Remittance

A remittance is a transfer of money by a foreign worker to an individual in his or her home country. Money sent home by migrants competes with international aid as one of the largest financial inflows to developing countries. Workers’ remittances are a significant part of international capital flows, especially with regard to labour-exporting countries. In 2014, $436 billion went to developing countries, setting a new record. Overall global remittances totaled $582 billion in 2015.  Some countries, such as India and China, receive tens of billions of US dollars in remittances each year from their expatriates and diaspora. In 2014, India received an estimated $70 billion and China an estimated $64 billion

Wire transfer

Wire transfer, bank transfer or credit transfer is a method of electronic funds transfer from one person or entity to another. A wire transfer can be made from one bank account to another bank account or through a transfer of cash at a cash office.

Different wire transfer systems and operators provide a variety of options relative to the immediacy and finality of settlement and the cost, value, and volume of transactions. Central bank wire transfer systems, such as the Federal Reserve’s FedWire system in the United States, are more likely to be real-time gross settlement (RTGS) systems. RTGS systems provide the quickest availability of funds because they provide immediate “real-time” and final “irrevocable” settlement by posting the gross (complete) entry against electronic accounts of the wire transfer system operator. Other systems such as Clearing House Interbank Payments System (CHIPS) provide net settlement on a periodic basis. More immediate settlement systems tend to process higher monetary value time-critical transactions, have higher transaction costs, and have a smaller volume of payments. A faster settlement process allows less time for currency fluctuations while money is in transit.

Methods
Retail money transfers
One of the largest companies that offer wire transfer is Western Union, which allows individuals to transfer or receive money without an account with Western Union or any financial institution. Concern and controversy about Western Union transfers have increased in recent years, because of the increased monitoring of money-laundering transactions, as well as concern about terrorist groups using the service, particularly in the wake of the September 11, 2001 attacks. Although Western Union keeps information about senders and receivers, some transactions can be done essentially anonymously, for the receiver is not always required to show identification.

There are other companies in this market, like ACE Money Transfer, RIA Financial Services, MoneyGram and VFX Financial PLC and LCC Money Transfer (both based in Europe) as well as Azimo, Dwolla, TransferGo, and TransferWise.

Another option for consumers and businesses transferring money internationally is to use specialised brokerage houses for their international money transfer needs. Many of these specialised brokerage houses can transfer money at better exchange rates compared to banks, thus saving up to 4%. These providers can offer a range of currency exchange products like Spot Contracts, Forward Contracts and Limit Orders. However, not all such providers are regulated by appropriate government bodies. For example, in the UK, even though such companies are regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority, not all of them fall under (FCA) scrutiny. Regulators include the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC), the Financial Transactions Reports Analysis Centre of Canada (FINTRAC) in Canada, the Hong Kong Customs and Excise Department in China and the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) in the UK.

International
Most international transfers are executed through SWIFT, a co-operative society founded in 1974 by seven international banks, which operate a global network to facilitate the transfer of financial messages. Using these messages, banks can exchange data for the transfer of funds between financial institutions. SWIFT’s headquarters are in La Hulpe, on the outskirts of Brussels, Belgium. The society also acts as a United Nations–sanctioned international standards body for the creation and maintenance of financial-messaging standards. See SWIFT Standards.

Each financial institution is assigned an ISO 9362 code, also called a Bank Identifier Code (BIC) or SWIFT Code. These codes are generally eight characters long.[17] For example: Deutsche Bank is an international bank with its head office in Frankfurt, Germany, the SWIFT Code for which is DEUTDEFF:

  • DEUT identifies Deutsche Bank.
  • DE is the country code for Germany.
  • FF is the code for Frankfurt.

Using an extended code of 11 digits (if the receiving bank has assigned extended codes to branches or to processing areas) allows the payment to be directed to a specific office. For example: DEUTDEFF500 would direct the payment to an office of Deutsche Bank in Bad Homburg. SWIFT deviate slightly from the standard though by using position nine for a Logical Terminal ID, making their extended codes 12 digits long.

European banks making transfers within the European Union and within Switzerland also use the International Bank Account Number, or IBAN.

International prepaid cards
International prepaid cards are an alternative way for transferring funds. Companies can provide a debit card for worldwide employees’ payments. The recipients don’t need to have a bank account and can use the card in places that a debit card is accepted at point-of-sale or online and may withdraw funds in local currency at an ATM.

Bureau de change (Currency exchange)

A bureau de change is a business which, in competition with other similar businesses, makes its profit by selling currency at a higher exchange rate than a rate at which it buys the same currency, as well as any commission or fee it may charge. In setting its exchange rates, it must keep an eye on the rates quoted by competitors, and may be subject to government foreign exchange controls and other regulations.

The exchange rates charged at bureaux are generally related to the spot prices available for large interbank transactions, and are adjusted to ensure a profit. The rate at which a bureau will buy currency differs from that at which it will sell it; for every currency it trades both will be on display, generally in the shop window.

So the bureau sells at a lower rate from that at which it buys. For example, a UK bureau may sell €1.40 for £1 but buy €1.60 for £1. Quite often the terms “buy” and “sell” are used the other way round by a bureau de change, and the buy rate may seem higher that the sell rate: in such cases it means “we buy/sell our local currency at the rate showed” (examples from Google Images).

So if the spot price on a particular day is €1.50 to £1, in theory £2 will buy €3, but in practice this would be hard if not impossible for average consumers to get. If the bureau de change buys £1 from a consumer for €1.40 and then sells £1 for €1.60, the 20 pence difference contributes to expenses and profit.

This business model can be upset by a currency run when there are far more buyers than sellers (or vice versa) because they feel a particular currency is overvalued or undervalued.

The business may also charge a commission on the transaction. Commission is generally charged as a percentage of the amount to be exchanged, or a fixed fee, or both. Some bureaux do not charge commission but may adjust their offered exchange rates. Some bureaux offer special deals for customers returning unspent foreign currency after a holiday. Bureaux de change rarely buy or sell coins, but sometimes will at a higher profit margin[citation needed], justifying this by the higher cost of storage and shipping compared with banknotes.

In recent years together with emergence of online banking, currency exchange services have appeared on the Internet. This new model allows more competitive exchange rates and threatens traditional bricks-and-mortar bureaux de change.[3] Online currency exchange has two main models: the more popular model is provided by an established bureau de change, while social currency exchange platforms such as Walutomat allows participants to ask or bid for currency at their own rates (usually with an additional transaction fee).

Private banking

Historically, private banking has been viewed as a very exclusive niche that only caters to HNWIs with liquidity over $2 million, though it is now possible to open private banking accounts with as little as $250,000 for private investors. An institution’s private banking division provides services such as wealth management, savings, inheritance, and tax planning for their clients. For private banking services clients pay either based on the number of transactions, the annual portfolio performance or a “flat-fee”, usually calculated as a yearly percentage of the total investment amount.

“Private” also alludes to bank secrecy and minimizing taxes through careful allocation of assets, or by hiding assets from the taxing authorities. Swiss and certain offshore banks have been criticized for such cooperation with individuals practicing tax evasion. Although tax fraud is a criminal offense in Switzerland, tax evasion is only a civil offence, not requiring banks to notify taxing authorities.

In Switzerland, there are many banks providing private banking services. Since the Congress of Vienna in 1815, Switzerland has remained neutral until now, including the time of two World Wars. After World War I, the former nobles of Austro-Hungarian Empire moved their assets to Switzerland for fear of confiscation by new governments. During World War II, many wealthy people, including Jewish families and institutions, moved their assets into Switzerland to protect them from Nazi Germany. However, this transfer of wealth into Switzerland had mixed and controversial results, as beneficiaries had difficulties retrieving their assets after the war.  After World War II, in east Europe, assets were again moved into Switzerland for fear of confiscation by communistic governments. Today, Switzerland remains the largest offshore center, with about 27 percent ($2.0 trillion) of global offshore wealth in 2009, according to Boston Consulting Group. (Offshore wealth is defined as assets booked in a country where the investor has no legal residence or tax domicile)

In England, private banks were established in the 17th century, in parallel with the development of agriculture, managing the assets of the royal family, nobility and the landed gentry.

The United States has one of the largest private banking systems in the world, in part due to the 3.1 million HNWIs accounting for 28.6% of the global HNWIs population in 2010, according to the co-research of Capgemini and Merrill Lynch[citation needed]. Some American banks that specialize in private banking date back to the 19th century, such as U.S. Trust (founded in 1853) and Northern Trust (founded in 1889).

“Best private banking services overall 2016”. This table displays results of one category of the private banking ranking.

Rank 2016 Company Rank 2015
1 UBS 2
2 Credit Suisse 3
3 JPMorgan 1
4 Citi 4
5 BNP Paribas 8
6 Deutsche Bank 6
7 Julius Baer 9
8 HSBC 5
9 Pictet 10
10 Goldman Sachs 7

UBS took the top spot in Euromoney’s 2016 survey for “Best private banking services overall 2016.

Most private banks define their value proposition along one or two dimensions, and meet the basic needs across others. Some of the dimensions of value proposition of a private bank are parent brand, one-bank approach, unbiased advice, strong research and advisory team and unified platform. Many banks leverage the “parent brand” to gain a client’s trust and confidence. These banks have a strong presence across the globe and present private bank offerings as a part of the parent group. “One Bank approach” is where private banks offer an integrated proposition to meet clients personal and business needs. Since private banking concerns understanding a client’s need and risk appetite, and tailoring the solution accordingly, few banks define their value proposition along this dimension. Most modern private banks follow an open product platform, and hence claim their advice is unbiased. They believe there is no incentive to push proprietary products, and the client gets the best of what they offer. A few banks claim to have a “strong advisory team” that reflects in the products they offer the client. A couple of banks also define their value proposition on their unified platform, their ability to comply with all regulations, yet serve the client without restrictions.

Brokerage firm

A brokerage firm, or simply brokerage, is a financial institution that facilitates the buying and selling of financial securities between a buyer and a seller.

Brokerage firms serve a clientele of investors who trade public stocks and other securities, usually through the firm’s agent stockbrokers. A traditional, or “full service”, brokerage firm usually undertakes more than simply carrying out a stock or bond trade. The staff of this type of brokerage firm is entrusted with the responsibility of researching the markets to provide appropriate recommendations, and in doing so they direct the actions of pension fund managers and portfolio managers alike. These firms also offer margin loans for certain approved clients to purchase investments on credit, subject to agreed terms and conditions.

Traditional brokerage firms have also become a source of up-to-date live stock prices and quotes.  When a brokerage firm, in addition to buying and selling for clients, transacts for its own account, it is known as a broker-dealer.

Discount brokers

A discount broker or an online broker is a firm that charges a relatively small commission by having its clients perform trades via automated, computerized trading platforms rather than by having an actual stockbroker assist with the trade. Most traditional brokerage firms offer discount options and compete heavily for client volume due to a shift towards this method of trading.

Other ways to lower costs for these brokers is by executing orders only a few times a day by aggregating orders from a large number of small investors into one or more block trades which are made at certain specific times during the day. They help lower costs in two ways:

By matching buy and sell orders within the firm’s order book, the overall quantity of stock to be traded can be reduced, thus reducing commissions payable to others by the brokerage firm.

The broker can split the bid-ask spread with the investor when matching buy and sell orders.
Since investor money is pooled before stocks are bought or sold, it enables investors to contribute small amounts of cash with which fractional shares of specific stocks can be purchased. This is usually not possible with a regular stockbroker.

Broker

A broker is an independent party, whose services are used extensively in some industries. A broker’s prime responsibility is to bring sellers and buyers together and thus a broker is the third-person facilitator between a buyer and a seller. An example would be a real estate broker who facilitates the sale of a property.

Brokers also can furnish market information regarding prices, products, and market conditions. Brokers may represent either the seller or the buyer but not both at the same time. An example would be a stockbroker, who makes the sale or purchase of securities on behalf of his client. Brokers play a huge role in the sale of stocks, bonds, and other financial services.

There are advantages to using a broker. First, they know their market and have already established relations with prospective accounts. Brokers have the tools and resources to reach the largest possible base of buyers. They then screen these potential buyers for revenue that would support the potential acquisition. An individual producer, on the other hand, especially one new in the market, probably will not have the same access to customers as a broker. Another benefit of using a broker is cost—they might be cheaper in smaller markets, with smaller accounts, or with a limited line of products.

Before hiring a broker, it may be considered prudent to research the requirements relating to someone using the title. Some titles, such as real estate brokers, often have strict state requirements for using the term, while others, such as aircraft brokers, typically have no formal licensing or training requirements.

Capital market

A capital market is a financial market in which long-term debt (over a year) or equity-backed securities are bought and sold. Capital markets channel the wealth of savers to those who can put it to long-term productive use, such as companies or governments making long-term investments. Financial regulators like the Bank of England (BoE) and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) oversee capital markets to protect investors against fraud, among other duties.

Modern capital markets are almost invariably hosted on computer-based electronic trading systems; most can be accessed only by entities within the financial sector or the treasury departments of governments and corporations, but some can be accessed directly by the public. There are many thousands of such systems, most serving only small parts of the overall capital markets. Entities hosting the systems include stock exchanges, investment banks, and government departments. Physically, the systems are hosted all over the world, though they tend to be concentrated in financial centres like London, New York, and Hong Kong.

Government on primary markets

When a government wants to raise long-term finance it will often sell bonds in the capital markets. In the 20th and early 21st centuries, many governments would use investment banks to organize the sale of their bonds. The leading bank would underwrite the bonds, and would often head up a syndicate of brokers, some of whom might be based in other investment banks. The syndicate would then sell to various investors. For developing countries, a multilateral development bank would sometimes provide an additional layer of underwriting, resulting in risk being shared between the investment bank(s), the multilateral organization, and the end investors. However, since 1997 it has been increasingly common for governments of the larger nations to bypass investment banks by making their bonds directly available for purchase online. Many governments now sell most of their bonds by computerized auction. Typically, large volumes are put up for sale in one go; a government may only hold a small number of auctions each year. Some governments will also sell a continuous stream of bonds through other channels. The biggest single seller of debt is the U.S. government; there are usually several transactions for such sales every second, which corresponds to the continuous updating of the U.S. real-time debt clock

Company on primary markets

When a company wants to raise money for long-term investment, one of its first decisions is whether to do so by issuing bonds or shares. If it chooses shares, it avoids increasing its debt, and in some cases the new shareholders may also provide non-monetary help, such as expertise or useful contacts. On the other hand, a new issue of shares will dilute the ownership rights of the existing shareholders, and if they gain a controlling interest, the new shareholders may even replace senior managers. From an investor’s point of view, shares offer the potential for higher returns and capital gains if the company does well. Conversely, bonds are safer if the company does poorly, as they are less prone to severe falls in price, and in the event of bankruptcy, bond owners may be paid something, while shareholders will receive nothing.

When a company raises finance from the primary market, the process is more likely to involve face-to-face meetings than other capital market transactions. Whether they choose to issue bonds or shares, companies will typically enlist the services of an investment bank to mediate between themselves and the market. A team from the investment bank often meets with the company’s senior managers to ensure their plans are sound. The bank then acts as an underwriter, and will arrange for a network of brokers to sell the bonds or shares to investors. This second stage is usually done mostly through computerized systems, though brokers will often phone up their favored clients to advise them of the opportunity. Companies can avoid paying fees to investment banks by using a direct public offering, though this is not a common practice as it incurs other legal costs and can take up considerable management time.

Secondary market trading

An electronic trading platform being used at the Deutsche Börse. Most 21st century capital market transactions are executed electronically; sometimes a human operator is involved, and sometimes unattended computer systems execute the transactions, as happens in algorithmic trading.

Most capital market transactions take place on the secondary market. On the primary market, each security can be sold only once, and the process to create batches of new shares or bonds is often lengthy due to regulatory requirements. On the secondary markets, there is no limit to the number of times a security can be traded, and the process is usually very quick. With the rise of strategies such as high-frequency trading, a single security could in theory be traded thousands of times within a single hour. Transactions on the secondary market do not directly raise finance, but they do make it easier for companies and governments to raise finance on the primary market, as investors know that if they want to get their money back quickly, they will usually be easily able to re-sell their securities. Sometimes, however, secondary capital market transactions can have a negative effect on the primary borrowers: for example, if a large proportion of investors try to sell their bonds, this can push up the yields for future issues from the same entity. An extreme example occurred shortly after Bill Clintonbegan his first term as President of the United States; Clinton was forced to abandon some of the spending increases he had promised in his election campaign due to pressure from the bond markets. In the 21st century, several governments have tried to lock in as much as possible of their borrowing into long-dated bonds, so they are less vulnerable to pressure from the markets. 

A variety of different players are active in the secondary markets. Individual investors account for a small proportion of trading, though their share has slightly increased; in the 20th century it was mostly only a few wealthy individuals who could afford an account with a broker, but accounts are now much cheaper and accessible over the internet. There are now numerous small traders who can buy and sell on the secondary markets using platforms provided by brokers which are accessible via web browsers. When such an individual trades on the capital markets, it will often involve a two-stage transaction. First they place an order with their broker, then the broker executes the trade. If the trade can be done on an exchange, the process will often be fully automated. If a dealer needs to manually intervene, this will often mean a larger fee. Traders in investment banks will often make deals on their bank’s behalf, as well as executing trades for their clients. Investment banks will often have a division (or department) called “capital markets”: staff in this division try to keep aware of the various opportunities in both the primary and secondary markets, and will advise major clients accordingly. Pension and sovereign wealth funds tend to have the largest holdings, though they tend to buy only the highest grade (safest) types of bonds and shares, and some of them do not trade all that frequently. 

There are several ways to invest in the secondary market without directly buying shares or bonds. A common method is to invest in mutual funds or exchange-traded funds. It is also possible to buy and sell derivatives that are based on the secondary market; one of the most common type of these is contracts for difference – these can provide rapid profits, but can also cause buyers to lose more money than they originally invested

Other financial services

  • Bank cards – include both credit cards and debit cards. According to the Nilson Report, JP Morgan Chase is the largest issuer of bank cards.[15]
  • Credit card machine services and networks – Companies which provide credit card machine and payment networks call themselves “merchant card providers”.
  • Intermediation or advisory services – These services involve stock brokers (private client services) and discount brokers. Stock brokers assist investors in buying or selling shares. Primarily internet-based companies are often referred to as discount brokerages, although many now have branch offices to assist clients. These brokerages primarily target individual investors. Full service and private client firms primarily assist and execute trades for clients with large amounts of capital to invest, such as large companies, wealthy individuals, and investment management funds.
  • Private equity – Private equity funds are typically closed-end funds, which usually take controlling equity stakes in businesses that are either private, or taken private once acquired. Private equity funds often use leveraged buyouts (LBOs) to acquire the firms in which they invest. The most successful private equity funds can generate returns significantly higher than provided by the equity markets
  • Venture capital is a type of private equity capital typically provided by professional, outside investors to new, high-growth-potential companies in the interest of taking the company to an IPO or trade sale of the business.
  • Angel investment – An angel investor or angel (known as a business angel or informal investor in Europe), is an affluent individual who provides capital for a business start-up, usually in exchange for convertible debt or ownership equity. A small but increasing number of angel investors organize themselves into angel groups or angel networks to share resources and pool their investment capital.
  • Conglomerates – A financial services company, such as a universal bank, that is active in more than one sector of the financial services market e.g. life insurance, general insurance, health insurance, asset management, retail banking, wholesale banking, investment banking, etc. A key rationale for the existence of such businesses is the existence of diversification benefits that are present when different types of businesses are aggregated i.e. bad things don’t always happen at the same time. As a consequence, economic capital for a conglomerate is usually substantially less than economic capital is for the sum of its parts.
  • Financial market utilities – Organisations that are part of the infrastructure of financial services, such as stock exchanges, clearing houses, derivative and commodity exchanges and payment systems such as real-time gross settlement systems or interbank networks.
  • Debt resolution is a consumer service that assists individuals that have too much debt to pay off as requested, but do not want to file bankruptcy and wish to pay off their debts owed. This debt can be accrued in various ways including but not limited to personal loans, credit cards or in some cases merchant accounts.

Insurance

  • Insurance brokerage – Insurance brokers shop for insurance (generally corporate property and casualty insurance) on behalf of customers. Recently a number of websites have been created to give consumers basic price comparisons for services such as insurance, causing controversy within the industry.[
  • Insurance underwriting – Personal lines insurance underwriters actually underwrite insurance for individuals, a service still offered primarily through agents, insurance brokers, and stock brokers. Underwriters may also offer similar commercial lines of coverage for businesses. Activities include insurance and annuities, life insurance, retirement insurance, health insurance, and property insurance and casualty insurance.
  • Finance & Insurance – a service still offered primarily at asset dealerships. The F&I manager encompasses the financing and insuring of the asset which is sold by the dealer. F&I is often called “the second gross” in dealerships who have adopted the model
  • Reinsurance – Reinsurance is insurance sold to insurers themselves, to protect them from catastrophic losses.

The United States, followed by Japan and the United Kingdom are the largest insurance markets in the world

Investment services

  • Investment management – the term usually given to describe companies which run collective investment funds. Also refers to services provided by others, generally registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission as Registered Investment Advisors. Investment banking financial services focus on creating capital through client investments.
  • Hedge fund management – Hedge funds often employ the services of “prime brokerage” divisions at major investment banks to execute their trades.
  • Custody services – the safe-keeping and processing of the world’s securities trades and servicing the associated portfolios. Assets under custody in the world are approximately US$100 trillion.

New York City is the largest center of investment services, followed by London

Foreign exchange services

Foreign exchange services are provided by many banks and specialist foreign exchange brokers around the world. Foreign exchange services include:

  • Currency exchange – where clients can purchase and sell foreign currency banknotes.
  • Wire transfer – where clients can send funds to international banks abroad.
  • Remittance – where clients that are migrant workers send money back to their home country.

London handled 36.7% of global currency transactions in 2009 – an average daily turnover of US$1.85 trillion – with more US dollars traded in London than New York, and more Euros traded than in every other city in Europe combined