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Debate over blockchain technology is raging in many online and offline media at present. In principle, the technology constitutes a decentralised ledger system that can be coordinated via peer-to-peer (P2P) networks. Any ownership or security issues arising in connection with the decentralised transactions conducted across the ledger system are handled by P2P mechanisms as well, i.e. also without a central node. Ownership status is established via the digital exchange of cryptographic keys (public vs private), while fraudulent transactions can largely be ruled out with the help of the cryptographic 'proof of work' system. Using a proof of work, blockchain technology enables the rapid, inexpensive transfer of assets and financial products between individuals who neither know nor trust one another, without a compelling need for an intermediary to reduce existing information asymmetries.
Euro area money market funds have returned to growth, according to the latest ECB data. By March 2015, they managed EUR 1,032 bn in assets, up by EUR 120 bn from a year earlier. A similar surge in assets was last seen before the financial crisis, which marked the beginning of a prolonged decline.
Amazingly, the upward trend in assets occurred while money market yields hit record lows, especially for the euro. So what is really behind MMF asset growth?
The digital strategies currently unveiled by traditional banks do not go far enough and often deliver only fragmented silo solutions. With each division “doing its own thing” and adopting the silo principle that stifles innovation, many (digital) financial innovations are primarily experienced at the client front-end and are also warmly welcomed. However, the banks will not achieve resounding success using such methods.
European banks had a successful start into 2015. Business activity improved, asset quality did so as well and profitability rose again, as the rebalancing of the industry made further progress. The ECB’s new large-scale market interventions helped strengthen sentiment in financial markets, and contributed to the continuing decline in the euro exchange rate – which on balance may have been beneficial for banks.
The time is ripe for established banks to transform themselves into digital platform-based ecosystems. With their current digital strategies the banks will not achieve the resounding success that will enable them to hold their own in the medium to long term. Not only certain business models, distribution and communication channels, products, services and processes, but especially the ways data are handled need to be rethought and redesigned. Implementing a fundamental reform attuned to the digital age will provide the opportunity for traditional banks to learn and adopt the strengths and particularly the monetarisation strategies (walled gardens) of the successful digital ecosystems.
Core revenues are getting better, loan losses are falling substantially and capital ratios have climbed to sustainable levels – European banks seem to have turned the corner in 2014, finally. Profits have more than doubled, asset growth has also resumed and banks have regained a bit of risk appetite. The outlook for 2015 is thus brighter than in most of the past few years. The still-elevated expenditure levels remain a significant drag on performance, though.
With more and more OTC derivative contracts shifting towards central clearing, the existing risk management and collateralisation practices are changing tremendously. Consequently, market participants’ attention has turned towards the determinants of central clearing. Our empirical analysis reveals that liquidity is the most important precondition for the central clearing of CDSs. By contrast, higher volatility reduces the likelihood of derivatives being centrally cleared. CCPs also seem to prefer reference entities with relatively robust financial characteristics.
Money market funds are important financial players in Europe and the US, offering investors capital preservation and daily liquidity on the one hand, while providing short-term funding in money markets on the other. However, the European and US markets differ in their structures and economic functions: In Europe, where the market is split into two distinct segments, MMFs’ balance sheets reflect to a large degree intermediation within the financial sector and a strong investment focus on bank debt. In the US, by contrast, a homogeneous set of industry standards exists and MMFs’ business is geared more towards direct intermediation between non-financial sectors.
SMEs' access to finance problem constitutes a considerable impediment to the recovery in many European countries, therefore prompting calls for policy action. Among the options to spur bank lending to SMEs, covered bonds backed by SME loans are currently discussed as a potential remedy. Despite SME-covered bonds offering lucrative features for investors and issuers alike, there are significant constraints that may limit their potential to revitalise bank lending to SMEs for the time being.