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Industry roundup: 2 December

Standard Chartered targets Gulf halal markets

Standard Chartered is launching a US$100 million programme which aims to expand the halal ecosystem in markets across the UAE and Gulf states.

Its Saadiq Islamic banking arm is collaborating with the Malaysian Halal Development Corporation (HDC) to launch of the Islamic financial programme dedicated to supporting SMEs, corporates and multi-nationals across Asia, the Middle East and Africa. It will focus on many of the world’s key halal markets such as the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, Bahrain, Bangladesh and Pakistan.

The programme was announced during Expo 2020 Dubai and is part of Standard Chartered’s Halal360 proposition, a statement said.

“The halal economy is projected to witness exponential growth and as a leading player in Islamic banking, we are honoured to be supporting halal businesses across our global footprint,” said Khurram Hilal, CEO of Islamic Banking and head of group Islamic product at Standard Chartered.

“We are leveraging our network in high growth markets to help businesses succeed by offering them innovative financial solutions; thereby, contributing to the overall growth of the halal trade ecosystem.”

Hairol Ariffein Sahari, CEO of HDC added: “The funding will help Malaysian companies to penetrate the Middle East, Asia and other global markets.”

The announcement comes as halal spending, excluding travel, is forecast to reach US$2.3 trillion by 2024, at a cumulative annual growth rate of 3.1%. Islamic finance assets are estimated to have reached US$2.88 trillion in 2019, with a similar figure projected for last year.

Square changes name to Block

Square, the digital payments company co-founded by Jack Dorsey, announced two days after his resignation as CEO of Twitter that it is to rebrand as Block.

The change follows Square’s expansion beyond its original credit card-reader business, to focus on new technologies including blockchain.

In an announcement, the company explained that Block will represent the corporate parent of Square (SQ), which will remain the name of the business that provides software and services to sellers. “We built the Square brand for our Seller business, which is where it belongs,” said Dorsey. “Block is a new name, but our purpose of economic empowerment remains the same.”

The company's ticker symbol on the New York Stock Exchange will remain “SQ” for the time being, although its legal name will change from “Square, Inc.” to “Block, Inc.” around 10 December. The various brands currently under Square’s umbrella, including Cash App and music streaming service Tidal, will also maintain their respective names and organizational structure.

The announcement did not mention the Australian buy now, pay later firm Afterpay that Square bought in August for US$29 billion (A$39bn). However, it stated that there will be one other name change: “Square Crypto, a separate initiative of the company dedicated to advancing Bitcoin, will change its name to Spiral.”

The name Block “has many associated meanings for the company — building blocks, neighbourhood blocks and their local businesses, communities coming together at block parties full of music, a blockchain, a section of code, and obstacles to overcome,” the announcement added.

User testing begins for T2

The European Central Bank (ECB) said that prospective users of T2, the new real-time gross settlement (RTGS) system that is scheduled to replace the current TARGET2 system in November 2022, can start testing the functionalities of the system from 1 December.

The testing will run over the coming year and will allow participants to prepare for a smooth migration to the new system, ahead of next November’s launch.

In order to start testing the new T2 platform, participants must first connect to the system and submit their registration forms to the relevant central bank, as explained in the TARGET registration and onboarding guide. Other supporting documents for users are the Terms of reference for user testing and the Mandatory Test Cases for T2 Participants, which are published on the ECB’s website. Further technical details on the testing conditions will be shared shortly on the ECB’s website.

T2 is replacing the current TARGET2 system next November as part of the T2-T2S consolidation project. The project also brings optimised liquidity management which will allow participants to steer, manage and monitor central bank liquidity across all TARGET Services.

Verto joins forces with Banking Circle

B2B cross border payments provider Verto and B2B banking services provider Banking Circle announced that they have joined forces in a bid to streamline international payments for clients.

“Utilising the multi-award-winning Banking Circle Virtual International Bank Account Number (IBAN) solution, alongside access to Banking Circle’s local payment rails, Verto addresses the pain points of complicated pay-ins and cross border payments,” stated an announcement from the two partners.

“Banking Circle Virtual IBAN gives financial institutions such as Verto the ability to issue multi-currency IBANs in their customers’ names and multiple jurisdictions. This enables merchants to make and accept cross border payments in different currencies in a way that traditional banks would simply not facilitate due to risk and legacy systems limitations.”

Commenting on the union, Ola Oyetayo, co-founder and CEO, Verto, said: “Our clients told us that pay-ins to their multi-currency wallets were difficult and inconvenient. As a company, we have always sought to make cross border payments simple, so it was clear that we needed a better solution.

“Using Banking Circle Virtual IBAN and allowing Banking Circle to make and collect payments on behalf of our clients directly addresses the pain points. Accounts and payments are now in the client’s name and have specific IBANs, which makes reconciliation infinitely simpler, increasing client confidence and smoothing the way for easier international transactions. Working together, we have removed the frictions of cross border transactions and provided our clients with truly global bank accounts.”

Laust Bertelsen, CEO, Banking Circle, added: “Verto shares our ambition to make cross border payments accessible to all businesses, empowering them to reach their global potential and increase opportunities for international trade. The Verto offering is innovative and exciting and is already helping smaller businesses transact into jurisdictions they would otherwise have been unable to serve. Now, in partnership with Banking Circle, Verto has simplified pay-ins and streamlined cross border payments, adding even greater value to its offering.

“Traditional cross border payments are expensive and slow, thanks to the multitude of stakeholders involved in the correspondent banking network. Using Banking Circle’s local payment rails instead sidesteps this issue and delivers cross border payments that feel local, without a physical presence or correspondent banking relationship in other geographies.”

FlexTrade integrates Tradefeedr

FlexTrade Systems, which specialises in high-performance execution management and order management systems for equities, foreign exchange, options, futures and fixed income, announced that Tradefeedr’s unified data analytics API is fully integrated and available within FlexTRADER EMS.

In a press release, the company announced: “Tradefeedr enables collaborative analysis of trading performance between liquidity providers and their clients using standardized common metrics. The first FlexTrade client, a European buy-side firm, is now live and in production using the integration.

“The move is designed to deliver buy-side trading teams using FlexTRADER EMS seamless access to real-time, analysis-ready FX data to improve the speed and quality of trading-decision making - crucial in today's fast-moving environment.

“Tradefeedr delivers a common, independent FX trading database allowing market participants across the sell-side, buy-side, regional banks, hedge funds, brokers, and central banks to connect, analyse their trading data, and collaborate. By doing so, it provides better, standardized data for market participants to deliver informed decision making and stronger relationships. Buy-side FX trading teams using Tradefeedr can leverage this data via a library of pre-existing analytics templates covering everything from transaction cost analysis, custom best execution policies and liquidity management, or use business-user friendly tools to build their reports and analytics without recourse to IT.

“FlexTrade's new API integration to Tradefeedr delivers FX data and pre-built, customizable analytics directly into the FlexTRADER EMS Order Blotter, enabling users to process vast volumes of real-time, actionable FX trading and market data within existing workflows. As a result, clients can seamlessly review their trading markouts, impacts, and spreads directly with liquidity providers within FlexTRADER EMS, improving accuracy and speed of FX trading-decision making and overall execution quality. Further, it can help to improve efficiency by supporting automated trading decisions, for example, by dynamically evaluating and acting based on algo performance.”

The release added that Tradefeedr’s data and analytics solution is immediately available within FlexTRADER EMS as an add-on for existing FlexTrade clients.

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