ANZ targets further Asia-Pacific expansion

Australia’s third-largest banking group, ANZ, which is the most
enthusiastic of Australia’s Big Four banks in expanding overseas,
has reiterated its ambition to become a major financial services
player in Asia and is targeting expansion in several countries.

When presenting the bank’s 2007 full-year results – the first of
the major Australian banks to report – ANZ’s recently appointed
chief executive, Michael Smith, said: “In the coming months, I want
to create a stronger vision for ANZ’s future. That will involve a
focus on growth opportunities domestically and in Asia.”

Smith had previously told analysts that he was looking to turn ANZ
into a super-regional bank straddling the Asia-Pacific region
during his planned five-year tenure. Last year, ANZ spent $1.35
billion on acquisitions in Australia and Asia.

The results were less than analysts had expected, although ANZ
reported a record A$3.92 billion ($3.61 billion) annual profit, an
increase of 9.4 percent. Earnings from Asia for 2007 contributed
A$172 million, a year-on-year increase of 37 percent. However,
Smith was able to highlight a 16 percent profit growth year-on-year
contributed by ANZ’s retail banking arm, which he said was

Allianz expands in Hungary

Allianz, Europe’s largest insurer, has announced plans to expand
its Allianz-branded banking operation in Hungary, which it rolled
out last year to exploit its established insurance agency and
intermediary distribution network in the country (see RBI

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Allianz Hungária, the group’s 21-year-old local
subsidiary, says it is the first insurer and asset manager in
Hungary to found a retail bank.

In its first year of operation, the bank opened 14 branches and now
plans to open another 13 during 2007 as it aims for a target of
60,000 customers by the year-end.

It is, of course, not the first banking operation Allianz has run:
in 2001, the German insurer bought Dresdner Bank in Germany. In
Italy, the group operates RAS Bank and in France AGF Bank, although
none of these operates under the Allianz brand. According to market
research conducted for Allianz, more than 90 percent of Hungarians
surveyed recognise the Allianz Hungária brand.

CBA overhauls its NetBank offering

Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA), the country’s largest retail
bank, has overhauled its online banking channel NetBank,
introducing an improved home page, simpler short cuts, customer
news bulletins and links to tools such as budget planners and a
home loan calculator.

According to CBA, its website has an average of 100,000 visitors
per day and close to 3 million unique visitors every month.

“We started the ball rolling six months ago with the introduction
of two-factor authentication for NetBank to deliver safer and more
secure online banking,” said Ross McEwan, CBA’s group executive of
retail banking.

Now, in an attempt to make its online banking channel more
user-friendly, the bank is aiming to reduce the number of web pages
its customers must navigate by up to 40 percent.

M-banking initiatives from major US players

BB&T is the latest major US bank to introduce a
mobile banking service, and aims to offer two-way (short message
service) banking and mobile web access by the first quarter of

According to the bank, the new m-banking service, which it is
developing with technology vendors ClairMail and mFoundry, will
enable users to check account balances, view transactions, transfer
funds and locate branches and ATMs.

Rival bank Wells Fargo has announced that it is adding a short
message service component to its m-banking offering. “We don’t
believe any one mobile banking method will ultimately provide all
the functions customers demand, which is why we are offering two
ways for consumers to bank with us through a mobile device,” said
the bank in a statement.

BBVA confirms US profit target

BBVA’s president Francisco González has confirmed that Spain’s
second-largest retail bank is on target to generate 10 percent of
its profits from the US within a year.

BBVA, which plans to unify its four US banks under one umbrella
next year, has spent more than $13 billion acquiring US-based
Laredo National, State National, Texas Regional and Compass in the
past two years.

“The US is going to be in the vanguard for BBVA as of now,” said
González in a statement.

In October, the bank reported a solid 19.5 percent year-on-year
growth in net profit for third-quarter 2007 results and did not
suffer any impact on earnings from the markets’ turbulence in that

BBVA released its Innovation and Transformation Plan in May (see
RBI 573), which has committed the bank to gain 4 million new
clients in the US and Mexico by 2010.

Subprime fallout
Countrywide offers mortgage help

Countrywide Financial, the embattled US mortgage lender, is to
reach out to 82,000 of its customers whose variable-rate mortgages
are set to rise in the next year, to offer refinancing or
modifications on $16 billion in loans. The lender has been under
pressure from US politicians and consumer groups who have alleged
that it offered borrowers mortgages they could not afford to
refinance once home prices stopped rising.

Countrywide plans to offer new mortgages to 52,000 subprime
borrowers with $10 billion of home loans and to modify $4 billion
of loans for 20,000 prime and subprime borrowers who cannot

It also plans to offer $2.2 billion of mortgages for 10,000
subprime borrowers who are already delinquent.

“Unprecedented times call for unprecedented remedies,” said
Countrywide’s COO, David Sambol, in a statement.

Countrywide reported a $1.2 billion third-quarter loss compared
with a $647 million profit for the same period last year.

Western Union and GSM create global mobile service

The GSM Association (GSMA), the global trade
association that represents more than 700 GSM mobile phone
operators, and Western Union, the world’s largest remittance
player, have joined forces to develop a system for consumers to
transfer money between countries via their mobile phones.

The new service will allow mobile phone users to connect to Western
Union’s existing global money transfer system and use mobile wallet
software on their phones to make person-to-person money transfers.
The service is due to start in the second quarter of 2008.

According to Western Union, its current global transfer system
processed approximately 17 percent of the world’s remittance volume
in 2006. To date, 35 GSMA operators, with more than 800 million
customers in more than 100 countries, have signed up to participate
in the new mobile remittances programme.


Sports Sponsorship
Credit Suisse extends football sponsorship

Credit Suisse is to extend its sponsorship of the Swiss Football
Association (SFA) and the Swiss national football teams for another
four years, which will take the sponsorship deal up to Euro 2012,
the international football tournament organised by the Union of
European Football Associations every four years. The new agreement
also incorporates support for the national women’s teams, as well
as the sponsorship of four Credit Suisse Academy training

The current contract was due to run until the end of the 2008 Euro
Finals, being held in Austria and Switzerland. This follows on from
Credit Suisse’s tram sponsorship deal, under which tram carriages
across Switzerland have received a colourful football-themed
makeover (see RBI 579). Credit Suisse has been the main
sponsor of the SFA and all Swiss national football teams since

Shinsei Bank launches new ad campaign

Shinsei Bank of Japan has announced the launch of a new ad campaign
aimed at customers who are saving for retirement or are already
retired; the ads are intended to highlight the importance of
‘managing your own money for your golden years’.

The idea of the Please Give Five minutes to Shinsei message is to
encourage customers to take a few minutes to read a publication
called Managing your Own Money: A Five-Minute Reader,
which is available at all Shinsei branches, on its website and
through its call centres.

The bank is hoping to illustrate how a long-term money management
strategy focused on global investment opportunities can help to
protect retirement savings against inflation, tax increases and
other threats.

According to a survey conducted by Shinsei Bank, 86.7 percent of
people who read the booklet better understood the importance of a
good money management strategy.


BB&T extends NASCAR sponsorship

North Carolina-based BB&T, the 11th-largest financial holding
company in the US, has agreed to extend its sponsorship of the
National Association for Stock Car Racing (NASCAR) series as the
official bank of competing NASCAR team Richard Childress Racing
(RCR). BB&T also will strengthen its position within the RCR
group of sponsors and serve as the primary sponsor on Clint
Bowyer’s No. 07 Chevrolet Impala SS for NASCAR Cup Series races
next spring. The bank’s move into NASCAR comes after its adoption
of several sports sponsorship programmes, involving minor league
baseball and US football’s National Football League.

“We’re very pleased not only to extend RCR’s partnership with
BB&T, but to expand the programme as well,” said Richard
Childress, president and chief executive officer of RCR. “This
extension is a testament to BB&T’s commitment to our
organisation and to Clint Bowyer – one of the most exciting young
drivers in the sport.”

Corporate Social

RBC rolls out water-focused project

RBC Royal Bank has unveiled a ten-year, C$50 million
($51.8 million) grant programme to support projects dedicated to
water conservation, watershed protection, access to clean drinking
water and other water-related issues in Canada and across the
globe. RBC will announce its first grant recipient at the end of
October, and then a panel of experts will be brought together to
develop the overall granting strategy and guidelines.

The bank has also recently announced its Environmental Blueprint,
formalising the company’s long-standing commitment to environmental
sustainability. The blueprint includes RBC’s commitments to reduce
its environmental footprint and outlines how the company intends to
approach new and emerging environmental issues in its business

“RBC introduced its first environmental policy 15 years ago, and
since then, we have worked to reduce our footprint and integrate
environmental sustainability into activities such as lending and
procurement,” said Gordon Nixon, president and CEO of RBC.

OCBC introduces mobile banking

OCBC Bank has announced that it will launch secure mobile banking
in Singapore through the i-mode platform, a mobile-internet
platform developed by Japan’s NTT DoCoMo. Using their existing
internet banking access code and PIN, OCBC customers will be able
to view their account balances and recent transaction details on
the mobile screen.

The bank will be making this new service available free of charge
to all customers who have internet banking access. Customers will
need a StarHub i-mode phone which supports OCBC Bank secured

“The power of OCBC Mobile Banking lies in providing our customers
secure banking in a connected universe. They can now truly bank
anywhere and any time; it is like having a bank in your pocket,”
said Patrick Chew, head delivery, group consumer financial
services, OCBC Bank.

Corporate Social

Axa creates academic research fund

Multinational insurer Axa has announced the creation of a €100
million ($143.8 million) global Axa Research Fund to be launched in
early 2008. The fund will be managed by a scientific board chaired
by Ezra Suleiman, professor of political science at Princeton
University, as well as an independent member of the Axa Supervisory

It will support academic research institutions and individuals
involved in post-doctorate research programmes and will support
academic research projects relating to financial theory and
financial markets, marketing and other areas associated with Axa’s
Financial Protection business.

“By supplementing funds available from more traditional sources,
the Axa Research Fund will help ensure that funding is available to
pursue the type of high quality, independent academic research
needed to address some of society’s most pressing issues and to
develop the talent and know-how that our societies will need to
deal with these issues going forward,” said Henri de Castries,
chairman of the Management Board of Axa.

Corporate Social

HBOS releases annual climate change

HBOS has released a climate change report and announced that it
intends to publish such reports on an annual basis, which it claims
is a first for a UK bank. HBOS has reduced its UK emissions by 65
percent over two years, and says that it is the only UK bank to
offset unavoidable emissions using only carbon credits that comply
100 percent with the Kyoto Accord air pollution guidelines.

The report also highlights several new green initiatives taken by
the bank, including energy saving software, a 10 percent minimum
reduction in paper, and more challenging annual reduction targets
for energy use and travel.

“HBOS has significantly reduced its emissions, but we know there is
more to do. Our priority is to reduce as much as possible the CO2
we produce at source,” said Shane O’Riordain, general manager of
Communications at HBOS.