The Power of Generative AI

Generative AI is the big trending topic right now, and understandably is featuring prominently in the news. The popularity of platforms such as Open AI’s ChatGPT, which set a record for the fastest-growing user base by reaching 100 million monthly active users just two months after launching is unquestionably on the minds of businesses globally.

These tools can increase productivity and efficiency by automating repetitive tasks and letting employees focus on higher-value work. They can foster enhanced creativity and innovation by assisting in brainstorming and ideation processes and generating novel solutions to complex problems. Today, AI’s applications have already been well-documented in fields such as eCommerce, security, education, healthcare, agriculture, gaming, transport, and astronomy. The business, productivity, and efficiency gains that it provides these industries are enabling them to flourish and open up new revenue streams.

But while generative AI tools bring a world of possibilities, they also open the door to some complex security concerns. For example, generative AI often requires access to vast amounts of sensitive data, which poses significant data privacy and protection challenges. Mishandling of, or unauthorized access to, these datasets can lead to breaches, regulatory penalties, and damaged reputations.

Using generative AI safely

To this point, at Zenith Live in Las Vegas last month, our technology partner, Zscaler’s EVP and Chief Innovation Officer Patrick Foxhoven talked about the potential risks associated with AI. Patrick was quick to point out that AI is not new to Zscaler, the company has been leveraging the technology for many years now, and he said it does have the potential to change everything.

However, he also stated that both deepfakes and data loss can be enabled by the same generative AI capabilities. Patrick talked about the importance of enabling customers to use generative AI safely and how Zscaler has added a new URL category and cloud app for tools like Bard, ChatGPT, and others. This allows admins to finely control who can access these tools and enforce browser isolation to protect against sensitive data being uploaded.

Getting smart about cyber risk and investment

Additionally, Zscaler also provides risk scores for commonly used apps to determine if their AI integrations pose a threat based on the application’s security posture and data retention policies. Furthmore, AI insights generated by Zscaler’s new Risk 360 platform can help security prioritize, isolate, and implement policies for preventing future process iterations.

Zscaler Risk 360 is a comprehensive tool designed to help security leaders quantify and visualise cyber risk. It looks at an organization’s security posture, based on data and analytics, enabling them to build a risk profile based on their security posture, with a better understanding around the financial implications of cyber risks.

What I feel is particularly beneficial about this tool for customers is that it can be used as an aid to help fund projects because it enables security leaders to be smarter about where they put their dollars and invest. It also enables them to have a meaningful dialogue with the board and secure funding based on insight that demonstrates what the impact of a breach might be.

Will AI steal our jobs?

But there are also many who are cautious, even highly concerned about AI, and that AI will take our jobs. However, IBM has reassured us that the day when humans are completely replaced by AI is a long way off.   That said, the US actors’ union had 160,000 members on strike since last week, afraid that AI will lead to far fewer employed actors in the future as studios use AI to create “digital twins” of actors.

Likewise, AI is a big issue for writers, especially with ChatGPT being used to write everything from law school and business school papers to legal briefs, with varying degrees of success. And winning limits on AI is an issue for the Writers Guild of America, which has been on strike against studios and streaming services since May.

There are a wealth of industry predictions on the impact that AI will have on society between now and 2030, but the speed at which AI has started to impact our everyday lives makes me think that self-imposed deadline should be brought forward. Who knows what the applications of AI will look like next year, let alone in six-and-a-half years.

Consolidating vendors and eliminating point solutions

What I’m also finding in the current economic climate is that customers are crying out for integrated, comprehensive solutions so they don’t have to deal with multiple point products that don’t work with each other.  This is one of the guiding principles for Zscaler and many of its new offerings haven’t been cobbled together from a string of acquisitions to add functionality in areas that were lacking. Likewise, they haven’t simply been built to extend product lines and create additional revenue streams. Nor are they attempting to capitalize on this latest buzz surrounding AI. In fact, they capitalize on Zscaler’s massive cloud security data lake for training sophisticated AI models to provide advanced insights for customers. These insights were always present in the more than 300 billion transactions and 500 trillion daily signals seen by the Zscaler Zero Trust Exchange every day. Now AI simply allows Zscaler to process and serve these transactions to users in a scalable, intuitive, and actionable way.

Ultimately, AI presents a wealth of opportunities and challenges for individuals, organizations, and governments around the globe, and it will be interesting to see how AI continues to evolve in the months and years ahead and whether it is viewed as a threat or an opportunity to innovate by businesses.

By Brian Ramsey, VP America, Xalient

Soaring bank dividends drive upgrade to UK payouts for 2023, says latest Dividend Monitor

UK dividends are set to rise more quickly than expected as a result of a dramatic recovery in banking payouts, according to the latest quarterly Dividend Monitor, published by global financial services company Computershare.

UK dividends fell 9.0% in total on a headline basis to £32.8bn in the second quarter, which mainly reflected sharply lower one-off special dividends.

The underlying picture was much more encouraging than the headline figures suggested: regular dividends totalled £32.2bn: up 3.5% on an underlying basis and ahead of Computershare’s Dividend Monitor forecast.

Banks have been reporting very strong profits and were comfortably Q2’s biggest engine of UK payout growth: paying £7.8bn, which was up 61% on an underlying basis.

Britain’s biggest bank, HSBC, has signalled that it has capacity for significant further dividends and share buybacks – and is on track to become the UK’s largest dividend payer this year for the first time since 2008.

Banks are expected to make the most significant contribution to dividend growth for the full year in 2023.

Across other sectors in Q2, the diverse ‘industrial goods and support’ sector delivered 12% underlying growth, ahead of forecast, with 95% of industrials delivering year‑on‑year increases.

Meanwhile dividends from the airline, leisure and travel sector have been the slowest to make a recovery from the pandemic: payouts rose by two thirds but are still well below pre‑lockdown levels.

The biggest negative impact came from sharply lower mining dividends, which fell by a third (in line with Dividend Monitor forecasts) as lower commodity prices impacted cash flows in the sector.

The strong underlying second-quarter figures, along with the promise of significant further banking dividends to come, have driven an upgrade in Computershare’s Dividend Monitor forecast for 2023.

The headline total is expected to fall 1.7% to £92.3bn (reflecting lower one-offs and exchange-rate headwinds), but this is nevertheless a £1.0bn improvement on the prospects three months ago.

Regular dividends are now expected to rise to £88.9bn, up 6.1% on underlying basis, an upgrade of £2.7bn compared to three months ago.

Mark Cleland, CEO Issuer Services United Kingdom, Channel Islands, Ireland and Africa at Computershare, said: “UK companies collectively made record profits last year and have so far proved resilient in the face of interest rates, similar to their international peers, which has provided significant support for dividends and share buybacks.

“Among the three biggest-paying sectors banking and oil dividends are firing on all cylinders, compensating for much lower mining dividends, though even these remain high by historic standards.

“Forecasts for company earnings are coming down due to the darkening UK economic picture and a belief that policymakers are prepared to risk a recession to combat inflation.

“However, the dividend outlook has brightened in the short term.

“Banking profits are soaring as they benefit from higher interest rates, and dividends are following suit.

“Outside the banking sector, companies with pricing power are building margins, contributing to inflation but in turn boosting their dividend fire power, and there are still small pockets where dividends are still catching up after cuts made during the pandemic, which is boosting the total paid.”

The Dividend Monitor also reports that:

  • The top 100 payouts outpaced the mid-caps for the first time since Q2 2021 (driven by large banks and industrials), as the recovery from the pandemic had initially favoured the smaller companies that had been compelled to cut their dividends more steeply during lockdowns to preserve cash.
  • Underlying growth among the top 100 was 5.8% in Q2, though the headline figure fell due to lower one-off special dividends.
  • Mid-cap dividends rose 3.0% on an underlying basis.
  • Falling share prices combined with improved expectations for dividends meant the prospective yield on UK equities improved in the quarter, rising from 3.7% to 4.0%.
  • Nevertheless, other asset classes saw yields rise much more dramatically.
  • The UK 10-year benchmark gilt yield soared 1.2 percentage points to almost 4.7%.
  • Best-buy instant access savings accounts now offer 4.4%, up from 3.6% in April.

Mark Cleland added: “With UK government bond yields back at levels last seen 15 years ago and cash savings rates inching up in tandem, this big shift in the income landscape means equities now yield less than cash savings or bonds.

“It is important to remember, however, that dividends tend to grow over time, whereas bond coupons and cash interest do not, helping to tip the scales back in favour of equities as a long‑term investment, although they come with higher risks attached.”

Where next for BNPL?

Simplicity lies at the heart of the appeal of buy now pay later. Why pay in one hit when, by ticking a few boxes, you can have manageable monthly installments at zero interest?  And instead of the time consuming process of applying for a regulated consumer finance product, you can speed through checkout by using unregulated BNPL.

It is no surprise that without the due diligence ‘friction’ that comes with traditional credit arrangements, merchants have found BNPL to be a powerful tool in getting sales over the line.

Such simplicity has helped propel the UK sector from small beginnings to US$27.3 billion in 2022 and a projected US$55.1 billion by 2028.

That meteoric expansion, however, is now in some doubt as a result of proposed government regulation.

A small but growing percentage of users who have been unable to manage their BNPL commitments, plus its disproportionate popularity with the under 30s, has prompted HM Treasury to table a range of changes to the status quo.

Key to these is the plan for BNPL to lose its largely unregulated status.

Up to now, firms providing interest-free delayed payment benefit from an exemption found under Article 60F of the Financial Services & Markets Act, which exempts them from regulation agreements where no interest is charged and there are 12 or fewer installments. The 60F exemption has meant that not only do they not need to be FCA authorised, but also that they have not needed to provide consumer agreements strictly in line with the Consumer Credit Act.

As they stand, the government’s proposals will do away with this exemption and require BNPL operators to be authorised and their credit agreements fall within the scope of Consumer Credit Act, as used in traditional credit agreements for unsecured loans or credit cards. Instead of minimal checks, BNPL lenders will have to undertake mandatory affordability assessments, and additionally be subject to ‘lender liability’ under section 75 of the CCA.

Unsurprisingly, BNPL firms fear that the changes are not fit-for-purpose and may have unintended consequences.

They see the loss of their unregulated status leading to disproportionate friction for consumers seeking short-term credit. If someone currently uses buy-now pay-later at an online checkout, they say, they can be expected to complete the purchase in a minute and a half, versus 30 seconds for credit cards. Based on this Klarna modeling, the timeframe could expand to five minutes under the new UK rules.

The danger is that this will reduce the appeal of BNPL. By adding extra layers to the application process, BNPL’s USP over other forms of finance will disappear.

It is argued that this problem is made worse by the fact that the new rules will not be applied to merchants, only to third-party providers of finance. Merchants will be able to offer short-term, interest-free credit directly to consumers in the largely unregulated space that BNPL has been operating in so far.

Although lenders will be able to leverage on-boarding technology, such as that provided by LendingMetrics, to speed screening and reduce point-of-sale friction to a minimum, it is still going to be challenging to beat relatively friction-free and unregulated direct merchant provision.

The concern for BNPL operators is that an uneven playing field is being opened up. A host of big names such as PayPal, Apple and Google, who have already announced their intention to ramp up their presence in consumer finance, will be gifted an unfair advantage.

Some have even suggested that the double hit on BNPL – more friction and a new uneven playing field – will lead to operators withdrawing from the market altogether.

Given that the UK will be one of only a few countries heavily regulating this area of finance, multinational BNPL fintechs might choose to focus their efforts on jurisdictions less prone to ‘over regulation’. This could be particularly tempting for them because the looming changes are going to allow consumers to use the Financial Ombudsman Service and, potentially, game the mis-selling process.

The consultation period for the government’s proposals ended in April this year, but legislation is not expected to be presented to Parliament until mid 2024 at the earliest. From the number of enquiries LendingMetrics is now receiving from this sector, it seems at least some have decided regulated BNPL still has growth potential. They are sensibly making the most of this time to prepare their back offices for the new regime.

David Wylie is Commercial Director of LendingMetrics

The New Consumer Duty: Why all the Fuss?

The Financial Conduct Authority’s new “consumer duty” will set higher and clearer standards of consumer protection across financial services requiring firms to act and deliver good outcomes for consumers. The authority expect  the duty to be embedded in all credit providers’ products and policies. Compliance will need to be evidenced on an ongoing basis. And with new rules being applicable from 31st July 2023 for new and existing retail products all those involved in consumer credit will have to take notice. Essentially the new duty will require firms to put consumers at the heart of their business focussing on the delivery of good outcomes for their customers at every stage of its processes and at all levels of a business’s organisational structure. The duty will enhance the standards in the FCA’s handbook and in particular will ensure that vulnerable customers’ needs are effectively addressed. If past experience is replicated organisations such as energy providers, whilst not governed by consumer credit regulation, will adopt a similar approach and in particular when dealing with their vulnerable customers. Accordingly the impact of the legislation may well become the “new normal” when it comes to consumer debtors.

The Duty: Further Explained

The duty is reinforced by adding a new “consumer principle 12” to the existing “principles of business” by requiring firms to “act and deliver good outcomes for retail customers”. These obligations should be central to a firm’s culture and purpose, be embedded throughout the organisation and be at the heart of their business. This goes beyond principle 6 which has the lower bar of “treating customers fairly”. These new obligations are dynamic in as much as firms will have to continually evaluate the extent to which their products and services meet customers’ needs, whether or not the customers are direct clients of the firm. In general, firms will have to demonstrate that their staff, including third parties, have sufficient understanding how their customers behave in relation to their products. When a firm is considering ”consumer support” it is likely that third party debt recovery agencies, including solicitors, will require to meet these standards particularly when dealing with vulnerable debtors in arrears. This could involve enhanced reporting and monitoring their experience via their data strategies to evidence how they deal with vulnerability. These obligations are underpinned with the requirement that firms must act in good faith in assisting customers to achieve good outcomes and to avoid causing them foreseeable harm through their conduct as well as taking  proactive steps to avoid it.

In order to comply with principle 12 the FCA require that firms are able to demonstrate four outcomes:

  1. Are the products and services designed in such a way that are fit for purpose and meet customers’ needs and targeted to those customers whose needs they are designed to meet?
  2. Are the prices for the products and services fair and offer value for money and meet customers’ needs and objectives?
  3. Are communications about products and services clear and not misleading? Do they adequately explain in a clear fashion the risks so that informed decisions can be made?
  4. Do firms have adequate systems in place for customers which offer them support and focus on their needs throughout the customer journey?

Reporting Obligations

To reinforce accountability the rules have been strengthened with the introduction of an “individual conduct” rule. This requires all relevant staff to “deliver good outcomes for retail customers”. This will be a continuing obligation. Responsible individuals will not only have to deliver the outcome but also ensure that they remain on track and are continually reviewed to meet the “duty” standards. This should be achieved by repeated reviews to identify any gaps or weaknesses and implementing necessary remedial action. These obligations have to be implemented throughout the business. Staff will also have to demonstrate this. In particular senior management will have to explain their understanding of the duty and the actions which they have taken to comply with it. For larger organisations a “duty champion” should be appointed who, along with the Chair and CEO, must ensure that the duty is regularly discussed and reviewed.

10 Key Questions

As part of its strategy to ensure compliance the FCA has highlighted 10 key questions for firms to consider:

  1. Are you satisfied your products and services are well designed to meet the needs of consumers in the target market and perform as expected? What testing has been conducted?
  2. Do your products or services have features that could risk harm for groups of customers with characteristics of vulnerability? If so, what changes to the design of your products or services are you making?
  3. What action have you taken as a result of your fair value assessments, and how are you ensuring this action is effective in improving consumer outcomes?
  4. What data, MI and other intelligence are you using to monitor the fair value of your products or services on an ongoing basis?
  5. How are you testing the effectiveness of your communications? How are you acting on these results?
  6. How do you adapt your communications to meet the needs of customers with characteristics of vulnerability?
  7. What assessment have you made about whether your customer support is meeting the needs of customers with characteristics of vulnerability? What data, MI and customer feedback is being used to support this assessment?
  8. How are you satisfied yourself that the quality and availability of any post-sale support you have is as good as your pre-sale support?
  9. Do individuals throughout your firm – including those in control and support functions – understand their role and responsibility in delivering the duty?
  10. Have you identified the key risks to your ability to deliver good outcomes to customers and put appropriate mitigants in place?


The question posited to this article is “why all the fuss?” The extent of the new duty illustrates a sea change in how the credit industry conduct their business which will probably have to be customer centric. There will also be an impact for those involved in debt recovery. “Vulnerability” features more than once in the 10 Key Questions .Regulated firms will want to ensure conformity with the duty and in so doing will require those who are collecting their debts comply with the duty and are able to evidence this. The advice to the debt recovery sector should be to speak to their clients to discuss what measures to be put in place to both comply and to demonstrate compliance.

By Stephen Cowan, director, Yuill and Kyle Ltd

Allianz Trade appoints new Credit Director

Allianz Trade, the world’s leading trade credit insurer, has appointed Stephen Bramall Credit Director for the UK & Ireland with effect from 01 July.

Steve is responsible for implementing the Allianz Trade in the UK & Ireland’s credit strategy, managing risk underwriting, credit analysis, claims and collections, plus delivering operational targets and supporting commercial activity. He reports directly to Sarah Murrow, CEO UK & Ireland, and is based in the Canary Wharf, London, office.

Steve joined Allianz Trade 12 years ago as a credit analyst in the Manchester office. He has extensive local and international experience. Since joining the firm his roles include Senior Risk Underwriter, UK & Ireland, and Northern Europe Regional Risk Director for multinational corporations. Before returning to the UK & Ireland he was Group Credit Strategy Manager at Allianz Trade’s Paris head office.

Sarah Murrow, CEO, Allianz Trade in the UK and Ireland, said: “Steve’s understanding of the UK and Irish markets and international experience make him a great fit for the role, helping our clients manage their credit risk and protecting them from overdue payments. His experience will be hugely beneficial in giving our clients the confidence in tomorrow they need to do business in this environment of higher interest rates, higher inflation, higher input costs and increased insolvency risks.”

Steve succeeds Andrew Hodson, who is appointed Global Credit Director for Allianz Trade Excess of Loss.

Bank rate hikes have driven down sales volumes – Here’s the regions that have been hit hardest

The latest research by property purchasing specialist, House Buyer Bureau, has shown that property sales have been falling ever since the Bank of England started hiking the base rate, declining at an average rate of -3.4% per month across Britain since December 2021.

House Buyer Bureau analysed the level of monthly transactions seen across Great Britain since the Bank made the first of its now 13 consecutive base rate hikes in December 2021 and how market activity levels have changed both in terms of the monthly total seen, and the average monthly change.

Across Great Britain there were just 43,209 transactions in February 2023, -45.2% less than in December 2021.

The decline really started to kick in this year, as sales volumes in January (44,635) and February 2023 (43,209) are -27.9% and 37.0% lower than the same months in 2022.

As a result, the average monthly level of transactions seen since December 2021 has declined at a rate of -3.4% per month.

The Bank base rate currently sits at 5%, following a 0.5% increase in June. The central bank is looking to curb inflation, as CPI inflation stood at 7.9% as of May 2023.

Wales worst hit 

Wales has seen the biggest reduction in market activity, with total monthly sales falling by 51.5% as only 2,001 properties changed hands in February 2023, versus 4,122 in December 2021. The nation has also seen monthly transaction levels decline at an average rate of -4% per month over the last 15 months.

Similarly there was a particularly strong decline in the East of England (-48.1%) and East Midlands (-47.3%), where monthly transaction levels have fallen at an average rate of -3.7% and -3.6% per month respectively.

While London often sets its own housing narrative, the UK capital has also largely reflected the rest of the market in terms of a reduction in market activity, with the number of homes sold falling by an average of -3% per month since December 2021.

Owing to the high cost of property in the capital, surely only those with the deepest pockets will be able to continue investing in London, either with cash or a hefty deposit.

Scotland has seen the smallest reduction in transaction levels, however, the 5,365 homes sold in February 2023 still sits -39.9% below the level seen in December 2021, with the nation seeing an average monthly decline of -2.8% in the number of homes sold since interest rates started to increase.

Managing Director of House Buyer Bureau, Chris Hodgkinson, commented: “The gloom is starting to set in across the UK, as higher mortgage rates serve to blunt people’s ambitions to buy.

While some regions have fared worse than others, it’s clear that every corner of the market is feeling the effects of the current climate, as the perfect cocktail of high energy costs, high inflation and rising mortgage costs impacts affordability and confidence.

In the current environment the only possible winners are cash buyers, because – faced with less competition from mortgaged homebuyers – they are in a good position to haggle for a favourable purchase price.

For the rest of us, here’s hoping the Bank’s repeated base rate hikes fulfil their purpose and push inflation back near its 2% target. Until that happens it’s difficult to predict how high the base rate – and therefore mortgage rates – could climb.”

NatWest calls for step change in banks and fintechs’ approach to Open Banking

In a report published today on ‘The (Unmet) Potential of Open Banking’, Oxera identifies the key economic obstacles that are holding back the wider adoption of Open Banking and the development of new innovative use cases that go beyond the regulatory mandate.

NatWest Group commissioned Oxera, an economics and finance consultancy firm, to produce the report, with the aim of providing economic analysis and insight that will support the upcoming decision-making on the next phase of Open Banking in the UK.

Since launching in 2018, Open Banking has been a qualified success, with over 7 million businesses and consumers having used it to date. However, this only represents around 10% of consumers and SMEs. Open Banking payments, by several orders of magnitude, are dwarfed by more traditional payment options like cards or direct debits.

The report identifies the economic challenges that currently prevent Open Banking from reaching its full potential.  These include a lack of commercial incentives to develop or enhance APIs, and a lack of alignment between ASPSPs (Account Servicing Payment Service Providers – i.e. banks) on the benefits of Open Banking.  There are also significant challenges around managing trade-offs, for example in relation to security and convenience, within the Open Banking ecosystem.

There are three possible routes forward to address these challenges. The first two are already under discussion, and the Oxera report suggests an additional third option:

  1. Mandate banks to offer a wider range of use cases: Expand the scope of Open Banking and require banks to provide the necessary data via APIs for free.
  2. Commercialised APIs: Encourage banks to expand Open Banking use cases through Premium APIs.
  3. A multi-party system: Enable multi-party systems to emerge that have a commercial incentive to grow the Open Banking ecosystem through the design of new, flexible frameworks for industry collaboration.

The report notes that different routes may be optimal for different Open Banking use cases. Some use cases may benefit from hybrid approaches: for example, mandating the development of an API, but leaving its commercialisation to the banks themselves, or to a multi-party system.

Claire Melling, Head of Bank of APIs at NatWest Group, commented: “This report makes it clear that banks, fintechs and regulators need to work together to design new, flexible frameworks and commercial incentives that will support a far wider range of Open Banking use cases. By acting on the recommendations in this report, we can enable Open Banking to reach its full potential and, ultimately, deliver new and enhanced propositions that will improve customer choice and experience.”

Hodge sponsors retired solicitor living a ‘later life less ordinary’ to row 2,800 miles across the Pacific

A retired solicitor from Wales has got the wind in her sails thanks to support from one of her home nation’s leading specialist lenders, Hodge.

Elaine Theaker is taking on the ‘world’s toughest row’ as part of a five-strong crew and is set to cross 2,800 miles of ocean from California to the ‘Garden Island’ of Kauai in Hawaii. The team set sail on June 12th.

The Abergavenny resident is taking part in the challenge to raise money for four national air ambulance crews, including Air Ambulance Wales, and SSAFA – the Armed Forces Charity, with sponsorship from Hodge.

As a specialist in later life finance, and retired herself from a legal career specialising in pensions and wills, Elaine reached out to Hodge to support the venture and was delighted when the Cardiff-based lender agreed.

Elaine said: “I’m absolutely over the moon to have the support of Hodge in attempting this challenge and so grateful to them for giving me the opportunity of a lifetime to take part in a challenge like this.

“I’m not the only one who will benefit either, in that the money we raise will help air ambulance crews nationwide ensure they continue to save lives, and thousands of current and former serving members of Britain’s armed forces continue to get vital support in all areas of their lives too.”

The founder of her own firm, Advantage Legal, for 16 years before her retirement, Elaine is also an accomplished fine boat river rower who rowed the Atlantic in 2017 with a female trio in 60 days and 18 hours, achieving two Guinness World Records in the process.

As a specialist in later life lending products, including Retirement Interest Only and 50+ mortgages, Hodge is supporting Elaine and her Flyin’ Fish crew members in completing the first ever Pacific Challenge, alongside 14 other teams, as an example of someone living their retirement very much to the full.

The voyage is expected to take more than 60 days, with only 82 people in 33 boats having ever successfully rowed to one of the Hawaiian islands from mainland USA.

Dave Landen, CEO of Hodge, said: “Elaine is such a great representation of someone living their later life in a much less ordinary way. Her passion and drive is a very inspirational story, so we were really keen to sponsor her.

“I can’t imagine what it takes physically or mentally to complete the kind of challenges Elaine has the courage to set herself in life, and the team here at Hodge are all in complete awe of the Flyin’ Fish team generally.”

“So, we were more than happy to be associated with their efforts in completing the first ever Pacific Challenge for such good causes in the process,” he added.

For more information on Elaine and her Flyin’ Fish crew’s challenge and to donate towards their efforts visit

Lloyds Bank appoints new managing director

Lloyds Bank Corporate & Institutional Banking has appointed Lisa Francis as Managing Director, Institutional Coverage. Lisa will be based in London and report into John Winter, CEO, Corporate & Institutional Banking.

This is a newly created role, following the decision to create an expanded institutional coverage team, to drive further growth in this area and to bring the full breadth of Lloyds Banking Group’s capabilities to support our institutional clients.

In this role, Lisa will work closely with the product and markets teams to increase the institutional client base and to deepen clients use of the wide range of products and services available across the wider Lloyds Banking Group, including our overseas offices.

Lisa’s career spans more than 30 years in leading financial institutions. Lisa joined Lloyds Bank earlier in the year to lead a project on strategic delivery for Corporate & Institutional Banking. Prior to joining Lloyds, Lisa’s most recent role was at Barclays Private Bank, where she spent five years as CEO of UK and Crown Dependencies. Prior to this, Lisa held a number of leadership positions in FX sales and trading at Barclays and Natwest, having begun her career at Natwest in 1990. During her career, Lisa has strong experience in growing profitable franchises, including the underlying client base served, as well as extensive experience of identifying strategic opportunities to improve performance and deliver market leading products and services to clients.

John Winter, CEO, Corporate & Institutional Banking, said: “Lisa brings to us a deep understanding of institutional, corporate and private banking, which will be invaluable as we look to accelerate growth in our institutional coverage franchise. Clients increasingly require more than traditional banking solutions, whether that is access to sustainability-linked finance and advisory services as they transition to net zero or to a more holistic range of financial services and products. We have a strong institutional client base and I’m looking forward to supporting Lisa in her new role.”

Lisa Francis, Managing Director, Institutional Coverage, said: “I am very excited to be appointed to lead the newly created Institutional Coverage team. I was attracted to Lloyds Bank by its clear focus on helping clients to fulfil their ambitions, as well as its strong inclusion and diversity values and its clear, unifying purpose to help Britain prosper. We have an amazing opportunity to grow our institutional franchise. Not just by attracting more financial institutions to bank with us, but also to encourage existing clients to broaden the range of products and services they access from us. I look forward to leading the team as we deliver for our clients in the months and years ahead.” serves up a treat for Wimbledon!

When it comes to choosing your next vehicle to lease, performance matters. So with Wimbledon on the horizon, – the car leasing comparison website – has compared the performance of the tournament’s top seeds, past and present, to the performance of some of the most desirable new cars on our roads.

Taking top slot is John Isner. At a little over 157mph (157.2 to be precise) he has the fastest men’s serve ever recorded. Unsurprisingly, the 6ft 10in American seed also holds the record for the greatest number of aces at 14,394. Drivers looking for a like-for-like performance could opt for the Maserati Ghibli Saloon Hybrid, which you could lease and park by your own tennis court for just £786.82 a month.

Only fractionally behind Isner in performance is Alejandro Davidovich Fokina. He delivered a huge 156.6 mph serve at the Italian Open last year, almost 2mph quicker than the BMW M8 Gran Coupe at its top speed. The BMW can be leased for £1,484.76 a month.

The fastest serve in the women’s game is held by the 6ft 1in champion Georgina Garcia Perez, who can deliver a back-breaking 136.7 mph serve. To put that performance into context, that’s just shy of the Audi A5 Sport when flat out at 138 mph.

For £570.81 a month drivers can lease the Jaguar F-Pace. Reaching a cool 130 mph, the Jaguar’s top speed is just short of the fastest serve from the formidable women’s champion Aryna Sabalenka. At 133mph, her serve is second in the all-time female rankings.

When it comes to the Brits, our very own Andy Murray isn’t too far behind the pack. Ranking 35 in the table of the top all-time greats, his 145mph belter rivals the top-end BMW 3 series saloon which can reach a top speed of 146mph. Others like Cameron Norrie who is hoping to do well in this year’s tournament, and Emma Raducanu former US Open Winner, both have a top serve between 110mph and 113mph just shy of the top speed of the Volvo XC90 which drivers can lease for just £613.19 a month.

Tennis Player (Mens) Speed (mph)
John Isner (US) 157.2
Alejandro Davidovich Fokina (Spain) 156.6
Ivo Karlovic (Croatia) 156.0
Milos Raonic (Canada) 155.3
Andy Roddick (US) 155.0










Tennis Player (Women) Speed (mph)
Georgina Garcia Perez 136.7
Aryna Sabalenka 133.0
Sabine Lisicki 131.0
Brenda Schultz 130.0
Venus Williams 129.0

Dave Timmis, Founder & CEO of, says that putting performance into context highlights the power and skill of Wimbledon’s top players: “While consumers consider various factors when leasing a new car, performance still matters. And although these top speeds aren’t legal in the UK, it’s fascinating to compare the mechanical with the physical, and what vehicles are capable of compared to the skills of the world’s best tennis players.”