News In Brief

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Welcome to our ‘News In Brief’ column in which we digest all the news releases for you in no more than five paragraphs. Below are snippets of all the media releases we received from Sept 18 till the end of the week.

Joust and Lendela Collaborate

Sydney, Sept 19: In a strategic move aimed at revolutionizing personal loans and enhancing Australians’ financial journeys, leading online home loan marketplace Joust has announced its partnership with Lendela, a prominent player in the personal loan industry.
Joust, known for its innovative approach to home loans, connects borrowers with suitable lenders and brokers through a transparent competitive process. This has helped Australians save thousands of dollars by securing competitive home loan rates tailored to their profiles.
Lendela, operating a reverse auction model for personal loans, shares similarities with Joust’s approach. This unique model provides consumers with multiple loan offers in a single application, free of charge and without hidden fees, streamlining the personal loan application process.
Carl Hammerschmidt, CEO of Joust, emphasized the synergy between the two platforms, stating, “Consumers often navigate between home loan and personal loan journeys. This partnership adds tremendous value to both businesses’ services.”
Hammerschmidt continued, “At Joust, we’ve always been at the forefront of innovation, and today, we’re thrilled to share that we’ve joined forces with the lending experts at Lendela to revolutionize the world of personal loans. Similar to Joust, Lendela operates on a unique reverse auction model – but for personal loans. This exciting partnership opens up a world of new possibilities for growth.”
Through this collaboration, Joust and Lendela aim to simplify the lending process and empower more Australians on their financial journeys, extending their support beyond home loans.

Mercury ACE Market Debut

Mercury Securities Group Berhad Debuts on ACE Market.
Mercury Securities Group Berhad Debuts on ACE Market.

Kuala Lumpur, Sept 19: Mercury Securities Group Berhad, known as “Mercury Securities,” has officially debuted on the ACE Market of Bursa Malaysia Securities Berhad. The company opened at RM0.27 per share, marking an eight per cent premium over its initial public offering (IPO) price of RM0.25 per share.
Trading under the stock name “MERSEC” with stock code “0285,” Mercury Securities operates as an investment holding company. Its wholly-owned subsidiary, Mercury Securities Sdn Bhd, is actively engaged in stockbroking, corporate finance advisory services, and related businesses. These include margin financing facility services, underwriting and placement services, as well as nominee and custodian services.
Through its IPO, the Group successfully raised RM39.27 million, with RM26.86 million allocated for margin financing facility services. RM2.88 million will enhance digitalization programs and marketing efforts for the stockbroking business. RM4.63 million is earmarked for working capital, and RM4.90 million will cover estimated listing expenses.
Chew Sing Guan, Managing Director of Mercury Securities, expressed his gratitude, saying, “I would like to thank the SC and Bursa Securities for their continued stewardship of our capital market. I would also like to thank the entire Mercury Securities team and due diligence working group for their hard work to make today possible.”
With its listing on the ACE Market, Mercury Securities will boast a market capitalization of RM223.25 million, based on the issue price of RM0.25 per share and its enlarged issued share capital of 893.00 million shares.

Malaysian Property Market Insights

Kuala Lumpur, Sept 20: PropertyGuru Malaysia’s H2 2023 Consumer Sentiment Study reveals that 56 per cent of Malaysians intend to enter the property market in the next year, despite economic challenges and rising property prices.
Sheldon Fernandez, Country Manager, Malaysia, remains optimistic about consumer intent, even as loan applications and property inquiries dip.
Property affordability is a key concern, with 87 per cent identifying high prices as the primary hurdle to homeownership. Other obstacles include rising interest rates, economic uncertainty, loan difficulties, and political instability.
Responding to higher borrowing costs, 35 per cent of respondents are considering more affordable property options, emphasizing flexibility in their expectations. Some are willing to sacrifice certain amenities, like gyms and balconies, for cost-effective homes that offer practical amenities like parking spaces and functional kitchens.
Sustainability is gaining traction, with 26 per cent willing to pay extra for green homes, and 58 per cent believing green features can reduce utility and maintenance expenses.
Government housing assistance under the MADANI Economy initiative is welcomed, with 50 per cent relying on such support.
However, 46 per cent still face challenges in securing financing for affordable housing.
The study highlights the complexity of homeownership challenges, extending beyond property prices to encompass broader economic concerns.
Comprehensive government support is crucial, and stakeholders eagerly await Budget 2024 announcements for initiatives to facilitate homeownership for aspiring Malaysians.

Australian Travelers Prioritize Interaction

Kuala Lumpur, Sept 20: Amadeus, in collaboration with Northstar Research Partners, has unveiled the “Traveler Tribes 2033” report, offering insights into the future of travel in Australia.
This comprehensive study identifies four distinct traveler profiles or “Traveler Tribes” expected to dominate the travel landscape in 2033.
These include the “Excited Experientialists,” constituting 25 per cent of Australians, who prioritize unique and spontaneous travel experiences and are open to emerging technologies like artificial intelligence. The “Memory Makers,” representing 45 per cent of Australians, focus on creating lasting memories and exploring new places, showing interest in virtual reality and augmented reality tours.
The “Travel Tech-fluencers,” a smaller segment at three per cent, are young, tech-savvy business travelers with a strong environmental consciousness in their travel choices.
Lastly, the “Pioneering Pathfinders,” making up 27 per cent of Australians, lead fast-paced lives, seek adventure, and are influenced by sustainability in their travel decisions.
The report also highlights anticipated traveler preferences for 2033, including faster travel, eco-friendly options, and flexible payment choices, with interest in emerging technologies such as cryptocurrency payments, virtual reality tours, and data-driven personalized travel experiences.
Amadeus underscores the importance of tailoring journeys to meet the diverse needs of these traveler profiles, while industry stakeholders are urged to adapt to changing traveler preferences. This report contributes to Amadeus’ commitment to enhancing travel experiences for both travelers and travel companies.

1.3 Trillion Non-Cash Transactions

Sydney, Sept 21: The Capgemini Research Institute’s 2023 World Payments Report projects a substantial increase in non-cash transactions, with a forecast of 1.3 trillion transactions globally by 2023, expected to grow to 2.3 trillion by 2027, representing an annual growth rate of 15 per cent.
Regionally, the Asia Pacific leads with 19.8 per cent growth, followed by Europe at 10.7 per cent and North America at 6.5 per cent by 2027.
The report highlights the profound impact of digital payments, regulatory changes, and open banking. New methods like instant payments and digital wallets are expected to constitute 30 per cent of total transactions by 2027, while traditional cash management services face dissatisfaction among corporate treasurers due to globalization, supply chain disruptions, geopolitical and cybersecurity risks, and inflation.
Issues such as dispute negligence, credit risk assessment, and payment processing delays are predominantly attributed to legacy infrastructure. To optimize cash management, the report recommends establishing a digital foundation and simplifying operations and IT models for banks and payment firms.
Corporate clients increasingly demand a retail-like payment experience from banks, driven by digital payment solutions. However, compliance with regulations is straining traditional payment revenues, leading to a shift toward commercial payments for profitability.
The report advises a three-layered strategy to nurture strategic cash management relationships with corporate clients: simplifying the back office, leveraging platforms for efficiency, and engaging as strategic partners rather than service providers.

Tech Giant Acquires Food Marketplace

Ordermentum founder Adam Theobald (left) with Foodbomb founders Paul Tory (right) and Josh Goulburn (centre).

Sydney, Sept 20: Hospitality technology platform Ordermentum has acquired wholesale food marketplace Foodbomb to further its national growth strategy and digitize the food and beverage ordering industry. The acquisition is coupled with a successful $16 million capital round, valuing the combined business at over $100 million. Ordermentum, founded in 2014, is Australia’s leading ordering and payments platform for the wholesale food and beverage sector. It serves almost half of Australia’s hospitality venues and facilitates over $1 billion in orders annually.
The acquisition responds to the growing demand for streamlined digital solutions in the industry, driven primarily by Ordermentum’s 40,000 venues. These venues seek a comprehensive “one-stop-shop” solution for their ordering and payment needs. The acquisition brings over 100 new suppliers into Ordermentum’s ecosystem, enhancing the platform’s offerings. The company already generates 25,000 leads annually for its suppliers.
This acquisition and the services provided by both companies come at a crucial time for the industry, facing operational and cost pressures exacerbated by factors like the COVID-19 pandemic. The industry recognizes the need for digital transformation, and this move aims to provide accessible solutions. By combining their strengths and capital, Ordermentum and Foodbomb seek to expedite the digitization of the food and beverage industry, offering venues and suppliers more efficient and sustainable trading opportunities.

Airbnb Enhances Services Based on Community Input

Kuala Lumpur, Sept 21: Airbnb is making significant improvements in response to feedback from its user community.
Drawing from nearly 3,300 responses, the platform is introducing several enhancements, including lower pricing and cleaning fees, improved search and filtering options, verified listings in key countries, and upgraded customer service.Airbnb is focusing on affordability by providing pricing tools for hosts and greater fee transparency.
Despite industry-wide price increases, the average nightly rate for one-bedroom listings is now one per cent lower than in 2022.
Over 260,000 listings have also reduced or eliminated cleaning fees.
Airbnb is expanding its search capabilities to offer more options when search results are limited. New filters for pet-friendly homes and king-size beds have been added to cater to user preferences.
Airbnb plans to verify listings in top countries, starting with the US, Canada, Australia, UK, and France. Verified icons will be visible from February, with verification extending to 30 more countries in the future.
Airbnb aims to enhance its customer service by ensuring faster response times, with a target of answering 94 per cent of calls in English within two minutes.
Starting in November, they will also match guests with the most suitable agents for quicker issue resolution.
Stay tuned for more updates in Airbnb’s upcoming 2023 Winter Release as the platform continues to enhance the overall user experience.

Capability.Co Acquires Working Futures

Sydney, Sept 22: Capability Co, a leader in capability assessment and development solutions, has announced its strategic acquisition of The Institute for Working Futures (Working Futures™), a renowned global research institution specializing in the human traits required for future work.
This acquisition is a response to the rapid transformation of the workforce due to automation, AI, and remote work.
The acquisition includes access to all Working Futures™ IP, historical research, and clients, as well as the appointment of Dr. Marcus Bowles to the Capability.Co advisory committee. From 2023, The Human Capability Standards (HCS) will be exclusively available from Capability.Co, integrated with AI-driven tools.
This acquisition enhances support for clients, including major brands in telecoms, banking, government, and higher education, by providing tools to develop essential non-technical human traits. Mark Britt, Chairman of Capability.Co, expressed excitement about this alignment in values and goals.
Dr. Marcus Bowles, Founder of Working Futures™, highlighted the potential of combining their research with Capability.Co’s technology and global reach. Capability.Co plans to invest in further research and development, fostering innovation in human capability development for a rapidly changing world.

Archistar and Austin Revolutionize Property Tech

Sydney, Sept 22: Archistar, an Australian property tech leader, is partnering with Austin, Texas, to accelerate property assessment through AI.
This collaboration promises quicker, cost-effective building plan reviews, potentially transforming property development. Austin joins other cities benefiting from Archistar’s tech.
Their global expansion aims to address housing supply challenges worldwide.
Chairman Prabhat Sethi sees this as a significant step in solving housing issues.

Cathay Unveils Premium Travel Lifestyle Brand

Singapore, Sept 22: Cathay is thrilled to introduce its new premium travel lifestyle brand, expanding beyond airline travel to offer a range of services under the “Cathay” master brand. This evolution simplifies customer interactions and encompasses flights, holidays, shopping, dining, wellness, and payment, all united by the Asia Miles loyalty program.
While Cathay Pacific remains the airline brand, Cathay now serves as the master brand, emphasizing a commitment to a premium travel lifestyle. CEO Ronald Lam reflected on Cathay’s 77-year journey, from its inception with the “Betsy” DC-3 aircraft to its current focus on customer-centric services. The goal is to become one of the world’s top service brands.
Customers can anticipate exciting new offerings in holidays, shopping, dining, wellness, and payment, enhancing their daily interactions with Cathay.
To mark this global rollout, Cathay has launched its first global campaign in three years, “Feels Good To Move.” The campaign celebrates humanity’s innate desire to move, from our first heartbeat to every step in life. It captures the essence of Cathay’s mission as a premium travel lifestyle brand, encouraging forward progress and restlessness in the pursuit of a premium travel lifestyle.

Sophos Dominates Evaluation

Kuala Lumpur, Sept 22: Sophos Intercept X with XDR has excelled in MITRE Engenuity ATT&CK Evaluations, detecting 99 per cent of adversary behaviors and recording rich analytic data. The product’s comprehensive EDR and XDR capabilities offer valuable context for security operators. This evaluation focused on Turla, a sophisticated threat group known for innovative tactics.
Sophos Intercept X with XDR combines advanced features like Adaptive Attack Protection, anti-ransomware tech, AI, and exploit prevention, backed by their extensive threat intelligence team. These results underscore Sophos’ commitment to delivering top-tier cybersecurity solutions.

Bank Fee Surge

Commonwealth Bank advises customers of $10 deposit fee.

Sydney, Sept 22: Commonwealth Bank is set to implement a significant fee increase for its small business customers, with deposit fees rising by a staggering 330 per cent starting from October 1st.
For the simple act of depositing cash into their own accounts, business customers will now be charged $10, up from the current rate of $3. This new fee comes in addition to other existing account charges, including transaction fees and monthly account maintenance fees.
The sharp increase in deposit fees has raised concerns and criticisms, with Jason Bryce, a spokesperson for the Cash Welcome campaign, expressing his views.
He stated, “A $10 fee for depositing cash into your own bank account appears to be excessive from Australia’s leading bank. It is evident that Commonwealth Bank is discouraging businesses from using cash and is making a concerted effort to shift all its customers toward completely cashless transactions. This fee places a significant burden on the numerous small businesses already grappling with challenging economic circumstances.”
Moreover, Bryce highlighted another concern, stating, “Commonwealth Bank stands to profit not only from this fee but also from the transaction data they collect from consumers and businesses engaged in cashless payments.”
It’s important to note that a majority of Australians wish to retain the option of using cash for payments in goods and services. Consequently, there is a call for banks to support individuals in utilizing their own money in the manner they deem fit.

Spritzer: 34 Years of Sustainability

Kuala Lumpur, Sept 22: Malaysia’s Spritzer celebrates 34 years of environmental commitment. Known for its pristine mineral water, Spritzer’s dedication extends to eco-friendly packaging and recognition as “Taiping, Home of SPRITZER” by Tourism Perak. The company aims to become fully circular by 2030, setting industry standards in sustainability.

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