American Express names Sharon Chew VP & General Manager of Global Merchant Services Asia

American Express announced the appointment of Sharon Chew as the Vice President & General Manager of Global Merchant Services Asia.

In her new role, Ms Chew will be responsible for all aspects of card acceptance, including payments processing, client management, merchant partnerships and the development of new payment technology to drive merchant acceptance for American Express cards in the region, including Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan and India markets.

Sharon Chew commented:

“I am excited for this new role and am looking forward to strengthening our existing merchant and acquiring partnerships; forging new relationships, while further expanding our reach in the region. With its diverse customer base and evolving payments landscape, Asia is a unique market for American Express where we are committed to enhancing our merchant value proposition.”

Sharon Chew first joined American Express in 2004 and during the initial 16 years, held leadership positions across consumer and network businesses leading product and marketing, supporting proprietary issuers and bank partners across 17 markets in Asia. Prior to rejoining American Express recently, she was the General Manager for loyalty solutions for Asia-Pacific in Mastercard overseeing loyalty engagement for financial institutions, digital partners and strategic merchants across Australia, Greater China, North & South Asia and South-east Asia.

With over 20 years of experience in the payments space, Sharon chew has led large-scale enterprise projects and business transformation initiatives with a proven track record of successful leadership and results across local, regional and global teams.


Italy’s CONSOB orders blocking of access to seven unauthorised investment websites

Italy’s Companies and Exchange Commission (CONSOB) has ordered the blocking of seven new websites that offer financial services without the necessary authorization.

The websites targeted by the orders are:

  • “BTX+” (website https://btxplus.io and related pages https://client.btxplus.io and https://webtrader.btxplus.io);
  • “Tide Technologies Group” (website https://tidetechnologiesgroup.ltd);
  • Fast-MNG EU Limited (website www.fast-mng.com);
  • “Alfacapitalinvest” (website https://alfacapitalinvest.com and related page https://client.alfacapitalinvest.com);
  • “Bitcoinup” e “UfinaCapital” (siti https://bitcoinup.io e https://ufinacapital.pro and page https://ufina.trade)
  • Digital Trust CSP Fzco (website www.doublefinance.io).

Of these seven websites, six are illegal financial intermediation websites and one is a website through which an offer of financial products is carried out in the absence of a prospectus.

In issuing the orders the Authority availed itself of the powers deriving from the “Decreto crescita” (“Growth Decree”; Law no. 58 of 28 June 2019, Article no. 36, paragraph 2-terdecies), on the basis of which Consob can order Internet service providers to block access from Italy to websites offering financial services without the proper authorization.

The number of websites blacked out since July 2019, when Consob got the power to order that the websites of fraudulent financial intermediaries be blacked out, has thus risen to 977.

The black-out of these websites by Internet service providers operating on Italian territory is ongoing. For technical reasons, it can take several days for the blocking to be implemented.


Clive Harrison retires as Chairman of Fiske

Fiske plc announces Board changes.Clive Harrison has retired as Chairman and as a director of the company as of the conclusion of the AGM today.

Tony Pattison, currently a director of the Company, has stepped into the role of Chairman of Fiske plc.

Clive Harrison founded Fiske & Co in 1973, having started his career with Panmure Gordon in 1961 and moving to Hodgson & Baker (subsequently renamed Sandleson & Co) in 1965. Previously to being Chairman of Fiske’s Board he was Chief Executive Officer from which role he retired in 2014. Under his leadership, the Board decides the strategic aims of the company and ensures that the necessary financial and human resources are in place to meet the company’s objectives and that obligations to shareholders are met.

Fiske is London-based investment manager and stockbroker. It offers services to individuals, professional advisers, and companies and trusts. It also runs the Ocean Equity Fund.


MAS strengthens regulatory measures for digital payment token services

The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) today published its final tranche of responses to feedback received on its proposed regulations for Digital Payment Token (DPT) service providers in Singapore.

The consulted proposals detail business conduct and consumer access measures to limit potential consumer harm. It also stipulates minimum technology and cyber risk management requirements for DPT service providers.

With regard to business conduct, MAS will issue guidance for DPT service providers to implement these measures, which received broad support from a wide range of respondents:

  • Identify, mitigate and clearly disclose potential and actual conflicts of interest;
  • Publish policies, procedures and criteria that govern the listing of a DPT; and
  • Establish effective policies and procedures to handle customer complaints and resolve disputes.

Regarding consumer access measures, DPT service providers should discourage cryptocurrency speculation by retail customers by:

  • Determining a customer’s risk awareness to access DPT services;
  • Not offering any incentives to trade in cryptocurrencies;
  • Not providing financing, margin or leverage transactions;
  • Not accepting locally issued credit card payments; and
  • Limiting the value of cryptocurrencies in determining a customer’s net worth.

In the area of technology and cyber risk, MAS will require DPT service providers to maintain high availability and recoverability of their critical systems, in line with current requirements imposed on financial institutions.

MAS’ regulatory measures on DPT services will be implemented through regulations and guidelines, which will take effect in phases from mid-2024. This will provide an adequate transitional period for DPT service providers to properly implement these measures.

Ms Ho Hern Shin, Deputy Managing Director (Financial Supervision), MAS, said:

“DPT service providers have the obligation to safeguard the interests of consumers who interact with their platforms and use their services. While these business conduct and consumer access measures can help meet this objective, they cannot insulate customers from losses associated with the inherently speculative and highly risky nature of cryptocurrency trading.

We urge consumers to remain vigilant and exercise utmost caution when dealing in DPT services, and to not deal with unregulated entities, including those based overseas.”


HK regulator commences legal proceedings against AMTD Global Markets Limited

Hong Kong’s Securities and Futures Commission (SFC) has commenced legal proceedings asking the Court of First Instance to inquire into the circumstances of non-compliance by AMTD Global Markets Limited (AMTD, currently known as orientiert XYZ Securities Limited) and its former executives with the SFC’s notices in initial public offerings (IPOs)-related investigations.

The SFC’s investigations related to suspected employment of fraudulent or deceptive schemes and/or disclosure of false or misleading information in the IPOs of certain listed companies where AMTD was involved as bookrunner, lead manager and underwriter.

The former executives of AMTD, amongst others, are: Lo Chi Hang, former responsible officer (RO); Philip Yau Wai Man, former director and manager-in-charge (MIC); and See Hiu Lun, former emergency contact person and complaints officer.

The regulator issued notices to AMTD seeking records relating to, amongst other things, its work in those IPOs. However, AMTD did not fully comply with the notices.

The former executives of AMTD did not attend interviews as required after the SFC had issued them with interview notices.

If the Court is satisfied after an inquiry that AMTD and its former executives do not have any reasonable excuse for not complying with the SFC notices, it can order AMTD to produce the specified records and its former executives to attend interviews, and it can punish them as if they had been guilty of contempt of court.


eToro launches XtremeWeather portfolio

Online broker eToro has launched XtremeWeather, a new portfolio providing retail investors with exposure to companies best-positioned to prosper due to increasingly frequent and severe extreme weather events.

The XtremeWeather portfolio comprises 30 stocks from key industries such as renewable electricity, industrial machinery, supplies and components, fertilizers and agricultural chemicals, retail home improvement, electrical components and equipment, and gas, that are at the forefront of supporting recovery and normalisation following extreme weather events.

To construct this portfolio, the team evaluated thousands of stocks, ranking them based on criteria including market capitalization, ESG score, liquidity parameters, analyst rankings, and trailing 12-month sales growth.

Dani Brinker, Head of Investment Portfolios at eToro, commented:

“2023 will be remembered as the year of climate change. From the effects of El Niño in Australia to the floods in Italy and the wildfires in Maui, almost no continent has been immune.

With the global climate conference, COP28, around the corner, we wanted to offer retail investors the opportunity to invest in the climate-proof their portfolios and diversify into industries that will help rebuild our cities, communities, and surrounding wildlife after these extreme climate events.”

The portfolio will be rebalanced annually or on demand to maintain its relevance and optimise performance. To address the unpredictability of weather events and the influence of any new economic and governmental policies, the allocation strategy distributes equal weight across all 30 stocks (3.33%). This approach is designed to reduce concentration risk and enhance the portfolio’s overall resilience.

Initial investment starts from USD$500 and investors can access tools and charts to track the portfolio’s performance, while eToro’s social feed will keep them up-to-date on developments in the sector. For now, this portfolio is not available to US users.


ZA Bank receives regulatory approval to prepare for US stock trading service launch

Hong Kong virtual bank ZA Bank today announced that the Hong Kong Securities and Futures Commission (SFC) has lifted the previous conditions on the Bank’s licence registration of Type 1 (dealing in securities) regulated activity under which the Bank shall only carry on business of dealing in collective investment schemes.

The Bank plans to roll out U.S. stock trading services in due course upon completion of the pilot trial.

ZA Bank users will soon be able to access a broader range of investment opportunities from stocks and ETFs to ADRs in the U.S. markets with just a few clicks in the ZA Bank App. With its strong tech DNA, ZA Bank is determined to minimise users’ fees with greater efficiency, alongside instant investment account opening for eligible users.

Ronald Iu, CEO of ZA Bank, said:

“ZA Bank aspires to build a future bank for now, one that empowers users to achieve their financial goals with ease and convenience. We are excited to add U.S. stock trading services to our product suite in due course. With exposure to the world’s largest stock market in terms of capitalisation, users can capture the growth potential in some of the most valuable and influential companies across the globe. This marks another key milestone for ZA Bank in our commitment to creating a one-stop digital finance platform for users.”

ZA Bank has been stepping up efforts to enhance its services in the investment space. The Bank officially launched investment fund services in August 2022, and has since collaborated with top international fund managers, including AllianceBernstein, Allianz Global Investors and J.P. Morgan Asset Management, to successfully onboard over 100 investment fund products with an 8-fold growth in total assets under management from the start of this year.


eToro adds Global X MSCI Argentina ETF to list of investment instruments

Online broker eToro continues to expand the list of investment instruments with the latest addition being the Global X MSCI Argentina ETF ($ARGT).

From the regional eCommerce powerhouse $MELI (MercadoLibre) to local giants like YPF, Arcos Dorados (McDonald’s franchise), $PAM (Pampa Energia S.A.-ADR) and leading bank Galicia, $ARGT opens doors to Argentina’s market movers.

$ARGT offers:

  • Diversification: Add a slice of Argentina’s economic powerhouse to your portfolio.
  • Milei’s Impact: Ride the waves of change under the influence of Argentina’s dynamic political landscape.
  • Market Movers: $ARGT captures the growth potential of Argentina’s major players.

Zero Commission applies to all newly added stocks and ETFs for users in regions where such policy is offered. Zero Commission means that no additional fees will be charged or added to the raw market spread on your stocks & ETF positions. There are also no limits on commission-free positions, and you can buy fractional shares.


FTC files proposed order of $1.65bn settlement with Voyager Digital

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has moved the New York Southern District Court to enter a proposed Order for Permanent Injunction, Monetary Judgment, and Other Relief against Voyager Digital. The relevant documents were filed with the Court on November 22, 2023.

Entry of the Stipulated Order would end the litigation against Voyager Digital, LLC, Voyager Digital Holdings, Inc., and Voyager Digital Ltd. Litigation against Defendant Stephen Ehrlich and Relief Defendant Francine Ehrlich is ongoing.

According to the proposed order, judgment in the amount of $1,650,000,000 is entered in favor of the Commission against Corporate Defendants, jointly and severally, as monetary relief. Corporate Defendants’ liability for this judgment shall be joint and several with any other Defendants to the extent subsequently ordered.

The Debtor Defendants will not object to allowance of Proof of Claim No. 12033 filed by the FTC against Voyager Digital, LLC and Proof of Claim No. 12032 filed by the FTC against Voyager Digital Holdings, Inc. in the Bankruptcy Case as general unsecured claims in the amount of $1,650,000,000.

“Corporate Defendants” means Voyager Digital, LLC, Voyager Digital Holdings, Inc., Voyager Digital Ltd., and their successors and assigns.

“Debtor Defendants” means Voyager Digital, LLC, Voyager Digital Holdings, Inc., and Voyager Digital Ltd.

The proposed order also envisages that Corporate Defendants are permanently restrained and enjoined from advertising, marketing, promoting, offering, or distributing, or assisting in the advertising, marketing, promoting, offering, or distributing of any product or service that can be used to deposit, exchange, invest, or withdraw assets, whether directly or through an intermediary.

It is also proposed thatI Corporate Defendants, Corporate Defendants’ officers, agents, employees, and attorneys, and all other persons in active concert or participation with any of them, whether acting directly or indirectly, in connection with promoting or offering for sale any product or service are permanently restrained and enjoined from misrepresenting or assisting others in misrepresenting, expressly or by implication the benefits of Defendants’ products or services or any other material fact about Defendants’ products or services, such as the total costs; any material restrictions, limitations, or conditions; or any material aspect of its performance, efficacy, nature, or central characteristics.

Voyager commenced a voluntary Chapter 11 process in July 2022. As part of this process, the Company and its main operating subsidiaries filed voluntary petitions for reorganization under Chapter 11 in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court of the Southern District of New York.


AMF fines Alvexo affiliate France Safe Media and manager Lior Mattouk €400K

France financial regulator Autorité des Marchés Financiers (AMF) has announced that its AMF Enforcement Committee has fined a French tied agent of a Cypriot investment services provider and its manager a total of €400,000, for breaches of their professional obligations.

In its decision of November 10, 2023, the Enforcement Committee imposed a fine of €300,000 on France Safe Media (FSM) and banned it from acting as a tied agent and from providing reception and transmission of orders (RTO) service for 10 years. It also fined its manager, Lior Mattouk, €100,000 and banned him from managing or directing any entity operating as a tied agent and providing RTO service for 10 years.

The Enforcement Committee found five sets of breaches for events that took place between January 2019 and September 2021, in relation to FSM’s RTO business on behalf of third parties. As a tied agent of Cypriot investment services provider VPR Safe Financial Group Limited, FSM offered its clients the opportunity to subscribe to contracts for difference (CFDs) through accounts accessible on an online platform called “Alvexo”. A tied agent is an intermediary who acts on behalf of a service provider.

Alvexo is a Cyprus-based, France and Italy focused Retail FX and CFDs brokerage brand. We’d note that VPR / Alvexo itself has run into some issues with its regulator in Cyprus. In 2021 Alvexo operator VPR was fined €100,000 by CySEC for CFD marketing. And in August 2022 CySEC partially suspended VPR/Alvexo’s CIF license regarding a host of violations, including not appearing to act fairly, honestly and professionally when providing investment services to clients, and misleading advertising. VPR’s license was reinstated by CySEC last month.

Regarding the fines to FSM and Lior Mattouk, the Commission found that FSM had not demonstrated that it had checked that its sales staff had a minimum  qualification and sufficient level of knowledge, and that FSM had provided the inspection team with a test to assess the knowledge of its sales staff which had been drawn up after the start of the investigation period and whose content was inadequate.

It then pointed out the inadequacy of the questionnaire used to assess client knowledge and experience and the inappropriateness of the scoring system associated with this questionnaire. In addition, it found that account managers interfered with the process of assessing potential clients by asking them to change their answers or to complete the questionnaire again, thereby rendering the questionnaire useless. The Commission considered that FSM was therefore unable to determine whether its clients or potential clients had the necessary experience and knowledge to understand the risks associated with the products or services offered.

It also found shortcomings in FSM’s promotional communications for CFDs, noting the absence of an appropriate warning about the risks associated with CFDs in promotional banners and the failure to comply with the prohibition on promoting CFD accounts other than limited risk accounts.

In addition, the Commission found that FSM had failed to comply with its obligation to inform its clients and potential clients of its tied agent status and of the identity of its principal when it came into contact with them.

Finally, it considered that FSM had failed to exercise due care and diligence in relation to the audit.

The Commission found that FSM’s failures were attributable to its manager, Lior Mattouk.

The AMF noted that an appeal may be lodged against this decision.