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Wednesday, November 7, 2007

World Bank Sees Big Gains From Easing Trade Flows

“Reducing the cost of moving goods across borders could boost the incomes of developing countries more than a new world trade pact that cuts tariffs and agricultural subsidies, World Bank officials said Monday.

‘The bottom line is logistics can make you or break you as a country in today's globalized and just-in-time world,’ Uri Dadush, World Bank Development Prospect Groups Director, said at a briefing to discuss the Bank's first survey of how efficiently countries move goods.

World Bank researchers asked more than 800 logistics professionals to assess the performance of 150 countries in areas such as custom procedures, quality of infrastructure, ability to track and trace shipments and delivery timelines. …The study showed a country's supply chain is only as strong as its weakest link, said Danny Leipziger, World Bank Vice President for Poverty Reduction and Economic Management. …”
AP adds that “Singapore, a major global and logistics hub, ranked first in …Connecting to Compete: Trade Logistics in the Global Economy, a study based on a world survey of freight forwarders and express carriers, [that] indicates that making it easier to connect firms, suppliers and consumers is crucial in a world where predictability and reliability are becoming more important than costs, the Bank said. …

Among the seven most industrialized nations in the survey, Germany was third, Japan sixth, Britain ninth, Canada 10th, the United States 14th , France 18th and Italy 22nd out of a total of 150 countries covered. The Bank said there are also significant differences among developing countries with similar incomes. …Another finding of the survey is that developing countries where trade has been made central to their economy perform better than others with similar incomes. …”

Monday, November 5, 2007

Mortgage bank

A Mortgage bank specializes in originating and/or servicing mortgage loans.
A mortgage bank is a state-licensed banking entity that makes mortgage loans directly to consumers. Generally, a mortgage bank utilizes funds from the secondary mortgage market such as Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, or other large mortgage servicing companies. They require secondary market funds because a mortgage bank is a non-depository institution, which means they do not receive income from deposits, as a savings bank does.
A mortgage bank can vary in size. Some mortgage banking companies are nationwide. Some may originate a large loan volume exceeding that of a nationwide commercial bank. Many mortgage banks employ specialty servicers such as Real Time Resolutions, for tasks such as repurchase and fraud discovery work.
Their two primary sources of revenue are from loan origination fees, and loan servicing fees (provided they are a loan servicer). Many Mortgage bankers are opting not to service the loans they originate. By selling them shortly after they are closed and funded, they are eligible for earning a service released premium. The secondary market investor that buys the loan will earn revenue for the servicing of the loan for each month the loan is kept by the borrower.
Unlike a federally chartered savings bank, a mortgage bank generally specializes only in making mortgage loans. They do not take deposits from customers. Their funds come primarily from the secondary wholesale market. Examples of the secondary market lenders most known are Fannie Mae, and Freddie Mac.
A mortgage bank generally operates under the different banking laws applicable to each state they do business in.
For a complete list of mortgage bankers by state, check with the state banking or financial department of each state individually. Whereas a federal bank may operate under federal law, a consumer may have additional rights under the applicable state banking law in terms of consumer protection.
Mortgage Bankers can be very competitive in mortgage lending as they specialize in only lending, and do not have to factor in subsidizing any losses in other departments such as traditional banking. At the same time they often do not have the same access to low cost adjustable rate mortgages which are typically associated with federal banks and access to federal money.

Credit union

A credit union is a cooperative financial institution that is owned and controlled by its members. Credit unions differ from banks and other financial institutions in that the members who have accounts in the credit union are the owners of the credit union.
Credit union policies governing interest rates and other matters are set by a volunteer Board of Directors elected by and from the membership itself. Only a member of a credit union may deposit money with the credit union, or borrow money from it. As such, credit unions have historically marketed themselves as providing superior member service and being committed to helping members improve their financial health.
Credit unions may be viewed as non-profit organizations, or alternatively as for-profit enterprises charged with making a profit for their members (who receive any profits earned by the cooperative in the form of dividends paid on savings, which are taxed as ordinary income, or reduced interest rates on loans).
This debate reflects credit unions' unusual organizational structure, which attempts to solve the principal-agent problem by ensuring the owners and the users of the institution are the same people. In any case, credit unions generally cannot accept donations and must be able to prosper in a competitive market economy.
In the United States, credit unions typically pay higher dividend (interest) rates on shares (deposits) and charge lower interest on loans than banks.[1] Credit union revenues (from loans and investments) do, however, need to exceed operating expenses and dividends (interest paid on deposits) in order to maintain capital and solvency. Often credit unions have a lower cost of funds due to a higher proportion of non/low interest bearing deposits, than typical commercial banks.
Credit unions offer many of the same financial services as banks, often using a different terminology; including share accounts (savings accounts), share draft (checking) accounts, credit cards, and share term certificates (certificates of deposit) and online banking.
Credit unions exist in a wide range of sizes, ranging from volunteer operations with a handful of members to institutions with several billion dollars in assets and hundreds of thousands of members.

Banking in the United States

United States Banking began in 1781 with an act of United States Congress that established the Bank of North America in Philadelphia. During the American Revolutionary War, the Bank of North America was given a monopoly on currency; prior to this time, private banks printed their own bank notes, backed by deposits of gold and/or silver.
Robert Morris, the first Superintendent of Finance appointed under the Articles of Confederation, proposed the Bank of North America as a commercial bank that would act as fiscal agent for the government. The monopoly was seen as necessary because previous attempts to finance the Revolutionary War with paper currency had failed; after the war, a number of banks were chartered by the states under the Articles of Confederation, including the Bank of New York and the Bank of Massachusetts, both of which were chartered in 1784.
The Bank of North America was succeeded by the First Bank of the United States, which the United States Congress chartered in 1791 under Article One, Section 8 of the United States Constitution, after the Constitution replaced the Articles of Confederation as the foundation of American government. However, Congress failed to renew the charter for the Bank of the United States, which expired in 1811. Similarly, the Second Bank of the United States was chartered in 1816 and shuttered in 1836.

Bank robbery

Bank robbery is the crime of robbing a bank. It is also called Bank Heist especially in the United States. It is usually accomplished by a solitary criminal who brandishes a firearm at a teller and demands money, either orally or through a written note. The most dangerous type of bank robbery is a takeover robbery in which several heavily armed (and armored) gang members threaten the lives of everyone present in the bank. A bank robbery can also take place during off hours when thieves try to break into the vault and get away with money.
According to the Independence Hall Association in Philadelphia, the first bank robbery in America happened during the night of August 31 or the early morning of September 1, 1798 at the Bank of Pennsylvania at Carpenters' Hall. The vaults were apparently robbed of $162,821, or approximately $1.8 million in 2006 dollars. Because no forced entry evidence existed, authorities assumed it was an "inside" job. Several suspects were immediately imprisoned and prosecuted, but the real culprits were Isaac Davis and a partner. Within days of the heist, Davis' partner fell victim to a plague of yellow fever that ravaged Philadelphia that summer.
(Claims of notoriety aside, it is important to note that theft which lacks intimidation or threat of violent confrontation is not truly a robbery, but a burglary. These two concepts are often confused in common discussion of bank crimes.)
During the American Civil War, raiders from both Union and Confederate armies would rob banks in enemy-controlled towns. These robberies were at the time regarded as legitimate acts of war, but many of the raiders carried on robbing banks in the post-war era, giving rise to the famous robber gangs of the late 19th century.
Due to modern security measures like security cameras, armed security guards, silent alarms, exploding dye packs, and SWAT teams, bank robberies are now much more difficult. Few criminals are able to make a successful living out of bank robbery over the long run, since each attempt increases the probability that they will be identified and caught. Today most organized crime groups tend to make their money by other means, such as drug trafficking, gambling, loan sharking, identity theft, or online scamming and phishing. Bank robberies are still fairly common and are indeed successful, although eventually many bank robbers are found and arrested. A report by the Federal Bureau of Investigation [1] states that, among Category I serious crimes, the arrest rate for bank robbery in 2001 was second only to that of murder.
A further factor making bank robbery unattractive for criminals in the United States is the severity with which it is prosecuted. Accounts at all US banks are insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, a corporation of the federal government, bringing bank robbery under federal jurisdiction and involving the FBI. Federal sentencing guidelines for bank robbery mandate long prison terms, which are usually further enhanced by the use or carrying of loaded firearms, prior criminal convictions, and the absence of parole from the federal prison system. As with any type of robbery, the fact that bank robbery is also inherently a violent crime typically causes corrections administrators to place imprisoned bank robbers in harsher high-security institutions.
Ever since the "glory days" of the great bank robberies during the 19th century, bank robberies have become ingrained into American popular culture. Numerous films, books, and songs have been written about the crime, which is the crime of choice for villains everywhere in comic books, pulp adventure and crime stories, and even cartoons. The incidence of bank robberies is less pronounced in many other countries despite less security. It is believed that the cultural differences may be the reason.

Profitability

A bank generates a profit from the differential between the level of interest it pays for deposits and other sources of funds, and the level of interest it charges in its lending activities. This difference is referred to as the spread between the cost of funds and the loan interest rate. Historically, profitability from lending activities has been cyclic and dependent on the needs and strengths of loan customers. In recent history, investors have demanded a more stable revenue stream and banks have therefore placed more emphasis on transaction fees, primarily loan fees but also including service charges on array of deposit activities and ancillary services (international banking, foreign exchange, insurance, investments, wire transfers, etc.). However, lending activities still provide the bulk of a commercial bank's income.
In the past 10 years in the United States, banks have taken many measures to ensure that they remain profitable while responding to ever-changing market conditions. First, this includes the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, which allows banks again to merge with investment and insurance houses. Merging banking, investment, and insurance functions allows traditional banks to respond to increasing consumer demands for "one-stop shopping" by enabling cross-selling of products (which, the banks hope, will also increase profitability). Second, they have expanded the use of risk-based pricing from business lending to consumer lending, which means charging higher interest rates to those customers that are considered to be a higher credit risk and thus increased chance of default on loans. This helps to offset the losses from bad loans, lowers the price of loans to those who have better credit histories, and offers credit products to high risk customers who would otherwise been denied credit. Third, they have sought to increase the methods of payment processing available to the general public and business clients. These products include debit cards, pre-paid cards, smart-cards, and credit cards. These products make it easier for consumers to conveniently make transactions and smooth their consumption over time (in some countries with under-developed financial systems, it is still common to deal strictly in cash, including carrying suitcases filled with cash to purchase a home). However, with convenience there is also increased risk that consumers will mismanage their financial resources and accumulate excessive debt. Banks make money from card products through interest payments and fees charged to consumers and transaction fees to companies that accept the cards.
The banking industry's main obstacles to increasing profits are existing regulatory burdens, new government regulation, and increasing competition from non-traditional financial institutions.

Challenges within the banking industry

The banking industry is a highly regulated industry with detailed and focused regulators. All banks with FDIC-insured deposits have the FDIC as a regulator; however, for examinations, the Federal Reserve is the primary federal regulator for Fed-member state banks; the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (“OCC”) is the primary federal regulator for national banks; and the Office of Thrift Supervision, or OTS, is the primary federal regulator for thrifts. State non-member banks are examined by the state agencies as well as the FDIC. National banks have one primary regulator—the OCC.
Each regulatory agency has their own set of rules and regulations to which banks and thrifts must adhere.
The Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council (FFIEC) was established in 1979 as a formal interagency body empowered to prescribe uniform principles, standards, and report forms for the federal examination of financial institutions. Although the FFIEC has resulted in a greater degree of regulatory consistency between the agencies, the rules and regulations are constantly changing.
In addition to changing regulations, changes in the industry have led to consolidations within the Federal Reserve, FDIC, OTS and OCC. Offices have been closed, supervisory regions have been merged, staff levels have been reduced and budgets have been cut. The remaining regulators face an increased burden with increased workload and more banks per regulator. While banks struggle to keep up with the changes in the regulatory environment, regulators struggle to manage their workload and effectively regulate their banks. The impact of these changes is that banks are receiving less hands-on assessment by the regulators, less time spent with each institution, and the potential for more problems slipping through the cracks, potentially resulting in an overall increase in bank failures across the United States.
The changing economic environment has a significant impact on banks and thrifts as they struggle to effectively manage their interest rate spread in the face of low rates on loans, rate competition for deposits and the general market changes, industry trends and economic fluctuations. It has been a challenge for banks to effectively set their growth strategies with the recent economic market. A rising interest rate environment may seem to help financial institutions, but the effect of the changes on consumers and businesses is not predictable and the challenge remains for banks to grow and effectively manage the spread to generate a return to their shareholders.
The management of the banks’ asset portfolios also remains a challenge in today’s economic environment. Loans are a bank’s primary asset category and when loan quality becomes suspect, the foundation of a bank is shaken to the core. While always an issue for banks, declining asset quality has become a big problem for financial institutions. There are several reasons for this, one of which is the lax attitude some banks have adopted because of the years of “good times.” The potential for this is exacerbated by the reduction in the regulatory oversight of banks and in some cases depth of management. Problems are more likely to go undetected, resulting in a significant impact on the bank when they are recognized. In addition, banks, like any business, struggle to cut costs and have consequently eliminated certain expenses, such as adequate employee training programs.
Banks also face a host of other challenges such as aging ownership groups. Across the country, many banks’ management teams and board of directors are aging. Banks also face ongoing pressure by shareholders, both public and private, to achieve earnings and growth projections. Regulators place added pressure on banks to manage the various categories of risk. Banking is also an extremely competitive industry. Competing in the financial services industry has become tougher with the entrance of such players as insurance agencies, credit unions, check cashing services, credit card companies, etc.