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More people warm up to checkless accounts; FDIC chair upbeat on US bank health

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More people warm up to checkless accounts; FDIC chair upbeat on US bank health

Checkless bank accounts, originally designed for low-income customers, are getting more popular among a broader base of consumers, The Wall Street Journal reports. These accounts offer ATM access, debit cards and mobile banking for small fees and minimum deposit requirements, but do not include paper checks or overdraft protection. These accounts are gaining popularity among young people, who do not use checks, and cost-conscious customers, who want to avoid incurring overdraft fees, according to the report. Twenty-five banks currently offer affordable checkless accounts and another 25 banks and credit unions are working to get certified to offer these accounts, the Journal writes.

The recent volatility in the equities and futures markets does not pose as a threat to U.S. banks since they are "superbly well capitalized" at the moment, according to Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. Chair Jelena McWilliams. In an interview with Reuters, McWilliams said banking regulators have also undertaken a review of the so-called CAMELS regulatory rating system, used to assess the financial health of banks, to determine if the rating was being consistently applied.

San Antonio-based USAA Federal Savings Bank will pay $12 million in restitution and $3.5 million in fines to settle the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau's charges that it violated the Electronic Fund Transfer Act and Regulation E. The CFPB found that the bank failed to honor consumers' stop-payment requests on preauthorized electronic fund transfer and that it reopened deposit accounts previously closed by customers without prior permission or notice.

Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas President Robert Kaplan says the central bank should hold off from further raising interest rates as uncertainties over global growth, weakness in interest-sensitive industries and economically sensitive industries, and tighter financial conditions continue to persist. In a television interview with Bloomberg News' Michael McKee, Kaplan also said the central bank should be open-minded about adjusting its balance-sheet runoff if need be. Kaplan is a nonvoting member of the Federal Open Market Committee in 2019 but will vote in 2020.

In deal news, Texas-based home loan servicer Mr. Cooper Group Inc. agreed to acquire International Business Machines Corp.'s Seterus mortgage servicing platform in a deal that includes the acquisition of servicing rights underlying $24 billion in government sponsored enterprise mortgages, and a subservicing contract for an additional $24 billion in mortgages.

Wealth management firm Mercer Advisors Inc. acquired Dragon Financial Group, a San Mateo, Calif.-based registered investment advisory firm. The transaction adds Dragon's more than $110 million of assets under management to Genstar Capital Management LLC-backed Mercer, which already manages nearly $14 billion in client assets.

Payments company Square Inc. appointed Amrita Ahuja CFO to succeed Sarah Friar, who announced in October 2018 that she was leaving to become the CEO of Nextdoor.com Inc., a private social network platform for neighborhoods. The news of Friar's departure had sent Square's stock down close to 20% before recovering slightly. Ahuja is currently the CFO of Activision Blizzard Inc. unit Blizzard Entertainment, Inc.

And Wells Fargo & Co., Bank of America Corp. and Citigroup Inc. are among major banks offering assistance to help clients affected by the ongoing partial U.S. government shutdown, CNBC reports. Wells Fargo is considering the reversal of overdraft fees for impacted federal employees, while BofA's relief plan may include fee waivers, loan modifications and more, according to the report. The shutdown started Dec. 22, 2018, and, as a result, nearly 800,000 federal workers are required to work without pay or be furloughed.

In other parts of the world

Asia-Pacific: Goldman Sachs veteran to head SoftBank investment unit; AMMB sells NPLs

Europe: Italy may clear Banca Carige bad loans; ex-Credit Suisse bankers arrested

Middle East & Africa: Leumi mulls listing US banking unit; KCB to double home loans by 2020-end

Now featured on S&P Global Market Intelligence

The year without a bank failure: Regulators did not close a single U.S. bank in 2018, marking the first year without a failure in more than a decade.

The day ahead

Early morning futures indicators pointed to a higher opening for the U.S. market.

In Asia, the Hang Seng rose 2.24% to 25,626.03, while the Nikkei 225 was down 2.26% to 19,561.96.

In Europe around midday, the FTSE 100 increased 1.40% to 6,786.47, and the Euronext 100 was up 1.25% to 908.69.

On the macro front

The U.S. Services Purchasing Managers' Index, the employment situation report, the Energy Information Administration's natural gas and petroleum status reports, and the Baker-Hughes Rig Count are due out today.

Click here to read about today's financial markets, setting out the factors driving stocks, bonds and currencies around the world ahead of the New York open.

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