Unemployment nears 2 million

13 02 2009


According to the figures released by the BBA (British Bankers Association), deposits in the high street banks fell by £2.3 billion in January alone.

One of the reasons for this is that people who have lost their jobs are having to use their savings to supplement the loss of their income. Even those who are still employed, but have been forced to reduce their working hours or accept a pay cut, have to withdraw from their savings to meet the shortfall. Those who bought houses when the prices were at their peak are having to use their savings to bridge the gap when their mortgage nears renewal. Many are also dipping into their savings to pay off their credit card bills from Christmas and other unsecured loans.

Also, with the base rate at 1% most high street banks are offering almost no significant rewards to savers for their money. There is almost no incentive for people to save. So, those with savings are looking for alternative forms of investment, something that will at least give them a rate of return above or at least matching the inflation rate. 

A typical banking model is banks borrowing money from savers in the form of deposits and lending that money out to borrowers in the form of mortgages, loans, credit cards, overdraft, etc. The bank charges the borrower a fee, in the form of interest, for the sum of money that is lent out. The bank gives the depositor a reward, in the form of interest, for allowing it to use its money. The fee that the bank charges the borrower is slightly higher than the rate which it pays out to its depositor, and the difference is pocketed by the bank.

Banks are still finding it difficult to borrow from the money markets. And even if they can, its going to be really expensive, which means that the extra cost would have to be passed on to the borrower. So, if deposits are decreasing and savers are withdrawing more money, banks have very little to fall back on. Also, savers have, to a great extent, lost faith with the banks. They will no doubt feel that their hard earned cash is being used to pay bonuses and reward failure.

It seems like banks will have to go a long way in winning the trust of the consumer and offer more than the paltry rewards to attract their savings. Without the deposits, they’ll find it really hard to fund the lending. Unless, of course, the name of the bank is Northern Rock which has access to the pockets of the taxpayers. Northern Rock was nationalised and was lent some £28bn by the Government last year. It payed back most of it, around £18bn, by forcing its existing customers to move to other providers. This week it pledged that it would offer new mortgages which will be worth around £14bn over the next two years. It most certainly wont be anywhere near the 100% it used to offer.     

The overall sentiment seems to be that if bankers want their customers’ money, they will have to work really hard to get it, because the customers would rather spend it on themselves than paying the bankers to spend it for them.
Business Easy

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£37bn Bank Bailout

14 10 2008

The UK Government announced on Monday (13 Oct) that it was going to lend £37bn to three of UK’s biggest banks with the aim of “unfreezing” the frozen credit market. The Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) will receive the biggest cash injection worth £20bn. The Government will buy £5bn worth of preference shares and another £15bn worth of ordinary shares in RBS if they are not bought by ordinary investors, which will give it a healthy 60% share of the business. HBOS and Lloyds TSB will jointly receive £17bn in return for which the Government will receive approximately 43.5% of the merged business. Preference shares, as the name suggests, are given preference when it comes to paying dividends. This means that the Government will be paid the dividends, if there are any, before they are paid to the ordinary shareholders. It also means that the Government will have a say in the operations of the banks.

Although this announcement would have lead to a sigh of relief for some since the banks will get the cash injection they desperately need and give them stability, many investors are worried that the purchase of a huge number of shares by the Government will lead to a dilution of shares of the existing shareholders. Dilution basically means that since the total amount of shares of the banks will increase, this will mean that the existing shareholder’s ownership of the company in terms of percentage will decrease.

There has been support and opposition to the bailout plan proposed by the UK and American Governments. Many people are angry that taxpayers’ money is being used to pay for the mistakes of a few irresponsible bankers especially since most of the bankers got bonuses and left the general public to clear up the mess. However, the bailout is a necessary evil. This is because the credit crunch ultimately affects all of us. If banks are reluctant to lend to each other, it means that banks cannot lend to the general public, which means that the general public cannot spend this money which affects local businesses, this leads to a loss of jobs and goes on and on like a downward spiral. There have been reports recently that many small businesses have seen their overdraft facility severely reduced of even cancelled in certain cases. This has affected their cash flow. Businesses that were sound a month ago are finding it hard even to pay their staff.

The Economist (http://economist.co.uk/) described the lack of credit in an interesting manner by comparing it to air. We always take the air we breathe for granted because it is readily available. When we start drowning, we suddenly realise the true value of air because the lack of air hurts. Similarly, when credit is flowing, everything runs smoothly. However, the lack of credit leads to a lot of problems. The bailout plan is not a silver bullet that will solve all the current problems, but it remains to be seen what effects, if any, it will have in the near future.

The BBC website has an interesting article about past bailout plans and whether they worked. Have bailouts worked? http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/business/7648330.stm

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