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Eus finance chief wants more competition in retail financial services

Nov 18 The European Union should open up retail financial services to more competition to bring lower prices for consumers who will also then see how EU membership can produce tangible benefits, the bloc's new financial chief said on Tuesday. Jonathan Hill, European financial services commissioner since Nov. 1, pointed to liberalisation of telecoms as an example where EU action has pushed down the price of a cross-border mobile phone call, one of the EU's most popular policy moves. EU legislation has also helped low-cost airlines Ryanair and easyJet to shake-up air travel across the continent to bring down fares.

"Can we apply those lessons in the sphere of financial services? And if so, how? Competition gives consumers choice," Hill said in a speech in Brussels. He said prising open financial services to more competition would also bring wider political benefits at a time when anti-EU political parties are in the ascendancy.

"The EU's legitimacy depends on the continued provision of tangible benefits to the public. Retail financial services and consumer policy is, I believe, an area where we can do exactly that," Hill said. The retail financial service industry in the European Union is still fragmented and regulated along national lines, with products reflecting long-established cultural idiosyncracies.

Hill said that travel insurance in Britain was 55 euros

Greece agrees steps to tackle banks bad loans

* Greece's lenders want strategy to tackle bad loans* Stricter screening to deter strategic defaulters* Plans for more judges for insolvency casesATHENS, Aug 12 Greece will take steps to tackle the mountain of bad loans weighing on its banks as part of its deal with international creditors, a draft of the agreement obtained by Reuters showed on Wednesday. Under a European Banking Authority yardstick, Greek banks' "non-performing exposures" (NPEs) -- which include loans in arrears for more than 90 days (NPLs) and restructured credit unlikely to be repaid -- hit 40 percent of their portfolios last year. The bad-debt load has worsened since then, as Greece sank back into recession and was forced to impose of capital controls, requiring banks to set aside more provisions against the bad loans and constraining them from funding the economy.

Resolving the issue has been one of the major sticking points in talks with creditors. According to the 29-page memorandum of understanding (MOU), a copy of which was obtained by Reuters, Greek authorities commit to changing corporate insolvency laws to rehabilitate viable debtors and speed up the liquidation of non-viable ones. Other reforms include stricter screening to deter so-called strategic defaulters from taking advantage of a home foreclosure protection law and increasing the number of judges to address the backlog of insolvency cases.

Greece will also adopt legislation to establish a regulated profession of insolvency administrators. The Bank of Greece, the country's central bank, will look into the segmentation of NPLs on bank balance sheets and give its assessment of their capacity to deal with each segment by the end of October.

By the end of November, the government will take further action to facilitate the resolution of impaired loans, including coming up with specialised court chambers for corporate and household insolvencies. Athens will also set up an independent credit and wealth bureau to help identify debtors' payment capabilities."The government will establish a permanent social safety net, including support measures for the most vulnerable debtors and differentiating between strategic defaulters and good-faith debtors," the MOU said. Further actions require Athens to introduce mechanisms to segment commercial debtors with large sums owed to the state based on their viability status, and legislation to enable the fast-track liquidation of unviable entities by March 2016, aiming to complete the clean-up process by December next year. The Bank of Greece will agree with banks on targets for NPL resolution and loan restructuring by the end of February next year, and banks will have to report quarterly against key performance indicators.

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