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Friday's headlines, Financials edition

A New Era For Blockbuster Bank M&A

2018 US Property Casualty Insurance Market Report

Opinion: Look Outside the US for Insurance Blockchain Projects

Street Talk Podcast

Street Talk Episode 23 - As More Banks Reach for Yield, Advisers Urge Caution


Friday's headlines, Financials edition

External links to theheadlines below are available on SNL.com and SNL Mobile, although some mayrequire a subscription.

ADBto give $8b loan over five yearsTheFinancial Express
Thai,Chinese firms join for WeChat PayTheNation
Malaysia'sCIMB Bank gets license for Vietnam subsidiary: Vietnam central bank –Reuters

GREATER CHINA

Overseasassets at China's big five banks close to 10 trillion yuan, but they are stillplaying catch upSouth ChinaMorning Post
Yuansteadies ahead of its entry into SDRShanghaiDaily
CiticBank International to bulk up Asia unit as rivals pull backFinancial Times
GoldmanSachs' job cuts show investment banking has become a low margin businessSouth China Morning Post

JAPAN AND KOREA

Japaneseasset managers ratchet up scrutiny of board nomineesThe Nikkei
Will BOKconsider negative interest rates?TheKorea Herald
Bank lendingrates on household loans decline in August – Yonhap News Agency

ASEAN

ASEANneeds closer integration and higher productivity: EconomistsThe Nikkei
Thailandto get 'Samsung Pay' service this yearThe Nation
Indonesiac. bank expects forex reserves to rise to $151.5b by end-2017 – Reuters
Shareholdersapprove Temasek buyout of Singapore rail operator – Reuters
Vietnam'seconomy remains outperformer as GDP climbs 6.4% – Bloomberg News
Banksconsider lending rate cutsViet NamNews

SOUTH ASIA

PSBscan't be run like driverless cars: RBIBusiness Standard
P2Pfirms in talks with NPCI for better integration with UPIMint
RBIasks banks to revisit documentation for agri loansBusiness Standard
Educationloans top list of complaints received by banking ombudsman – Press Trust ofIndia
OrientalBank of Commerce to raise Rs 500 crore via bonds – Press Trust of India
UjjivanFinancial Services to reduce borrowing costs by 0.75% from 1 OctoberMint

AUSTRALIA AND NEWZEALAND

APRAyields to banks, tweaks new funding rulesThe Australian
CommonwealthBank rolls back term deposit ratesTheAustralian
Brokersreject pre-trade data leak claim by LiquidnetThe Australian
Ex-DeutscheBank trader banned from industry – American Association of Publishers

The Daily Dose Asia-Pacific"Headlines" edition aggregates banking, financial services andinsurance headlines from the websites of a limited number of major Asian andAustralian publication titles and newswires, with an editorial deadline of 6a.m. Hong Kong time. Language translations to English are provided by anautomated service and may not be entirely accurate.



A New Era For Blockbuster Bank M&A

Feb. 08 2019 — The days of large bank acquirers pursuing deals to plant a flag in a new market might be receding as more buyers see transactions as a way to support much needed investments in technology.

In the latest Street Talk podcast, we discuss how BB&T Corp. touted that prospect when announcing its merger with SunTrust Banks Inc. and talk about the implications for future big-ticket transactions.

BB&T said the deal, one of the largest in U.S. banking history, will create a premier financial institution fueled by increased capacity to invest in innovation and talent. That stands in stark contrast to other blockbuster deals announced before the financial crisis, when buyers sought to create financial supermarkets or extend their footprints to new markets.

The size of BB&T's landmark transaction might have caught some members of the investment community off guard since Chairman and CEO Kelly King suggested the company was focused on organic growth and internal initiatives to drive costs lower. Still, while the merger of equals, the largest in BB&T's history, might have come as a surprise, it is part of a small group of large deals that received applause from the Street. The projected tangible book value accretion certainly played a role, but King also emphasized that the expansion would allow BB&T to achieve its previously stated goal of investing in technology to meet growing client demands.

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"We'll transform platforms to drive out cost, that's important, supporting a more technologically enabled business. And we will gain incremental efficiencies through automation by enabling faster, smarter and more secure way of doing business," King said on a call to discuss the deal.

Investment bankers have suggested others could follow BB&T's move and use cost savings from transactions to upgrade technological offerings. Some advisers even predicted an increase in larger deals before the BB&T/SunTrust transaction surfaced, arguing that regional banks needed to play catch up with the nation's largest institutions and upgrade technology and digital channels to keep their clients happy.

For his part, King emphasized that the world has changed considerably, even in just the last 12 months. King echoed comments made during BB&T's investor day in November 2018, when the company rolled out a new initiative, dubbed "Disrupt or Die," focused on improving efficiency while investing in delivery platforms.

"We talked about disrupt to thrive. And this is it, this is kind of the ultimate disrupt to thrive," King said on the SunTrust call.

That theme has recently become more common in larger bank deals. Chemical Financial Corp. and TCF Financial Corp., for instance, highlighted the opportunity to invest in technology as a combined franchise when discussing their $3.55 billion MOE announced a few weeks ago. The companies said the deal would allow them to invest and innovate more efficiently, enhance customer-facing digital service offerings and streamline internal systems and processes.

WSFS Financial Corp. offered a similar assessment when announcing plans to buy Beneficial Bancorp Inc. for $1.5 billion in August 2018. While WSFS took heat for the price paid on the deal, the buyer outlined plans to use some expected cost savings to invest in digital channels and shrink its branch network considerably.

"This combination allows us to economically address the question in every bank's boardroom," WSFS Chairman Mark Turner said on the call. "That is, how and when are we going to adjust to the new realities of banking delivery to meet the changing customer behavior and their needs."

The Street seems to think it makes sense to spend on technology to play offense. Jeff Davis, managing director at Mercer Capital and a S&P Global Market Intelligence contributor, said in a recent blog post that scale might be required to protect existing returns in the face of improving technology. He said the Amazon effect could apply to deposit pricing as "informed depositors with mobile technology" could force increased competition. Davis said the same thing occurred in the asset management business, where cost-conscious investors utilized widely available information and easy-to-use technology to upend the industry's pricing model.

BB&T seems to recognize the threat of fintech and other technology providers creeping into its space. As King noted on the conference call to discuss the SunTrust merger, he wants to get ahead of that sea change and lead rather than follow.

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Insurance
2018 US Property Casualty Insurance Market Report

Highlights

S&P Global Market Intelligence’s 2018 US Property & Casualty Insurance Market Report offers a five-year outlook for the P&C sector, which should return to underwriting profitability for the first time since 2015.

Oct. 26 2018 — The federal tax reform President Donald Trump signed into law in December 2017 should help provide for an extended period of P&C industry profitability in 2018 and beyond as companies benefit from the lower corporate tax rate, but the impact is not limited to after-tax profitability. Actions by several prominent European-headquartered insurers to change the way certain of their U.S. business is reinsured materially impacted premium growth rates in the first quarter of 2018 and are likely to affect full-year results.

1 quarter does not a trend make

Historically strong results for the State Farm group in the first quarter
helped drive favorable comparisons in several key measures of underwriting profitability. To the extent the improvement continues for State Farm — the industry’s largest group based on direct premiums written — it could provide an additional tailwind for 2018 and beyond.

While there is a risk of recency bias in reading too much into a single quarter’s worth of data, the industry was already positioned for improved underwriting results in 2018. The second half of 2017 saw elevated catastrophe losses as the United States was hit by three landfall-making hurricanes and an unusual spate of fourth-quarter wildfires in California. Projected results for 2018 and subsequent years, all of which show combined ratios of less than 2017’s total of 103.5%, assume a normal catastrophe load.

Auto repairs in progress

Competition will remain intense in certain non-auto business lines given ample reinsurance capacity, high levels of industry capitalization and a macroeconomic environment that remains characterized by relatively slow growth in gross domestic product. Though modestly higher business volume driven by that economic expansion will help offset downward pressure on premiums, the industry will be challenged to achieve profitable top-line growth.

Trends in litigation will increasingly weigh on underwriting results in several business lines, including professional lines and the Florida homeowners business. They also could lead to greater demand for coverage, particularly for new and emerging risks.

The macro view

A rising federal funds rate and 10-year Treasury yields that have reached seven-year highs bode well for an industry that has long been suffering from low interest rates. And the relief cannot come quickly enough after the industry’s net yield on invested assets slipped to a new low of only 3.03% in 2017. Though projected results provide for increasing yields from that floor, the improvement will still take place gradually and is unlikely in and of itself to materially impact how companies are underwriting business

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The projections reflect various assumptions regarding premiums, losses and expenses. They are a product of a sum-of-the-parts analysis of individual business lines that is informed by third-party macroeconomic forecasts, historical trends and recent market observations that include first-quarter 2017 statutory results and anecdotal commentary about market conditions. Projected results are displayed on a total-filed basis and are not intended for application to individual states, regions or companies. S&P Global Market Intelligence reserves the right to update the projections at any time for any reason.

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U.S. Insurance Market Report – Property & Casualty (June 2017)

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Fintech
Opinion: Look Outside the US for Insurance Blockchain Projects

Aug. 28 2018 — Despite a wealth of conceptual applications for blockchain, U.S. insurers do not appear as engaged with the technology as their counterparts overseas. But if initiatives in Europe and Asia prove successful, U.S. insurers may plunge more deeply into the blockchain waters.

There is no shortage of thought experiments around how blockchain — and distributed ledger technology more broadly — will revolutionize the insurance industry. These include smart contracts, fraud detection, claims prevention, proof of insurance and product authentication. Insurers overseas have made significant progress with blockchain technology, including a consumer application for flight delay insurance and a commercial platform for marine insurance. But activity on the part of U.S. insurers is less apparent.

Conference calls provide a useful barometer for a company's interest in blockchain, as they indicate that executives are thinking about it. When startups try to introduce new technology, one of the common hurdles they cite is a lack of commitment from those with decision-making power at incumbent institutions.

When we published research in April on how U.S. financial services companies are using blockchain, we found roughly 40 transcripts since the start of 2015 from publicly traded U.S. banks that mentioned "blockchain," versus only three from insurance underwriters. Publicly traded banks greatly outnumber insurers in the U.S. But insurers also lagged broker/dealers and asset managers in terms of transcripts, and those sectors each have fewer publicly traded companies than insurance. For this piece, we expanded our transcript analysis to include global insurers, which offered a wealth of information. Many more European insurers discussed their projects than companies in other regions, despite there being about half as many publicly traded insurers in Europe as in the U.S. and Canada region.

One project that caught our attention in the European market was Axa's Fizzy. The flight insurance product uses smart contracts written to the Ethereum blockchain and automatically pays a claim if a passenger's flight is delayed more than two hours. Axa launched Fizzy in September 2017 and at the time offered coverage for only a few routes a day. As of mid-June 2018, Axa had expanded the app to 5% of worldwide routes. But merely the fact that it launched is noteworthy, as many projects from other companies, both in and outside the insurance realm, remain in proof-of-concept mode.

Ping is king

While European insurers collectively discussed blockchain on the most number of conference calls, Chinese insurer Ping An Insurance (Group) Co. of China Ltd. took the top spot in our ranking of individual insurers.

Ping An considers blockchain one of its five core technologies, as executives mentioned during an investor day in November 2017; the others are biometrics, big data, artificial intelligence and cloud computing. One of its main initiatives was the creation of a blockchain-as-a-service platform, which provides services to small and medium-sized enterprises that want access to the latest technology.

Come together

While they might not be as forthcoming about their internal projects, a number of U.S. insurers have discussed their membership in consortium initiatives. One of these is The Institutes RiskBlock Alliance, or RiskBlock for short, which works with underwriters and brokers to develop blockchain applications specifically for the insurance industry. Europe is also home to a consortium that has been generating buzz: Zurich-based B3i. Short for Blockchain Insurance Industry Initiative, B3i began as an industry collaboration but in March announced that it was becoming an actual legal entity, incorporating itself as B3i Services AG.

The bottom line

While it is possible that U.S. insurers are more secretive about their blockchain plans than other industries, they are more likely taking a wait-and-see approach. The fact that insurers in other areas of the world are experimenting with the technology and even launching apps supports this assessment.

Right now seems like a make-or-break moment for distributed ledger technology, as projects across multiple industries are going from proof-of-concept to live implementations. Perhaps if those bear fruit it will compel U.S. insurers to further embrace the technology.

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Listen: Street Talk Episode 23 - As More Banks Reach for Yield, Advisers Urge Caution

More banks are reaching further out the yield curve in their loan portfolios to meet customer demands but, increasingly, advisers believe institutions need to proceed with caution. In the episode, experts from PIMCO, Sandler O’Neill, Chatham Financial and PrecisionLender discuss rate risk and how banks focused on funding will ultimately prove the winners.

Street Talk is a podcast hosted by S&P Global Market Intelligence.

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