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Earlier this week, Fidelity National Information Services Inc. (FIS) announced their agreement to acquire fellow global payments company Worldpay in a deal valued at $35 billion in cash and stock. The combined company will become a one-stop shop to process online and in-store payments and manage multiple currency transactions. Management is hoping the combined larger company will be able to reach more customers in an increasingly online industry, while also recognizing around $400 million in cost synergies.

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The London Inter-bank Offered Rate (LIBOR) is an interest rate benchmark that is used to set the interest rate on hundreds of trillions of dollars in debt around the world. The LIBOR rates are set via a consensus mechanism whereby the world’s leading banks submit the interest rate at which they believe they could borrow funds from another bank. The LIBOR rate is set for seven different maturities, ranging from one week to one year, with the most commonly quoted rate being the three-month U.S. dollar rate, which is known as the “current LIBOR rate”.

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On Thursday, the U.S. Department of Commerce announced that China and the United States had signed a new trade agreement, named the U.S.-China Comprehensive Economic Dialogue. The trade agreement is a result of ongoing negotiations between the two countries following a meeting between U.S. President Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping in April. This 100-day action plan contains 10-points to be implemented by both China and the United States. For the United States, the agreement is part of an ongoing attempt to cut the trade deficit with Beijing.

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The rapid growth in the fintech industry is revolutionizing the financial industry, forcing traditional banks and new startups to become more technologically advanced. Customer behavior is an area that has a lot of potential for financial institutions to gain insights through data analytics. Data analytics would allow banks and other institutions to have agile systems that learn through experience, where they would automatically refine the algorithms to improve results.

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East Asia is home to three of the biggest economic powerhouses in the world: China, Japan, and South Korea. Thus, the well-being of the global economy often depends on the region's pecuniary health. Central banks already hold the utmost power in this regard; yet, in recent times, each nation's bank has led endeavors to consolidate further economic control. The effects of these measures, along with last week's global market shakeups, have paved a path of economic uncertainty. Here is a look at recent developments in East Asian central banks.

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Following the loss of over $90 million from two banks, officials around the world are sounding the alarm on an integral part of the day to day operations in the international banking industry. The Swift network was created as a message system for banks to authenticate the transfer of money between accounts internationally. Hackers were able to infiltrate the networks of Bangladesh’s central bank in February and subsequently used Swift to steal $81 million from the central bank’s account with the New York Federal Reserve. A second attack on a bank in Ecuador netted the attackers an additional $12 million. The ability to hack Swift has prompted calls for reforms in the international banking industry, along with increased security measures among banks worldwide.

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“Fintech” has been used lately as a catch-all for the development of new technologies that have challenged and changed the more traditional aspects of finance, such as wealth management, lending, insurance, and payments. A current key challenge that the financial technology industry is facing is if the industry can continue to grow while facing increasing amounts of financial regulation.

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On Sunday April 3, documents from a Panama-based firm, Mossack Fonseca, were leaked in what is being called the biggest leak of confidential information ever. The leak amounts to approximately 11.5 million documents or 2.6 terabytes’ worth of data. The leaked documents reveal corruption and shady business dealings of politicians, world leaders, and celebrities. The leak exposes how major banks, law firms, and asset management companies manage the wealth of the world’s most powerful people.

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Islamic finance presents an interesting contradiction between religion and modern economics. The world of finance is in large part built on the premise of interest. The debt market now dwarfs the equity (stock) market, and a majority of debt products inherently carry some form of interest. The world of Islam, however, strictly forbids usury, or the practice of charging interest. Islam is also the world’s second largest religion with over a billion adherents, which makes it impossible for its practitioners to not participate in the world of finance. This seemingly huge dilemma is solved by the practice of Islamic finance. Bridging the gap between religion and business, Islamic finance is quickly growing in both size and importance.

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Many financial institutions are turning to social media as a way to attract and engage their customers. The Managing Director for TD Ameritrade, Nicole Sherrod, even works on the weekends to send tweets and interact with the firm's clients. She believes that as a result of her presence on social media, she now has "an even closer relationship with clients" and has been able to get to know them better. By posting on the weekends, she is able to show her activities after work hours and build a more personal relationship with the consumers. Twitter in particular is a useful tool to help financial service workers to navigate company guidance and industry regulations to share industry news, respond to questions from clients, and address other problems or concerns.

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A group of five of the world's largest banks are due to pay a large fine after manipulating the world foreign-exchange market. These fines were brought to the banks by U.K., U.S., and Swedish regulators late last year after finding out that currency traders were using chat rooms to manipulate exchange rates. Included in these banks are JPMorgan, Barclays, Citigroup, UBS, and RBS. Many of the banks have come forward with guilty pleas, which has been unheard of in past litigations against such institutions, as most of the time banks settle litigation without any admission of fault.

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The thriftily lending of Spain’s commercial and investment banks to those who borrowed excessive capital from international markets to lend to developers at rates they could not repay caused the Spanish economy to tumble in 2011. Basel III, a voluntary framework on bank capital adequacy, stress testing, and market liquidity risk, seemed to be the regulatory answer by the financial services industry. It was adopted by all of Spain’s largest lenders and local governments. Their main mission: stabilize the credit markets enough for foreign direct investment (FDI) into the Spanish economy.

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Under the umbrella of the financial services industry rests private equity. These organizations, which make strategic long-term investments through capital-intensive buyouts, have been at the epicenter of many economic debates in the past year. In 2005, the private equity industry saw large consolidations of size and power after the bubble burst. Rationalizing that many returns had been realized within a mature market, large private equity firms seeded many investments abroad with their higher amalgamated capital. The European and Asian markets saw the most attention given the sheer economic size and amount of restructuring opportunities. According to the Financial Times, partners of the three largest private equity firms made almost $22 billion of principal investments abroad this year.

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Standard Chartered, a British bank with more than 1,700 branches in over 70 countries, has officially opened its first branch in Iraq.  This branch will be located in Baghdad.  The British bank plans to open another branch this year in Erbil, Iraq and another next year in Basra, Iraq.  These Iraq-based branches are being established to meet the needs of Standard Chartered’s global clients working in the oil, telecommunication, and infrastructure industries.  Standard Charter also intends for these branches and their personnel to aid the Iraqi Government, its ministries, and the Iraqi Central Bank in an advisory role.

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A new wave of start-ups are forever changing the way people view the borrowing and saving of money. These financial-technology firms, or fin-tech firms, are gearing away from large corporations, such as Western Union, and are now relying on safe technology to enhance the financial world from the comfort of their warehouses. The many rising firms are reaping in the profits, while simultaneously sparking interest in investors and challenging the institutions that have reigned over the financial world for years.

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One of the more unique ways of fostering entrepreneurship that has really caught on in the last few years is microfinance. Initially started in 1976 by Muhammad Yunus in India, microfinance is where a financial institution gives a small loan (usually in the $5-50 range) to an impoverished family that otherwise wouldn’t have access to credit.

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The last few blogs here on globalEDGE have not been too optimistic and may make one think that the world may indeed end in December (as the Mayans allegedly predict). This blog will not be much more optimistic. However, instead of just talking about recessions, this will explore some of repercussions or causes that are being observed right now. Specifically, this will explore the potential permanent change in the financial services industry.

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In the midst of the European Debt Crisis that has has toppled governments and pushed a number of countries into a second recession, Ireland has drafted a new plan to save their housing market and keep families in their homes. With house prices on the emerald isle being 50 percent below their peak value, more than half of Irish mortgages worth less than the outstanding debt, and about 39% of homes in default, the Irish government has been forced to take steps that many economists would deem as far too risky to enact. The government is expected to sign a law that would encourage banks to substantially lower the amount that borrowers owe on their mortgages, which could prevent mass-scale foreclosures, and also a blueprint for other nations seeking to resolve their housing dilemmas.

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Following the recent financial crisis, many people are blaming the large banks almost solely for the collapse. Many feel that the banks must split their commercial banking divisions from their investment banking ones. People think that the banks should not be allowed to use the money they hold for customers in speculative investments for the bank's potential profit. Do these concerns sound familiar?

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Greece has made top headlines across the world recently as a result of significant financial problems. Similar to what has happened across the globe, the government is yet another victim of the difficult financial times. What has caused this problem? What events led up to it? How do the events in Greece impact you and your international business?

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In India today, there is a plentiful supply of up-and-coming entrepreneurs. With the advent of microfinance, less privileged communities throughout the world are given opportunities to start businesses in conditions that would otherwise be impossible. So, what is microfinance? Microfinance is the practice of making credit available to individuals in the form of small loans, who would otherwise not have the required income or collateral. The loans generally require in-depth involvement by both the lender and other community members.

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China has three main goals it weighs when considering where to invest its vast sums of money. Those goals are “safety, liquidity, and profitability - in that order.” For many years, the result of this strategy has been to invest heavily in U.S. Treasury notes. As the Middle Kingdom’s coffers began to fill with dollar-denominated debt, the financial well-being of the entire nation began to be increasingly tied to the strength of the U.S. dollar. So it should not come as a surprise that declines in dollar value that have occurred in recent years have been met with consternation by the Chinese.

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A recent Businessweek Ranking listed Hong Kong as No. 9 of the "World’s Gloomiest Countries" with respect to economic outlook, with exports, profitability margins, investments, turnovers, and selling margins all expected to fall in a negative manner. Despite the hard hits that Hong Kong and the other Asian markets have taken in the financial crisis, Hong Kong can and will bounce back.

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Many agree, times are tough right now. Yet, no country right now is suffering the level of crisis that Iceland is. A small number of investors in Iceland have essentially turned the country’s banking system into one giant hedge fund. In response, many concerned Icelanders have taken to the streets, especially in the capital of Rejkjavic, to protest these “financial Vikings” and call for re-regulation to come to the banking industry.

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In the midst of a housing bubble, sub-prime mortgage crisis, an unpopular war, and the stock market steadily declining, it stands to reason that many Americans, nay, citizens of the world are worried about the future of the financial world. Our business world has been built on the "magic of the market" and "success of the fittest," which provided the booms throughout the century that shaped the contemporary market. However, in an article by Breitbart, Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd argues, the global economic crisis is a result of the "comprehensive failure of extreme capitalism."

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For many years Americans looked at Europe as a place for vacation and not as a place for economic innovation. However, recent events have proved them wrong – Europeans have proven themselves better at solving financial problems.

Many Europeans feel very triumphant now as Leon Brittan, who served as Home Secretary under Margaret Thatcher and was a top official at the European Commission, says that "There’s no doubt that it was a British plan that was copied by the U.S." As the financial crisis deepened, Europeans came up with a bailout plan that has set up the pace for Washington. This was clear when the Treasury Department decided to depart from its own bailout plan and invest up to $250 billion in banks across the United States. And that outcome left Gordon Brown, the British prime minister, and Nicolas Sarkozy, the French president, in something of a commanding position to claim the title of wise men.

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You may be shocked to learn that the liabilities of Iceland’s colossal banks are several times larger than the country’s GNP. Prime Minister Geir Haarde recently addressed the nation and warned that in the worst case scenario, Iceland “could be sucked with the banks into the whirlpool and the result could be national bankruptcy”. You certainly weren’t beating around the bush with this statement, were you Mr. Haarde? The very fact that the country’s leader made a comment with this strong language points to the gravity of the present situation.

Unfortunately things did take a turn for the worse this morning, with major credit lines to Icelandic banks being closed. Trading at the Iceland Stock Exchange was suspended due to the crisis. Citizens around the world are justifiably worried about their financial security, but it seems that Icelanders may have the most to worry about.

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The credit crisis that has been a major issue in the United States lately has spread fear through European governments as they saw the need to step in with a flurry of major bank bailouts in different countries from Iceland to Germany. The governments of Belgium, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands have been taking partial control of some of their national banks. Furthermore, the government of Iceland seized control of Glitnir bank – the third largest in the country. However, these rapid bailouts are not making banks in Europe feel more secure as they keep on refusing to lend to each other money for all but the shortest periods of time. Meanwhile, shares are falling heavily and the money markets remain frozen.

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Think that the United States being in financial limbo has no repercussions on the rest of the world? You’d be thinking wrong. In Nigeria, financial authorities have attempted to construct strong fiscal measures in an attempt to extricate the country’s stock market in the wake of the collapse of major U.S. financial institutions. Nigeria’s two chief government-operated financial policymakers, The Central Bank of Nigeria and the Securities and Exchange Commission have announced new policy measures they plan to enact in order to prevent this hemorrhage of assets in the Nigerian capital market. The plan includes measures set forth by the Central Bank such as reducing the Monetary Policy Rate, reducing the Cash Reserve Ratio, and reducing the Liquidity Ratio. Following three years of spiraling growth and high returns, the Nigerian market is now seeing prices crashing beneath initial quotation.

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A new release by the FTSE Group indicates that South Korea is now worthy of having its name placed among the ranks of the world’s elite “developed” markets. The FTSE’s listing of developed markets is closely monitored by investment fund managers, who use the designation as a means of allocating capital to various markets. South Korea’s new status means that it is likely to benefit from tens of billions of dollars in foreign capital. The boost to national pride from finally being viewed as “developed” is not a bad perk either…