in to clarify how much flexibility insurance companies need to offer policyholders during the pandemic. Insurers should proactive reassess the ‘risk profile’ of customers and offer cheaper cover if possible. The FCA also requested small and medium businesses who have been unable to make claims to reach out for additional assistance.
The Philadelphia Inquirer continues to track the many cases of small business v. insurance companies in Pennsylvania as last week also saw the state’s Supreme Court deny an appeal to fast-track one case.
Twitter rolled out tweet scheduling – a core feature of social media management tools – to select users directly on the platform. Facebook announced a $52 million settlement for content moderators exposed to traumatic material. Each moderator will receive a minimum of $1,000 and will be eligible for additional compensation if diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder or related conditions. LinkedIn is adding a new 'Smart Links' option, which will provide more insight into who's viewed posted updates, for how long, and when.
Our vice chairman Andrew Marshall is reading The Economist each week to track how many stories mention the pandemic in different ways. This week marks the first time in two months that non-Covid related stories are the absolutely highest numbers (although the majority of pieces still are pegged to Covid in one way or another).
More from Cognito
Weekly Podcast Recommendation: Fintech Insider
A bi-weekly podcast from 11:FS dedicated to fintech, banking, technology and financial services. Hosted by a rotation of 11:FS experts including David Brear, Simon Taylor, etc, Fintech Insider touches on digital banking, APIs, AI. Their latest episode discusses the impact of coronavirus on US SMB financing.