Archive for March 23rd, 2017

Unique ‘Twitter satyagraha’ against HDFC Bank completes 50 days: Why did the bank choose the wrong nudge?

March 23, 2017

A very interesting article. It talks about yet another person protesting on another Indian bank’s practices.

Instead of the usual protests, he wrote series of Tweets everyday for the last 50 days asking the bank to say sorry:

Bengaluru-based communications professional Karthik Srinivasan has started a unique protest to express his displeasure with what he calls an unethical programme by HDFC Bank. A popular handle on Twitter and known blogger, Srinivasan has just completed 50 days of his so-called ‘Twitter satyagraha’ against the bank’s opt-out programme for preferred customers.

The core problem is that default choice was made as opt-out:

(more…)

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RBI Governor: Please Stop Banks Fleecing Customers and Depositors!

March 23, 2017

First there is this article by Dr Yerram Raju : Is SBI heading for bankruptcy?

Customers of State Bank of India (SBI), especially in south India, are forced to ask whether SBI is headed for bankruptcy as they find 99% of the automatic teller machines (ATMs) shut down and all branches declining withdrawals from the depositors’ savings account beyond a limit. Bank branches are refusing to honour cheques drawn on them, either their own or on third party, in spite of sufficient balance in the account. To top it, the bank’s branches refuse to give written objection for returning the cheque across the counter. 
He narrates from his own experience and perhaps overstretches it. But it will be good to read about more SBI customers. Are they facing similar troubles?
Whatever it may be, overall message is clear. Banks have lost their basic sense of serving the customer. We are back to earlier days when banks just didn;t care. Once again, Indian banks seem to have become way too arrogant and shunning the customers. Their pricing has become opaque and are just charging all kinds of things.
Second, there is detailed memorandum to RBI chief against these practices:
A group of bank customers, consumer activists, policy watchers, bankers, trade unions and non-governmental organisations (NGOs), has requested the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) to urgently change policies to ensure that banks treat bank customers fairly. 
In a Memorandum sent to RBI Governor Dr Urjit Patel, they said, “We are disturbed at the unfair treatment that bank customers suffer in the form of frequent, arbitrary and one-sided increase in banking charges, or the refusal of banks to automatically pass on contractual benefits such as lower interest to those with floating rate home loans, or the rampant mis-sellling of third-party products such as insurance.”
“The RBI as the banking regulator has been proactive in improving the customer service rendered by banks. However, the RBI has not taken banks to task on the many customer-unfriendly practices that are increasing with impunity. Over the years, the RBI has remained silent on several anti-depositor actions of banks. The Banking Ombudsman’s rulings also tend to side with banks, making no attempt to observe the pattern of complaints which would amply bring out rampant mis-selling of insurance and wealth management products. We have identified some specific areas and request RBI’s intervention to take corrective steps after engaging with customers,” the Memorandum says.
Hopefully banks wake up..

US adopts T+2 settlement cycle for Securities Transactions..(India moved to T+2 system 14 years ago)…

March 23, 2017

Clearing and Settlement system (referred as backoffice in corporate lingo)  is perhaps one of the most understated yet highly important activity in financial markets. When two parties trade, one gets securities and other cash. This settlement process takes time. Earlier these settlement systems ran in months than brought down to fortnight and now to a few days. All this has been possible due to technology.

So you trade on a day it is called as T. The time taken to settle is added to T. So T+5 means settlement shall happen on 5th working day after the trade.

US SEC announced that it shall move from T+3 to T+2 settlement:

The Securities and Exchange Commission today adopted an amendment to shorten by one business day the standard settlement cycle for most broker-dealer securities transactions.  Currently, the standard settlement cycle for these transactions is three business days, known as T+3.  The amended rule shortens the settlement cycle to two business days, T+2. 

The amended rule is designed to enhance efficiency, reduce risk, and ensure a coordinated and expeditious transition by market participants to a shortened standard settlement cycle. 

“As technology improves, new products emerge, and trading volumes grow, it is increasingly obvious that the outdated T+3 settlement cycle is no longer serving the best interests of the American people,” said SEC Acting Chairman Michael Piwowar.  “The SEC remains committed to ensuring that U.S. securities regulation is reflective of modern times, and in shortening the settlement cycle by one day we aim to increase efficiency and reduce risk for market participants.”

Broker-dealers will be required to comply with the amended rule beginning on Sept. 5, 2017.

What is interesting is India moved to a T+2 system in 2003!

Following Finance Minister’s announcement on March 13, 2001 that the rolling settlement would be extended to BSE-200 list would be traded only in the compulsory rolling settlement on all the exchanges from July 2, 2001. Further, SEBI mandated rolling settlement for the remaining securities from December 31, 2001. SEBI introduced T+5 rolling settlement in equity market from July 2001. Subsequently shortened the settlement cycle to T+3 from April 1, 2002. After having gained experience of T+3 rolling settlement, it was felt appropriate to further reduce the settlement cycle to T+2 thereby reducing the risk in the market and to protect the interest of investors. As a result, SEBI, as a step towards easy flow of funds and securities, introduced T+2 rolling settlement in Indian equity market from 1st April 2003.

We are unaware of the progress made in equity markets. Our infrastructure and systems have been ahead of most developed countries for a while..

Do economists really ever retire?

March 23, 2017

Bad news, they don’t. Infact their aura and prestige could be even more post retirement.

David Price has a piece:

No doubt there are some economists who retire so they can put their profession in the rear-view mirror. But many, it seems, never truly leave eco­nomics behind. They continue practicing economics long after they’ve nominally retired or taken emeritus status — and even when they eventually stop, the economist’s way of thinking sticks with them.

For some, the compulsion to do economics in retirement takes the form of publishing. Elmus Wicker, 90, a former Rhodes Scholar who retired from Indiana University in 1992, turned to writing and publishing three books for university presses on economic history. Not resting on his laurels, he has drafted a fourth.

“It never occurred to me that retirement meant doing something else,” he says. “And it never occurred to me that maybe I wasn’t still qualified.”

Bruce Yandle retired from Clemson University in 2000, then returned in 2005 to serve for two years as a dean, then retired again for good. But he has maintained an adjunct affiliation with another institution, the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, where, among other activities, he advises graduate students on their master’s and doctoral theses. “Interaction with young people who are excited about ideas has a contagion associated with it,” he observes. (See also “Interview: Bruce Yandle,” Region Focus, Second Quarter 2011.)

After Leonard Schifrin retired from the College of William and Mary in 1998, he found a lot of work coming his way in his field of health care economics, especially contract research for the federal government and expert-witness work in litigation. “I was busy for eight years traveling and doing interesting things,” he recalls. “That was a lot of fun and really postponed my retirement from being an economist.

All this sounds good for this blog but perhaps not so much for its visitors…Though it is still many years away from retirement….

1965: The Year the Fed and US President Lyndon Johnson clashed..

March 23, 2017

Nice piece by Helen Fessenden of Richmond Fed.

Few challenges to the Federal Reserve’s independence have ever matched the drama of Dec. 5, 1965. Fed Chairman William McChesney Martin Jr. had just convinced the Board of Governors to raise the discount rate amid signs that the economy was starting to overheat. Fiscal stimulus — increased spending on the Vietnam War, expanded domestic programs for President Lyndon Johnson’s “Great Society,” and a tax cut enacted in 1964 — had raised inflationary warning signals for Martin and, increasingly, a majority of the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC). But Johnson was adamant that higher rates would slow down the economy and compromise his domestic agenda. Enraged, he called Martin and other top economic officials to his Texas ranch, where he was recovering from gallbladder surgery.

“You’ve got me in a position where you can run a rapier into me and you’ve done it,” charged Johnson, as recounted by Robert Bremner in Chairman of the Fed. “You took advantage of me and I just want you to know that’s a despicable thing to do.”

Johnson was accustomed to getting his way — whether through bluntness or sweet-talking, as the occasion might require. But not this time.

“I’ve never implied that I’m right and you’re wrong,” Martin said. “But I do have a very strong conviction that the Federal Reserve Act placed the responsibility for interest rates with the Federal Reserve Board. This is one of those few occasions where the Federal Reserve Board decision has to be final.”

Johnson finally relented, and Martin’s refusal to back down is often considered one his strongest moments as Fed chairman. His relationship with the president was sometimes strained in the following years. But the 1965 showdown was seen as a tough lesson to Johnson that the Fed would flex its muscles when needed to push back against the inflationary pressures caused, in part, by his administration’s own policies.

What is less often remembered in the popular mind is that the rate hike of 1965 did not, in fact, turn a corner on inflation. In the years that followed, fiscal stimulus was ample, war spending kept rising, and the deficit grew. But FOMC members were often divided, and their policy decisions reflected this ambivalence. Furthermore, while Martin saw monetary and fiscal policymakers as obligated to work together to promote price stability and growth, he discovered that dealing with this particular White House and Congress was often a one-way street. And even though the Fed was substantially upgrading its analytic capacity in the 1960s — hiring more Ph.D. economists, building up its research departments, and adopting forecasting — it didn’t always translate into consistent monetary policymaking.

Nice bit of history..


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