The FTSE100 is down by about 6% in August alone. Central banks in India, New Zealand and Thailand cut interest rates by more than expected on Wednesday – an attempt to use lower interest rates to give their economies a caffeine shot as growth slows. Poor numbers out of Germany have raised fears that the eurozone’s largest economy could be heading for its first recession in six years.
Trump and China (repeat to fade). Brexit (blah). Kashmir. And UK growth numbers as limp as a squib. It would be very hard to make the case for anything other than gloomy numbers ahead. Sit tight folks, we’ve got used to bull markets and I think the rain is here to stay.
Away from the rain, I was in Italy last week, with the exciting challenge of having both my cards and wallet pinched on Day One. Just a few years ago this would have been a disaster. As it was, the only real impact was that I couldn’t buy my Mum the nice planned present in the little shop in the middle of nowhere. (Sorry Mum – haven’t told you that yet!) Everywhere else we paid with my mobile phone and “Posso pagare con Apple Pay?” has been added to “spaghetti pomodoro” in the kids’ Italian vocabulary.
The experience was also a reminder of how much I love Monzo. I didn’t need to cancel my card on a long and boring phone call. On to the app. Press ‘Freeze’. Done. Unfreeze when I needed to pay for something using Apple Pay. We were staying with a friend in her agriturismo. No Apple Pay there – but I did discover the ability to make international payments from the Monzo app via their hook-up with Transferwise. One IBAN later and it’s done. In a few clicks. With a pretty much perfect exchange rate of €1.08 and a fee of £3.21 to send £800. HSBC’s rates are showing today at €1.03 and I would have had to phone someone up and take 20 minutes to go through the whole shebang. Mamma mia.
There was one last reminder of how some of our largest and most established brands are failing with technology. We were due to come home on Wednesday with BA. Our 730pm flight was cancelled (online check-in had crashed and general meltdown ensued) and we were notified by email at 1230. We scrambled onto a 4.20pm easyJet flight which involved appalling packing, increased heart rates, driving a hire car across Pisa like a lunatic and running through the airport with pasta, trainers and books falling out of plastic bags. I have flown (or attempted to fly) BA twice this year. One time I arrived 10 hours late. This last time they proposed a 24 hour delay.
My own tiny experiences are reminders of how large firms are just too slow to adopt better technology. All we can do is to vote with our feet and adopt better solutions where we see them. I still don’t quite trust Monzo enough to use it as my main bank (cyber security concerns based on nothing factual, simply size and resources). But they’re getting there...
With US fintech stockbroker Robinhood securing the regulator’s approval yesterday to open in the UK next year (they don’t charge a fee for trading shares and have 6 million US customers) and newcomer Freetrade charging £3 a month for an ISA and nothing for bulk share dealing today, the challengers are coming to the investment world too. Time for the investment HSBCs and BAs to rub some of the sleep out of their eyes.
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