NAB trialling IBM blockchain technology

From Investor Daily.

National Australia Bank is one of a number of global banks that are trialling a cross-border payments solution powered by IBM Blockchain.

IBM has rolled out a new blockchain banking solution designed to reduce settlement times for cross-border payments.

NAB is the only Australian bank involved in the trial so far, along with institutions from Argentina, Indonesia, Thailand and the Philippines, among others.

According to a statement by IBM, the solution uses a blockchain distributed ledger to allow all parties to have access and insight into clearing and settlement of payments.

“It is designed to augment financial flows worldwide, for all payment types and values, and allows financial institutions to choose the settlement network of their choice for the exchange of central bank-issued digital assets,” said the statement.

The IBM solution, which has been created in collaboration with open source blockchain network Stellar.org and KlickEx Group, is already processing live transactions in 12 currency “corridors” across the Pacific islands and Australia, said IBM.

“For example, in the future, the new IBM network could make it possible for a farmer in Samoa to enter into a trade contract with a buyer in Indonesia.

“The blockchain would be used to record the terms of the contract, manage trade documentation, allow the farmer to put up collateral, obtain letters of credit, and finalise transaction terms with immediate payment, conducting global trade with transparency and relative ease.”

The solutions is run from IBM’s open source Blockchain Platform on Hyperledger Fabric.

NAB expects prices to slow in 2018-19, but not a severe adjustment.

The latest NAB Residential Property Index is out, and it rose 6 points to +20 in Q3, with sentiment (based on current prices and rents) improving in all states except NSW (which edged down). Sentiment rose sharply in Victoria (up 27 to +63) and in Queensland (up 4 to +16). Whilst sentiment rises and confidence lifts among property experts in Q3, NAB expects prices to slow in 2018-19, but not a severe adjustment.

Australian housing market sentiment lifted over the third quarter of 2017, supported mainly by a large increase in the number of property experts reporting positive rental growth in the quarter and continued house price growth in most states.

“The NAB Residential Property Survey shows an improvement in market sentiment across most states last quarter, but we continue to see market conditions that vary across different locations. The momentum is clearly with Victoria, while NSW is experiencing something of a slowdown,” NAB Chief Economist Alan Oster said.

Confidence (based on forward expectations for prices and rents) lifted in all states, led by Victoria, and with WA the big improver. Despite weakening price growth in NSW, higher confidence is being supported by predictions for higher rents.

First home buyers continue emerging as key buyers in both new and established housing markets, accounting for over 36% of all sales in new housing markets and around 29% in established markets.

During Q3, the overall market share of foreign buyers in new property markets fell to a 5-year low of 9.5%, potentially due to lending restrictions on foreign buyers. Low foreign buying activity in new property markets was led by Victoria, where the share of sales to foreign buyers fell to 14.4% (20.8% in Q2).

For the first time, tight credit was identified as the biggest constraint on new developments in all states, while access to credit was the biggest barrier for buyers of established property. Price levels were the biggest concern in both Victoria and NSW. In WA and SA/NT, property experts said that employment security was the biggest barrier to buying an established home.

They also highlighted lower foreign buying activity in new property markets, with VIC saw the share fall to 14.4% (from 20.8% in Q2) and NSW down to 7.8% from 12% in Q2. In contrast, QLD saw a rise to 11.4%, up from 8.6% last quarter.

NAB’s forecasts on residential prices

NAB Group Economics has revised its national house price forecasts, predicting an increase of 3.4% in 2018 (previously 4.3%) and easing to 2.5% in 2019. Unit prices are forecast to rise 0.5% in 2018 (-0.3% previously), with a modest fall expected in 2019.

“More moderate market conditions reflect a combination of factors which vary across markets, including deteriorating affordability, rising supply of apartments, tighter credit conditions and rising interest rates in the second half of 2018” said Mr Oster.

“But still relatively low mortgage rates, a favourable housing supply-demand balance and strong population growth population growth should continue to provide support for prices going forward.”

“By capital city, house price growth is forecast to be moderate outside of Perth – where prices are flattening out – consistent with good business conditions and better employment growth.”

“Melbourne and Hobart are currently experiencing solid growth in prices; Sydney is cooling and we expect Brisbane and Adelaide will cool. Finally, we expect 2018 to mark the beginning of a gradual turnaround for Perth.”
About 300 property professionals participated in the Q3 2017 survey.

NAB announces start to Comprehensive Credit Reporting

NAB has announced it will commence its roll out of Comprehensive Credit Reporting in February 2018. Read our earlier post “Comprehensive Credit Reporting, Friend or Foe?”

Comprehensive Credit Reporting will provide a more complete picture of a customer’s situation, and mean that lenders like NAB are better able to match the provision of credit to a customer’s individual needs.

“Most Australians have a credit report, and with Comprehensive Credit Reporting, these reports will represent a more balanced reflection of their credit history,” NAB Chief Operating Officer, Antony Cahill, said.

“NAB has championed Comprehensive Credit Reporting from the start because we believe it’s the right thing to do for customers.”

“Comprehensive Credit Reporting will help ensure customers get the right product and credit that’s suitable for their needs, and it will drive more competition in the industry,” Mr Cahill said.

Currently, an Australian’s credit report contains only ‘negative’ information such as payment defaults, credit enquiries, bankruptcies, and court orders and judgements. Under Comprehensive Credit Reporting, positive credit information will be added – including accounts that have been opened, credit limits on those accounts, and details of monthly payments made.

“By having a more complete picture, we can have better discussions with customers and make the right products and credit limits available to them,” Mr Cahill said.

NAB is phasing its roll out of Comprehensive Credit Reporting, commencing with personal loans, credit cards and overdrafts, to ensure it is a smooth transition for customers.

“A number of smaller players have already started participating in Comprehensive Credit Reporting, and we look forward to seeing it roll out across the industry,” Mr Cahill said.

Comprehensive Credit Reporting has been supported by the Federal Government, and will bring Australia in line with many other countries including New Zealand, the USA, and the United Kingdom.

NAB’s now using Google Assistant to answer customer questions

From Business Insider.

The next time you have a question for the NAB, the chances are Google might giving you the answer as part of a voice-based automation program.

The “Talk to NAB” pilot is an local first for banking, enlisting Google Assistant on smartphones and the recently launched Google Home to answer general banking questions, ranging from replacing lost cars or resetting passwords.

NAB’s executive general manager of digital and innovation, Jonathan Davey, said the vast majority of customer contacts are now through digital platforms and the bank is experimenting with virtual assistants on a range of fronts, including a virtual banker chatbot for business customers, and a Facebook chatbot pilot.

“We know they want more self-service capability and they want to be able to solve basic questions in a channel that suits them and when it’s convenient for them,” Davey said.

“This is very much a first step for us in the voice-based smart assistance space; we will continue to develop our capability with the Google Assistant over time so it can answer more questions and perform more tasks for NAB customers”.

The Talk to NAB program is now live and available to NAB customers who have Google home or a smartphone with assistant.

NAB Joins the ATM Fee Cuts

NAB has today announced it will remove ATM withdrawal fees for everyone using any of its NAB ATMs around the country.

Already, NAB customers using NAB ATMs incur no cash withdrawal fee.

“We’re pleased to now extend this so that all Australians, regardless of whether they bank with NAB or not, can use any of our ATMs and not be charged a cash withdrawal fee,” NAB Chief Customer Officer of Consumer Banking and Wealth, Andrew Hagger, said.

“This is a good outcome for customers. We know it has been frustrating for them to be charged to withdraw their own money from an ATM, and the change we are announcing today will benefit millions of Australians.

“At NAB, we’re proud of our track record of making banking fairer over many years, and we will always look at how we can improve the experience and services we provide customers.”

Since 2009, NAB has led the industry by removing many of the fees and charges that annoy customers the most, and NAB remains the only major bank to have a transaction account with no monthly account service fee, saving customers around $5 every month.

“NAB’s commitment is to back our customers by continuing to listen to them, and respond to their concerns and needs so we can be a better bank,” Mr Hagger said.

Genworth Gets NAB’s LMI Contract Extended

In a release to the ASX, Genworth, the listed Lenders Mortgage Insurer said that its contract with NAB to provide LMI had been extended for one year to 20th November 2018.

The contract represented 10% of Gross Written Premium in 2016.

Ms Georgette Nicholas, Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director of Genworth, said, “We look forward to continuing to build on our long-standing partnership with NAB under this extended agreement. We are focused on delivering risk and capital management solutions for our customers and we’re delighted that we have been able to continue to be the LMI provider for NAB’s broker business.

“Genworth remains committed to supporting Australians realise their dream of homeownership. Our focus continues to be on the provision of capital and risk management solutions to our lender customers, being a strong risk management partner and using our data and analytics to provide in sights to this changing market.”

The extended contract does not change the guidance provided that Gross Written Premium (GWP) will be down 10 to 15 per cent in 2017.

NAB Launches Virtual Banker For Business Customers

NAB says it is the first bank in Australia to launch a digital virtual banker specifically for business customers, enabling them to receive instant answers and assistance with common banking questions and tasks.

NAB’s virtual banker is in pilot and available 24/7 on nab.com.au, providing help with more than 200 common questions related to the servicing of business banking accounts.

NAB Chief Operating Officer Antony Cahill said the development of the virtual banker continued NAB’s commitment to providing leading solutions that make life easier for customers.

“Our research shows that two thirds of Australian SMEs cite dealing with administrative tasks as taking a lot of effort, and our customers desperately want to spend more time on their business and less time on dealing with admin tasks.

“’We’re working hard to make banking an easy and supportive experience for our customers and technology like this helps save business customers critical time. When they have a question about their banking, our virtual banker is there to help solve it 24 hours a day, seven days a week; it’s a simple and seamless on-the-go experience.

“We will continue to develop the virtual banker over coming months, enabling an even broader and more diverse range of instant answers and guidance for business customers.”

The virtual assistant’s artificial intelligence is derived from thousands of real-life customer enquiries. There are more than 13,000 variants of the 200 questions the virtual banker can answer; if the question can’t be answered, the customer will then be directed to a human banker.

Customers were involved in the testing and development phase, with more than 75 per cent saying a virtual banking was a highly desirable offering that would help them with their banking needs.

Part of NAB’s delivery of new customer self-assistance also includes walk-through tutorial videos for NAB Connect users. The short step-by-step videos help customers understand how they can use and take advantage of the platform’s wide capabilities, with tutorials that help with common tasks like ‘adding users’ or ‘setting up reoccurring payments’.

The initiatives are just two examples of the many that have been developed by NAB’s Customer Journey teams, who are reimagining specific customer experiences.

“We currently have a number of different streams of work underway with almost 1000 employees across various areas of the bank – from bankers, to product specialists, marketing experts and technologists – working together on these projects and delivering at pace,” Mr Cahill said.

Hear from NAB’s EGM Business Transformation Anne Bennett talking NAB’s new Virtual Banker

Half Of Pre-Retirees Risk Significant Shortfalls

Almost half of Australians between the ages of 50 and 70 are at risk of falling short of a comfortable retirement, according to new research released by MLC.

The research explored the thoughts and habits of the “forgotten” low super balance Boomers, and revealed nearly half (43 per cent) of those surveyed admitted to having a superannuation balance of less than $100,000.

Additionally, 33 per cent of this age group reported having $50,000 or less in their super account, falling extremely short of what is recommended a single retiree needs for a comfortable retirement (over $545,000).

Lara Bourguignon, General Manager of Customer Experience, Superannuation at MLC, believes that all Australians should enjoy retirement – regardless of their financial situation.

“Australia has a high level of poverty among retirees, and we believe that super is one of the greatest tools we have to change this.”

“While these results are concerning, we want to remind people in this age group that it’s not too late for them to take action and better understand their holistic wealth position as they prepare for retirement.”

Ms Bourguignon said there are a number of steps Australians can take to maximise their super balance in their final years of work, and to structure their portfolios to make the most of what they do have when they’re in retirement.

“For example, we know some of the people in this age group have other assets such as property in their name beyond super, which is an important factor for them to consider when planning for retirement.”

“If they don’t have other assets, engaging with their super fund may prove to be a cost effective way for them to access advice in lieu of seeing a financial adviser,” Ms Bourguignon said.

Of those with a retirement saving of under $100,000, the research also revealed 42 per cent only became concerned about the balance of their retirement savings in their 50s, while over 30 per cent admitted they never checked their super balance.

“Sticking your head in the sand will often lead to unnecessary stress”.

NAB 2017 Third Quarter Trading Update

NAB gave their June 17 quarter update today.  There were no surprises, with an unaudited statutory net profit of $1.6 billion and unaudited cash earnings of $1.7 billion, up 2% versus March 2017 Half Year quarterly average and 5% versus prior corresponding period.

Andrew Thorburn, Group CEO said:

The major bank levy became effective from 1 July 2017 and is estimated to cost NAB approximately $375 million annually, or $265 million post tax, based on our 30 June 2017 liabilities.

Separately, in July, the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA) announced a CET1 ratio target of at least 10.5% by January 2020 for major banks to be viewed as ‘unquestionably strong’, with finalisation of international capital reforms not expected to require any further increases to Australian requirements. NAB expects to meet APRA’s new capital requirements in an orderly fashion given the existing capital position and the timelines involved.

Revenue was up 2%, with growth in lending and improved Group net interest margin (NIM) partly offset by lower Markets and Treasury income. They reported a higher Group NIM largely reflects loan repricing and more favourable funding conditions. Expenses were up 2%, or 1% excluding redundancies, due to increased investment spend.

The biggest impact was a reduction in the bad debt charges. Bad and doubtful debt charges (B&DDs) fell 12% to $173 million, reflecting improved asset quality trends and non-repeat of the collective provision overlay for commercial real estate raised in the March 2017 Half Year.

The ratio of 90+ days past due (DPD) and gross impaired assets (GIAs) to gross loans and advances (GLAs) of 0.80% declined 5 basis points (bps) from March 2017 mainly reflecting improved conditions for New Zealand dairy customers.

The Group Common Equity Tier 1 (CET1) ratio of 9.7%, compared to 10.1% at March 2017 mainly reflecting the impact of the interim 2017 dividend declaration and 17 bps for higher risk weights due to previously advised mortgage model changes.

The Leverage ratio was 5.3% (APRA basis), the Liquidity coverage ratio (LCR) quarterly average was 127% and the Net Stable Funding Ratio (NSFR) was 108%.

For this full year they remain confident of achieving more than $200 million in productivity savings and, excluding the impact of the bank levy, expect to deliver positive ‘jaws’.

 

 

 

Industry ‘needs to make adjustments’ to commissions: NAB

From The Adviser.

As the latest organisation to reveal the details of its submission to Treasury regarding ASIC’s proposals for broker remuneration, Anthony Waldron, executive general manager of NAB broker partnerships, said that the bank largely agreed with all six proposals, which could “improve the trust and confidence that consumers can have in brokers”.

Mr Waldron said: “Like ASIC, we want to strengthen the positive contribution that brokers provide. We see opportunity to lead by example and grow trust if we take it on ourselves to improve and to embrace change within our industry for consumers. This is because any strong industry needs to earn, retain and continue to build the trust of its consumers. Trust is the most valuable commodity.”

He continued: “We don’t believe that the current standard commission model has resulted in poor consumer outcomes, but we believe it is essential to manage not only actual conflicts but also the potential for perceived conflicts of interest.

“ASIC suggests lenders should not ‘structure their incentives in a way that encourages larger loans that initially have larger offset balances’. We believe the industry needs to make adjustments to the standard commission model by paying up front commissions based on the drawn down amount, not the total facility amount, and by paying up front commission net of offset balances.”

Reiterating that NAB has “never paid any sort of volume bonuses on mortgages” as it recognises that this could create a conflict of interest, Mr Waldron suggested that “the time for such payments has passed”.

Touching on soft dollar benefits, Mr Waldron said that these could be “managed transparently through gifts and conflicts of interest registers”, but suggested that the ongoing education and professional development of brokers was “essential” and that the industry should “continue to focus on this, ensuring it’s conducted in line with community expectations”.

Public reporting regime should be ‘cautious’ in comparing data

Acknowledging that NAB is in a “unique position in the broker market, operating as both a lender, provider of white label lending and having ownership of three of Australia’s leading aggregator groups — PLAN Australia, Choice and FAST”, Mr Waldron said that the bank knew that it needs to “build a more robust industry model, not just to reduce the perception of conflict of interest but for end-to-end governance”.

He elaborated: “We know we need to increase transparency to protect the interests of customers and brokers, and we’re mindful that today’s actions will be judged by tomorrow’s standards. We have already improved disclosure of our ownership of aggregators: PLAN Australia, Choice and FAST.”

However, he suggested that ASIC’s proposal for a new public reporting regime should be “cautious” in comparing some data, such as price, as there “are many factors that impact price and simple comparisons are difficult to make”.

A reporting regime would therefore “require the support of the industry to be successfully and consistently implemented”.

“Our industry needs to come together to get this right,” he said.

Lastly, Mr Waldron said that improving the oversight of brokers by lenders and aggregators will also require industry consultation and would require a “clear delineation between the requirements of brokers, aggregators and lenders to avoid duplication and overlap”.

NAB reportedly believes that the two important areas of any oversight model should cover responsible lending, and the reporting of ACL’s and brokers in the market regardless of licensing agreements.

“If we are focused on good customer outcomes, proving responsible lending guidelines have been followed will be even more important, both at the time of establishing a loan and when ongoing service is provided,” the executive said. “And any governance regime should also consider how lenders and aggregators will report cases of alleged misconduct of mortgage brokers to ASIC.”

In conclusion, Mr Waldron said: “Our industry has an opportunity to lead by example. We need to manage conflicts of interest, pursue self-regulation, proactively manage perceptions and demonstrate how we will continue to improve for the end benefit of customers. This will require consultation and discussion for us as an industry, with brokers, aggregators, Treasury, regulators and other industry participants to work out how this can best be put into practice.”

Noting that it has been “great to see the industry already come together” to form the mortgage industry forum, Mr Waldron went on to thank brokers for their support.

“Our priority is to continue to back [brokers] in delivering the best customer experience by moving forward with the times.

“We have a real opportunity to chart our own course for the interests of consumers and the progress of our industry.”