Islamic Development Bank Group in partnership with the UAE Ministry of Economy and Annual Investment Meeting to Host a Live Webinar

The webinar entitled, “IsDB Group Private Sector Action Response to COVID-19” will discuss the challenges facing the private sector and global economy during the COVID-19 outbreak.

30 June, 2020, Dubai, UAE – The Islamic Development Bank Group in partnership with the UAE Ministry of Economy and Annual Investment Meeting, will conduct a live webinar entitled “IsDB Group Private Sector Action Response to COVID-19” on the 6th of July at 01:00 PM (KSA Time) to discuss the challenges facing the private sector and global economy during the COVID-19 outbreak.

H.E. Eng. Sultan Al Mansoori
H.E. Eng. Sultan Al Mansoori

The live session will also present the immediate joint action response of the IsDB Group Private Sector Entities namely, the Islamic Corporation for Insurance of Investments and Export Credits (ICIEC), Islamic Corporation for the Development of the Private Sector (ICD), and the International Islamic Trade Finance Corporation (ITFC), in order to overcome the COVID-19 pandemic.

The webinar will discuss the future outlook to overcome the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition, the webinar will highlight the IsDB Group’s US$2.3 billion Strategic Preparedness and Response Programme for COVID-19 under its 3Rs approach “Respond, Restore and Restart”.

The keynote speakers who will share their in-depth perspectives in the webinar are Mr. Ousama Kaissi, the Chief Executive Officer of the Islamic Corporation for the Insurance of Investment and Export Credit (ICIEC); Mr. Ayman Sejiny, the CEO & General Manager of the Islamic Corporation for the Development of the Private Sector (ICD), Eng. Hani Salem Sonbol, the Chief Executive Officer of the International Islamic Trade Finance Corporation (ITFC) and Ms. Cornelia Meyer, the Chairman & CEO of Meyer Resources.

Mr. Ousama Kaissi, the Chief Executive Officer of The Islamic Corporation for the Insurance of Investment and Export Credit (ICIEC) and one of the keynote speakers in the webinar, stated: “While the disruption to global trade and investment flows is unavoidable due to the unprecedented nature of the coronavirus pandemic, it is essential that institutions with the mandate and means to stabilize the trade ecosystem during the crisis heighten their efforts to do so. ICIEC is honoured to be a part of this webinar with the UAE Ministry of Economy and our IsDB Group peers in order to share how we are employing our multilateral insurance solutions toward the collective recovery of member countries.”

H.E. Dr. Bandar Hajjar
H.E. Dr. Bandar Hajjar

“The private sector can play a pivotal and proactive role to close funding gaps in the COVID-19 response. It is capable to minimize short-term risks to employees and long-term costs to businesses and the economy as a whole. ICD will work closely with 100+ local and regional financial institutions in its network to provide necessary support so they can continue to fund private sector, particularly SMEs in affected sectors within the markets they operate in” stated Mr. Ayman Sejiny, the CEO of the Islamic Corporation for the Development of the Private Sector (ICD), and one of the keynote speakers in the webinar.

Eng. Hani Salem Sonbol, the Chief Executive Officer of the International Islamic Trade Finance Corporation (ITFC) and one of the keynote speakers in the webinar, stated: “Since the outbreak of the pandemic, ITFC has moved quickly to put in place emergency financing measures to ensure that member countries continue to receive the support needed. Our COVID-19 ‘Rapid Response Initiative’ (RRI) has made US$ 300 million immediately available. This has facilitated the immediate access to medical equipment, the supply of staple foods and critical energy needs. Continuing to work closely with IsDB and partners, ITFC is moving forward with its Recovery Response Plan (RRP) with the provision of US$550 million for deployment over the next two years. The RRP is aimed at fixing the socio-economic damage which is expected to last longer than immediate impact of the virus; including the provision of lines of financing to fund the private sector and SMEs.”

“It is a great privilege to be in collaboration with the UAE Ministry of Economy and Islamic Development Bank Group in organizing this live webinar session that will tackle the major challenges currently being confronted by the private sector and the global economy as a whole,” Mr. Walid A. Farghal, Director General of the Annual Investment Meeting mentioned.

“The private sector is indispensable to economic growth. In fact, it contributes up to 90 per cent of employment and provides over 80 per cent of government revenues in developing countries. Thus, it is essential to highlight this huge initiative by the IsDB Group that enables the sectors adversely affected by COVID-19 to continue their business activities,” he furthered.

During the webinar, 3 online initiatives will be launched jointly by IsDB Group Private Sector Entities and AIM. These initiatives will support the private sector, trade and exports in OIC member countries and will be focusing on:

  • Digital Country Presentations: to promote and showcase the investment and trade opportunities in OIC member countries which will serve as a virtual gathering and strategic innovative platform to support the investors, government agencies, private institutions, investment promotion agencies to discuss the best possible means to attract FDI.
  • Startups Virtual Pitch Competition: to connect Startups globally and support them in meeting potential partners and investors from other parts of the world.
  • MADE IN…..SERIES: this digital platform is open to all SMEs who want to showcase and present their local products, project and services to international audience.

The webinar will gather more than 700 participants from multiple sectors across the globe such as government officials, Chairmen, Presidents & CEOs of local and international companies, multilateral and financial institutions, Chambers of Commerce & Industry, business associations, investment promotion agencies, individual investors, and entrepreneurs.

For further information, please refer to the following website (https://isdbg-psf.org/webinar)

About the Islamic Corporation for the Insurance of Investment and Export Credit (ICIEC)

Established 26 years ago in 1994 as a multilateral institution and member of the Islamic Development Bank Group, ICIEC was tasked to promote cross-border trade and foreign direct investments (FDI) in its Member Countries. To fulfill its mandate, ICIEC provides risk mitigation solutions to Member Country exporters. By protecting them from commercial and political risks, exporters are enabled to sell their products and services across the world. The multilateral credit insurer also provides risk protection to investors from across the world that seeks to invest in ICIEC’s Member Countries. To promote the sustainable economic development of its Member Countries, ICIEC – on a limited basis – can also support international exporters selling capital goods or strategic commodities to ICIEC’s Member Countries. In addition to its core business, ICIEC also offers technical assistance to Member Countries’ Export Credit Agencies. ICIEC’s mission is to make trade and investment between Member Countries and the world more secure through the Shariah-compliant risk mitigation tool. Its vision is to be recognized as the preferred enabler of trade and investment for sustainable economic development in Member Countries. ICIEC is the only multilateral export credit and investment insurance corporation in the world that provides Shariah-compliant insurance and reinsurance solutions. Today, ICIEC supports trade and investment flows in 47 Member Countries spanning across Europe, Asia, Middle East and Africa. Its target clients are corporates (both exporters and investors), banks and financial institutions as well as Export Credit Agencies and insurers.

About the Islamic Corporation for the Development of the Private Sector (ICD)

ICD is a multilateral development organization and a member of the Islamic Development Bank (IsDB) Group. The mandate of ICD is to support economic development and promote the development of the private sector in its 55-member countries through providing financing facilities and/or investments in viable projects sponsored by eligible enterprises in accordance with the principles of Shari’ah. ICD also provides technical assistance and advisory services to member countries and their public and private enterprises with a view to improving the environment for private investment, facilitating the identification and promotion of investment opportunities, privatization of public enterprises and the development of the Islamic capital markets.  ICD applies Fintech to make finance more efficient and inclusive. ICD set up a platform built and centered on ICD relationship with 119 Financial Institutions. Through them, the IsDB Group in general and ICD in particular leverage access to the country and avail financing opportunities. For more information about ICD, visit www.icd-ps.org.

About the International Islamic Trade Finance Corporation (ITFC)

The International Islamic Trade Finance Corporation (ITFC) is a member of the Islamic Development Bank (IsDB) Group. It was established with the primary objective of advancing trade among OIC Member Countries, which would ultimately contribute to the overarching goal of improving socioeconomic conditions of the people across the world. Commencing operations in January 2008, ITFC has provided more than US$51 billion to OIC Member Countries, making it the leading provider of trade solutions for the Member Countries’ needs. With a mission to become a catalyst for trade development for OIC Member Countries and beyond, the Corporation helps entities in Member Countries gain better access to trade finance and provides them with the necessary trade-related capacity building tools, which would enable them to successfully compete in the global market.

About the Islamic Development Bank Group Business Forum (THIQAH)

The Islamic Development Bank Group Business Forum (THIQAH) is the window of IsDB Group that facilitate contact and coordination between entities concerned of the IsDB Group and private sector firms and related institutions in IsDB Group member countries. The main objective of THIQAH is to establish a unique and innovative platform for dialogue, cooperation and inclusive partnership for business leaders committed to partnering in promising investment opportunities. THIQAH’s vision is to position itself as the leading business platform of the IsDB Group serving the private sector and maximizing the achievements of successful investment projects. Through facilitation and catalyst roles, THIQAH will be leveraging IsDB Group’s resources to offer necessary services and confidence to investors and to establish strategic partnerships with the leaders of the private sector in order to capitalize on their expertise and know-how on one hand, and to synergize with IsDB Group entities on the other. The primary focus will be on maximizing cross-border investment among member countries to be supported by IsDB Group’s financial products and services. (www.idbgbf.org).

About Annual Investment Meeting (AIM)

Annual Investment Meeting (AIM), the World’s Leading Investment Platform in the Middle East and North Africa, will hold its 10th at the Dubai World Trade Centre, Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

Under the theme ‘Investing for the Future: Shaping the Global Investment Strategies’, AIM will gather high-ranking government officials, decision makers, corporate leaders, policy makers, businessmen, regional and international investors, entrepreneurs, leading academics and investment experts to address the global challenges of securing viable investment aimed at contributing to economic growth.

AIM has evolved from assisting emerging economies to attract FDIs. On its 10th edition, AIM will embrace a bigger challenge of enabling economic growth through its five pillars – FDIs, Startups, Future Cities, SMEs, Foreign Portfolio Investment, and special event One Belt and One Road.

AIM 2019 saw the participation of over 16,000 visitors, 436 exhibitors and co-exhibitors, 66 high-level dignitaries, more than 150 experts and investment specialists, and 143 country representations.

Union Bank of the Philippines among ‘Most Helpful Banks in Asia-Pacific’ during COVID-19

The only Phl bank in the Top 20

Union Bank of the Philippines (UnionBank) has been ranked as the second most helpful bank in Asia-Pacific during the coronavirus crisis – the only Philippine bank in the top 20 list.

UnionBank was next only to KakaoBank, South Korea’s largest digital-only bank, according to the BankQuality Consumer Survey on Retail Banks – an online survey conducted last April 1-30, 2020 and covering total 11,000  respondents, with 1,000 each coming from China, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam.

The respondents, aged between 18 to 65 and who have at least one bank account each, chose the banks most beneficial to them amid the ongoing pandemic because of their contactless nature and digital services.

UnionBank was ranked higher than international banks such as HSBC, Citibank, DBS, CIMB, United Overseas Bank and OCBC, among others.

UnionBank president and CEO Edwin Bautista expressed gratitude for the public’s recognition of the bank’s quick, sincere and relentless efforts to help alleviate their plight in this difficult time.

“It warms our hearts to know that our customers recognize and value our heroic efforts during this crisis. The coronavirus pandemic has brought the world an unprecedented disruption, but with each of us doing our share, we will weather this challenge – no matter how massive it can be,” Bautista said.

Since the start of the quarantine period, UnionBank boosted its mobile and web banking platforms for retail and corporate customers namely UnionBank Online and The Portal, respectively, to enable clients to safely do their banking transactions from home.

UnionBank was also among the first banks to waive its online fund transfer fees, and deployed its Bank On Wheels to bring its bank branches at the doorstep of its customers.

“I would like to also thank our very hardworking and selfless UnionBankers – frontliners all – who have been doing their utmost during this pandemic to deliver safe, consistent and full service digital banking to our customers, for this accolade,” Bautista added.

The bank’s fintech arm UBX, has facilitated the release of cash subsidies through the deployment of mobile automated teller machines (ATMs) to its rural bank partners and financial cooperatives where beneficiaries of the government’s Social Amelioration Program can withdraw their money quickly.

UBX has also begun linking its rural bank members to its new network that includes Cebuana Lhuillier, LBC, Palawan Express and PeraHub.  This enables customers of these rural banks to send funds and payments to over 11,000 branches of the four remittance centers nationwide.

Working from home: Are you breaking confidentiality laws?

What happens to confidential waste while working from home?
 

With employees working from home because of the Covid-19 outbreak, how safe is the information they’re accessing and disposing of now it’s out of the office?

According to one specialist waste handling organisation, remote working means new headaches for companies and their data security.

UK waste collection agency BusinessWaste.co.uk knows that even during the crisis of a pandemic, confidential waste must be disposed of correctly in order to protect businesses and their customers from fraud or blackmail.

“Even if people are working from home, they need to be mindful that any waste they create needs to be destroyed in the same ways it would if they were in the office,” says BusinessWaste.co.uk  company spokesperson Mark Hall. Companies could still be in line for massive fines if they get it wrong, Hall warns.

What counts as confidential waste?

Essentially, confidential waste refers to documents possessed by any company that can expose discrete information about suppliers, customers, or employees.

“Basically, if it details any information about the nature of your work or anyone associated, then it counts as confidential information which will need proper disposal,” says spokesman Mark Hall.

However, it can be very tricky to distinguish what counts as confidential waste, as many businesses work with different mediums of materials.

BusinessWaste.co.uk has compiled a list of different types of confidential waste, making it easier to understand which work-related items will need expert disposal.

  • Personnel files and contracts – including CVs and application letters
  • Financial records – such as order forms, invoices, bills and statements
  • Health and social care records
  • Criminal Records
  • Business cards, ID badges, and security passes
  • Letters, memos, and other items containing names and addresses.
  • New business proposals and business plans
  • Used notebooks
  • Product samples or profiles
  • Research data
  • Diaries
  • Photographs

“If you’re working from home, you need to be aware that any of these resources could contain confidential details which could be dangerous in the wrong hands,” says Hall.

“So please make sure you or your staff don’t throw this information into the household waste!”

What could happen if it’s not disposed of properly?             

Failing to dispose of confidential waste can lead to a variety of outcomes, ranging from prosecutions under the law to identity theft and fraud.

“Your company could fall victim to industrial espionage, so it’s really important to make sure that private information cannot be leaked to rival companies through improper disposal,” says Hall.

Although it might be easier to just chuck all rubbish into your household waste bin, there are legal implications such as breaching the UK 1988 Data Protection Act, which regulates the collecting, storing, and destroying of confidential data.

Any companies that fail to oblige the act can face crippling fines from the UK data watchdog, the Information Commissioner’s Office.

“This is serious stuff that could ruin a company’s reputation and lose customers,” says Hall, “and if you’re the one discovered to be doing it, you could be fired.”

Confidential waste needs to be disposed of by a licensed waste removal company in order to comply with the latest laws and guidelines.

Actions you can take now

BusinessWaste.co.uk recommends that all members of staff be reminded about company policies regarding waste, and firmly told not to chuck any work materials into their household rubbish.

Mark Hall says that in an ideal world, sensitive information should not leave the office, so the best thing for businesses to do is to try to restrict what is essential and needs to be taken home.

Another suggestion from Hall is to make as many work tasks computer-based as possible, with sensitive files only accessible from a secure device approved by your company.

 “The best thing you can do if you’re unsure is to keep all information secure and together at your home workspace, and when it is safe to do so, take it all back to work for proper disposal,” says Hall.

“If in doubt, don’t chuck it out.”

For further information see https://www.businesswaste.co.uk/confidential-waste/ and https://www.businesswaste.co.uk/waste-transfer-note-faqs/

Towards economic recovery: a simple, quick and targeted way for authorities to support those most in need

As political leaders across Europe are contemplating how to best prepare the restart of our economies, European Fintechs Loyaltek and Paynovate launch the Unity Card (unitycard.eu): an initiative enabling authorities to financially support certain segments of the population, such as the most underprivileged, but also to specifically target local retailers and merchants who’ve had to close their businesses. 

The special payment card, which will exceptionally be free to municipalities as the first, local level of power, can be delivered anywhere on the Old Continent in as fast as 2-4 weeks and avoids cumbersome logistics and administration, allowing for effective, ultra-targeted, monitorable and evolutive socio-economic measures on the road to economic recovery.

Brussel, 24 april 2020. As the Corona curves are slowly but surely starting to flatten, the focus is gradually shifting towards the next challenge: relaunching the economy. Whilst national governments and international institutions across Europe and the world are announcing unprecedented crisis measures, it remains to be seen if these will be enough, and especially, whether the aid can be deployed quickly enough to save those in need today. Therefore, decisive action needs to be taken today rather than tomorrow.

With a view to this, European FinTech pioneers and veterans Loyaltek and Paynovate are teaming up in a unique proposal to political leaders, with the aim of offering citizens much needed and rapid financial support by means of the Unity Card. As innovative as it is useful, this debit card can be limited for use in a certain geographical area (e.g. one municipality) as well as a certain types of predetermined shops or businesses, in this case those that have been forced to close during the current crisis: hotels, restaurants, bars, hairdressers, DIY-stores, clothes stores… As such, it is the perfect instrument to stimulate the local economy and prevent the money disappearing to foreign e-commerce websites, being sent to family abroad, or saved.

Whether it’s to support merchants who have had to close their business or to help a mother feed her children: our leaders, from municipal to national level, are looking for ways to mitigate the effects of the lockdown and prepare for a return to normal life and economic recovery,” explains Robert Masse, founder and CEO of Loyaltek and expert in the field of card payments. “But time is running out, and the question arises as to how to allocate these various resources as quickly and efficiently as possible, while at the same time avoiding any risks of fraud and ensuring that public money serves its intended purpose, to the extent of creating a win-win situation and benefiting society as a whole.”

The Unity Card has a maximum value of €250 and works just like a regular debit card on payment terminals. The validity period can be adapted in function of the needs and intended support. Users can check the remaining value thanks to a QR code on the back, while an extranet allows the issuing authority to monitor, analyse, manage and even adjust the way its cards are being used, all in real-time. And thus, once again in this crisis, it’s new technologies that are offering relief in a situation which at first seemed insoluble.

“In a spirit of social commitment, our R&D teams wanted to make themselves useful against the horrors of the Corona virus. Ultimately, it’s the pragmatism and the potential of this solution which convinced us to set up the necessary partnerships to deploy it throughout Europe,” concludes Robert Masse. “The name, which of course stands for solidarity, came naturally, and we have decided to offer the first 5,000 cards to each of the municipalities that want to work with it, given that they’re the ones closest to the situation on the ground. Implementation costs are kept to a minimum and amount to a fraction of the usual costs of similar ‘traditional’ measures. Moreover, we do not take any margin on the transactions.”

The solution proposed by Loyaltek and Paynovate has proven its worth before in Germany at the time of the migration crisis, when authorities distributed thousands of similar cards to manage the allowances of Syrian refugees, allowing them to provide in their most basic needs by purchasing from local merchants.

The appearance of the Unity Card can be personalised if necessary. It is distributed either directly to the beneficiaries or by group transmission to the competent authority, which can then further distribute it. The payments made by citizens with the card are managed together with the rest of the merchants’ payment traffic, while cardholder support is ensured by Loyaltek or the ‘customer’ himself, i.e. the issuing authority.

Loyaltek NV is a European leader in limited range cards and manages numerous gift card and professional expense cards programmes in 14 countries. Its clients include Sodexo, Ingenico, Total and a great number of major commercial real estate players. They call on Loyaltek’s expertise for specific and technically advanced projects.

Paynovate NV is one of the six Belgian issuers of electronic money, regulated by the National Bank of Belgium and authorised to issue payment instruments in all European countries. Paynovate is also a principal member of Visa and Bancontact.

UnionBank bolsters COVID-19 ‘Stay-At-Home’ with range of digital services

In response to the Philippine government’s “Stay At Home” directive as part of the ongoing enhanced community quarantine, Union Bank of the Philippines (UnionBank) continues to process a growing number of digital transactions and remains business-as-usual (BAU), throughout the ECQ.

For the month of March, UnionBank logged a nearly 160% in daily sign-ups to its online and mobile banking portals, and enabled more than 500,000 credit card transactions and well over 1 million Instapay and PesoNet fund transfer transactions. Importantly, the bank waived all its fees on InstaPay and PesoNet since the start of the ECQ and has extended this to April 30.  

Most significantly, UnionBank also registered a tremendous surge in new accounts opened “100% digitally” through the UnionBank Online platform, as this was 2700X higher than year-ago levels.

These robust figures come amid reports from several consumer monitoring groups that the behavior of banking customers may be changing, preferring to use digital channels during the lockdown.

UnionBank president and CEO Edwin Bautista said the coronavirus crisis could be the turning point in customers’ shift-to-digital – to safely access their funds, do transfer, make payments and apply for credit.

 “This represents a tremendous new opportunity for banking in the country as this should reduce the number of Filipinos who remain unbanked.  As this happens, we at UnionBank are fully prepared with the digital infrastructure already in place to offer full banking services to more people, more conveniently and more cost-effectively,” Bautista said. 

Along with its digital platforms that enable the public to bank from home, UnionBank also rolled out its 5G-enabled mobile van called 5G-Bank On Wheels (5G-BOW) to serve people’s banking needs during the ECQ.  

With its 5G-BOW clients can withdraw, pay bills, transfer funds, open an account and do balance-inquiries with faster, more robust bandwidth and internet connections, powered by its unique 5G technology.

In terms of its brick-and-mortar branches, UnionBank was able to keep 94% of its branches open, outside of those in medical quarantine and local lockdown areas; while safely keeping close to 90% of employees working from home in compliance with government guidelines.

How Has The Outbreak Of COVID-19 Impacted the Horse Racing Industry?

There aren’t many sports that have been hit harder by the outbreak of COVID-19 than horse racing. Some of the biggest events on the racing calendar have already been lost, while some remain hanging by the thinnest of tightropes.

How Has The Outbreak Of COVID-19 Impacted the Horse Racing Industry?

Racing continues to take place in Australia, the USA and various parts of Europe, but not all countries have been as fortunate. The lucrative industry has been hit as most of businesses have, even though online gambling seems to be on the rise due to the self-quarantine inflicted to millions of people.

 However, which events on the horse racing calendar have been lost, which ones have face criticism, and which have been re-arranged for a later date?

Kentucky Derby

Few would argue against the Kentucky Derby being the biggest race of the year, and it is huge for the American industry. That is highlighted by the amount of money that is gambled on the race day, with the 2019 event eclipsing records. The 14-race card saw over $227.5 million gambled, while the Kentucky Derby itself saw around $150 million worth of bets. The Kentucky Derby is the most attended event on the US racing calendar, and that meant that cancelling the event altogether wasn’t an option.

Instead, for the first time this year, the Kentucky Derby will be taking place as the final event of the Triple Crown as opposed to the first. The event was cancelled in March, as it was revealed that it would instead take place on the 5th September. Nonetheless, you can still place your bets on the Kentucky Derby through Twinspires.com.

This marks the first time since 1945 that the event has been suspended. The Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes are still slated to go ahead on their original dates.

The Grand National

The most lucrative betting day in the United Kingdom didn’t go ahead as planned for the first time since the Second World War. The decision to cancel the event meant that the betting industry in the UK lost half a billion pounds, while Tiger Roll missed his opportunity at making history by becoming the first horse to win three successive Grand Nationals.

The horse racing industry did still put a show on for racing fans however on Grand National day on the 4th April, as a virtual race was broadcast, with all proceeds going towards the NHS. The event raised £2.6 million for the service, while the virtual race was won by Potters Corner.

Cheltenham Festival

Just a few weeks before the Aintree Festival, there was the Cheltenham Festival, which is the most prestigious jumps festival of the year. That event went ahead as planned, but organisers have already drawn criticism for their decision to do so.  There were reported symptoms shown by some that attended; including Andrew Parker Bowles.

However, the Jockey Club reiterated that they accurately followed all the guidelines that were put in place by the British government at the time. The Cheltenham Gold Cup on Friday 13th March was the final noteworthy sporting event to take place in the UK as the Premier League announced that it would be suspending fixtures on the same day.

Royal Ascot

The biggest flat festival of the season in the UK is still planning to go ahead as planned, but this year it will take place behind closed doors. The event is famous for those attending to get dressed up smart, while Queen Elizabeth has been known to visit most days. The festival is due to begin on the 16th June, but the announcement that it would be taking place behind closed doors was made on the 7th April.

The organisers admitted that they were pressing ahead with the event, but no spectators would be able to attend. However, the statement released also admits that there is still a chance that the event may not take place at all. The organisers will have to follow the guidelines by the British government and the BHA, who have currently suspended all racing in Britain until the end of April.

Online Gambling Industry rising as a consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic

We are living in unprecedented times with a global pandemic that has killed hundreds of thousands and countries all over the world ordering their citizens to self-quarantine. 

With the suspension of all but the most critical industries business owners and governments alike are preparing for the arrival of a global recession – one which is feared to be far more devastating than the Great Depression and the 2009 Global Financial Crisis.

Given that COVID-19 spreads via water droplets expelled from an infected person,social distancing measures have been implemented in order to help break the chain of infection with many governments enforcing a strict curfew.

Online Gambling Industry rising as a consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic

Now with the United States becoming the epicenter of the pandemic, entire industries including casinos have been left in a lurch. According to a report by the American Gaming Association (AGA), the industry is slated to lose an estimated $21.3 billion in direct spending from consumers alone. 

Here, we take a look at how we can expect the outbreak of COVID-19 to change the face of online gambling.

1. A Massive Increase in Customers

In early-April, Nevada’s Clark county reported more than 1000 COVID-19 cases and almost 30 deaths which prompted Governor Sisolak to order a shutdown of all casinos in the state despite severe pushback from various stakeholders including the Mayor of Las Vegas, Carolyn Goodman (I). 

With almost all casinos in the United States shutdown, punters all over the country have turned to online gambling for all of their gaming needs. This has resulted in a windfall for online casinos everywhere with a nearly 50% increase in revenue with punters avoiding land-based casinos in favour of online ones.

Given that the COVID-19 pandemic has shown no signs of letting up and with a vaccine far off, the remainder of 2020 and 2021 is set to be a good year for the online gambling industry. 

As the global economy grinds to a halt and uncertainty reigns supreme, many have begun to ask the question – will things ever be the same again? According to many experts, the answer is a resounding no. 

The highly contagious nature of the COVID-19 virus and the variety of health complications means that social distancing measures will have to be practiced for the foreseeable future or until a vaccine is developed – which is highly unlikely.

Until a solution is found, it is highly likely that online casino betting will be able to enjoy an unprecedented increase in customers.

2. The Entry of New Competitors

While some may point out that casinos in Macau – the world’s largest gambling hub were able to resume operations after just 15 days, the stark reality is that things are far from normal. Casino floors are relatively empty and foot traffic remains low with many punters staying away from crowded areas.

Given the relatively low-barriers for entry and a market filled with investors hungry for opportunity, it is only a matter of time before new competitors begin appearing on scene. This can potentially be a problem for current online casinos who may want to consider diversifying their range of games offered.

With sports betting also affected by the lockdown, punters have begun turning towards online casinos and slot games for their gambling needs which may in turn encourage bookmakers to open up their own online casinos in order to capitalize on shifting market demands.

3. Stricter Compliance

Casinos and other gambling outlets have always been closely monitored and regulated by government bodies given the nature of the business. Now with the economy taking a turn for the worst and with jobs at stake, people are likely to be more anxious and stressed which in turn leads to compulsive gambling and other risky behavior.

This has forced governments everywhere to introduce more stringent regulations with regards to gambling, these measures have included restricting advertising, minimizing payouts and even banning gambling outright in some areas.

Given the current state of affairs and the increased levels of vigilance, online casinos and gaming sites may begin imposing limits on bet sizes and practice more thorough screening of punters. 

4. Potential cash flow issues

Whilst the online casino business is and has always been a solid one, it is not entirely recession-proof. As businesses all over the world shut down or scale back on their operations, employees and business owners everywhere face the very real prospect of losing a significant portion of their incomes.

This in turn overlaps onto the online betting industry as punters begin to suffer from problems related to cash flow. Initially, the effects may not be tangible as we are yet to feel the true impact of a pending global recession.

Only when businesses begin to shut down and unemployment numbers rise 6 to 8 months down the line, will we begin to see a drop in revenue and takings. Consequently, operators should seriously consider putting aside cash reserves for the lean months ahead in order to stay afloat.

As the old proverb goes, “All Good Things Must Come to an End”, so will the windfall from the sudden influx of new punters. The COVID-19 pandemic is unlike anything that humanity has seen in over a century and even the most resistant of industries will not be safe.

UBX mobile ATMs to expedite gov’t covid-19 subsidies via rural banks & coops in the Philippines

UBX, the fintech company of Union Bank of the Philippines (UnionBank), recently started deploying a rapid and remote mobile-enabled ATM solution in response to COVID-19, as part of its i2i platform.  With i2i Mobile ATM, rural banks and financial cooperatives across the Philippines are enabled to pay-out a wide range of government subsidies direct to beneficiaries in the historically underserved countryside. This will help address the growing need to access cash, as a result of the extended enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) in Luzon, the largest and most populous island in the country.

UBX

i2i’s Mobile ATM technology works just like a standard ATM and allows rural banks, financial cooperatives, their agents and associated merchants to offer cash out and balance inquiry transactions for all locally issued debit/ATM cards. Financial institutions that avail of i2i Mobile ATM receive i2i Mobile ATM devices within days of signing up. They are enabled to pay-out government subsidies and positioned to participate in the emergency subsidy program under the Philippine government’s Bayanihan to Heal as One Act.

UBX developed this state-of-the-art mobile ATM in partnership with leading Irish Financial Services Group, Fexco. Fexco currently employs more than 2,400 people across the globe, focused on delivering technology enabled financial services to a wide range of banking and fintech partners, and this initiative with UBX will build on the existing partnership in the Philippines.

Cathal Brendan Foley, CEO of Fexco Philippines, said: “We are very pleased to be partnering with UBX to assist Filipinos in this time of need. This partnership will allow us to rapidly deliver crucial financial services to consumers across the UBX and UBP banking partner network. Fexco and UBX are both dedicated to enhancing financial inclusion for both the businesses and the people of the Philippines.”

UBX’s i2i Network is the fastest-growing and largest network of financial institutions including rural banks, thrift banks, savings banks, cooperatives and other non-banking financial institutions. Since launching its technology platform in April 2019, the i2i Network is over 110 members strong with nearly 1,000 branches between them.

John Januszczak, CEO of UBX Philippines, said: “By digitally connecting community-based financial institutions best positioned to serve the financially excluded, the i2i Network and i2i Mobile ATM are extremely well poised to support our government’s effort to contain the pandemic while enabling the provision of much needed relief to those affected.” 

Coronavirus Research Index Reveals which Countries Put the most Effort in COVID-19 Research

Finbold.com has launched the Coronavirus Research Index (CRI) to identify countries that are putting in the most effort in finding ways to manage the COVID-19 disease.

The index ranks the countries based on the number of active medical coronavirus studies that show which countries are actually executing the most research related to COVID-19 to understand the virus to find the effective means of managing the disease. According to the Index, China, the United States, and France are the top three countries leading in the number of active studies related to coronavirus.

China leads in studying coronavirus

The CRI shows that China has 60 active studies, with the United States having 49 ongoing studies. On the other hand, France has 26 active studies. Idas Keb, a co-founder at Finbold, on the findings commented:

“Interestingly, the index also reveals that while there is some correlation between countries that have the most COVID-19 cases and the number of medical studies, the majority of the countries are still far behind on coronavirus research. For example, Spain, which is second by the number of confirmed coronavirus cases, is not within the top 5 countries in the research index.”

The report features studies that are labeled as ‘Active’ on the ClinicalTrials.gov database. The studies have a different status like Recruiting, Not yet recruiting, Active not recruiting and Enrolling by invitation.

The research index also highlights the study title, the status of the study, the institutions carrying out the study and the interventions placed into managing the condition.

Currently, the Finbold.com Coronavirus Research Index identifies 39 countries with ongoing studies on COVID-19. All listed countries have confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus.

You can find the research and try out the tool here: https://finbold.com/coronavirus-research-index/  

Half of UK & US firms predict a recession in 2020 and a third predict a global recession

  • Just under half of firms in the UK (46%) and US (45%) predict their country will go into recession in 2020, according to research by trade finance provider Stenn
  • The poll of over 700 senior executives at medium-large sized businesses across the UK, US and China, also revealed that well over a third (37%) of UK firms and one in three (35%) US firms expect to see a global recession or international global crisis in 2020
  • In the UK, a third (33%) of firms expect the economy to shrink in 2020, with well over a tenth (14%) expecting it to contract by 1-3%
    • A further 6% expect the UK economy to stay flat with no growth
  • In the US, almost one in five (16%) expect the economy to shrink in 2020, most likely by 1-3% (7%)
    • In addition, 6% also expect it to stay flat with no growth. 

Dr. Kerstin Braun, President of Stenn Group, commented: “2019 was weaker than expected and the stakes are only higher for 2020. Governments around the world are having to act forcefully to prevent the economic hit from Covid-19 deepening, taking a coordinated approach and opening the liquidity pipe for both fiscal and monetary support.

While a low interest rate provides an important cut in borrowing costs for businesses and consumers at this delicate moment, the coronavirus outbreak will be a real test of the health of the UK and US economies. Lowering rates alone isn’t enough to be effective in offsetting the economic impact of Covid-19. We already know the Chinese economy is going to be hit in the first and second quarter.

“For us, the plunge in oil coupled with the economic damage of Covid-19 marked the beginning of a global recession. Our research showed that at the beginning of the year, half of UK and US businesses predicted a recession and a third predicted an international global crisis, and just three months into 2020 and we’re starting to see this play out.”

Methodology

The survey was conducted by Atomik Research among 706 senior decision makers at medium-large sized businesses, across the UK, US, and Chinese markets. The research fieldwork took place on the 18th – 28th November 2019. Atomik Research is an independent creative market research agency that employs MRS-certified researchers and abides to MRS code.

About Stenn

Stenn International Ltd. is a UK-based, non-bank trade finance provider specialising in cross-border trade. Stenn’s trade finance solutions are comprehensive and can be combined to cover the entire supply chain from purchase order to delivery of goods. Innovative practices allow Stenn to finance in sectors and geographic regions currently underserved in global trade. The company operates globally with offices in Buenos Aires, Los Angeles, Dallas, New York, Miami, London, Amsterdam, Dusseldorf, Berlin, Mumbai, Chennai, Singapore, Hong Kong, Guangzhou, Hangzhou, Suzhou, Shanghai and Qingdao.

Learn more at https://stenn.com or follow TwitterLinkedIn and Facebook.