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Morning Briefing

Morning Briefing

Société Générale is considering closing 20 percent of its bank branches in France as its customers continue to migrate to online banking. The bank said the numbers had not been finalised but it wanted to optimise its network. It has already closed 40 branches this year.

SocGen estimates that around 42 percent of its customers visit their branch once a month, compared to 57 percent in 2007.

In the US, Fifth Third Bank has agreed to pay $21 million to settle allegations that it discriminated against minorities seeking vehicle loans and used deceptive marketing techniques to sell credit card protection products.

The settlement is the result of a joint enforcement action by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the Justice Department. Fifth Third is to pay $18 million to consumers for allowing dealers to charge higher interest rates on vehicle loans to African American and Hispanic borrowers and $3 million to credit card customers who were deceptively sold "debt protection products".

Meanwhile, with the 1 October deadline for the US to switch to chip-enabled cards imminent, more than 200 million of the cards have been issued with EMV capability, according to the Smart Card Alliance. Randy Vanderhook, executive director at the Smart Card Alliance, told Reuters that there are many more chip cards in the hands of consumers than there are merchant locations equipped to accept them.

The Reserve Bank of India surprised analysts today, cutting its key lending rate by 0.5 percentage points to 6.75 percent. Analysts had anticipated a 0.25 cut. Bank stocks rose on the back of the cut with HDFC Bank and Mahindra & Mahindra up 1.2 percent while State Bank of India rose by 0.8 percent.

Also in India, finance minister Arun Jaitley has said the government is open to reducing its stake in state-run lenders to 52 percent as the sector continues to grapple with non-performing assets. Typically, the government's stake the banks is over 60 percent.

Visa has said that its bank cards will continue to function as normal in Russia after 1 October, dismissing media reports that the company had notified Russian banks that it might not guarantee service of card transactions from that date.

Visa had been expected to switch its Russian processing operations to the new National Card Payment System (NSPK) but failed to comply with the required timing to transfer processing of transactions made on its cards in Russia to the NSPK. The company stated that notifications sent to Russian banks about transaction transfer processes were not connected with Visa cards operations in Russia and would not affect cardholders.

In the UK, the Guardian has revealed that the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) is to apply for access to evidence as to how Barclays raised £7 billion in funds during the 2008 financial crisis. The newspaper says a private hearing will take place in December in which the SFO is likely to seek the legal documents from the bank. News of the private hearing can be disclosed after reporting restrictions were lifted by Judge Nicholas Loraine-Smith. The Guardian said the judge gave no reason for imposing or lifting the restrictions.

In South Korea, regulators said today that prospective operators of the country's first internet-only bank can submit preliminary applications on Wednesday and Thursday. Kakao Bank, Interpark Bank Grand, KT and 500V consortia are expected to apply.

Riyad Bank has introduced Saudi Arabia's first contactless EMV bank card in association with Gemalto. The bank also announced that it is migrating its entire portfolio to Gemalto.

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