8 October 2008
Eleven of the UK's leading health insurers have united to form a fraud intelligence system to support the Health Insurance Counter Fraud Group's fight against healthcare fraud.
The Government has unveiled details of a £50bn rescue package that will use taxpayer's money to take stakes in banks.
National IFA firm, 2plan has launched a new wealth management brand and growth strategy.
Origen support services director Keith Robinson says that the group’s decision to reshape the business is likely to result in around 50 to 60 redundancies from the firm by the end of Q1 2009.
Figures released from the Citizens Advice Bureau show a 51 per cent increase in new mortgage and secured loan enquiries and a 10 per cent increase in fuel debts compared to the same period last year.
No need to hunt for Red October or Blowing the Dam (and a grossly extended metaphor)
Having started in the UK financial services industry in the late 1960s, Cofunds communications consultant Richard Eats retired last week and headed to New Zealand. Remembering the inflation-led difficulties of the 1970s, as well as the 1987 crash and its impact on the mood and atmosphere of the City, Eats talks about the evolution of the UK's retail funds industry.
Over the past few years, the UK financial advice market has witnessed huge growth in the use of platform offerings. This has been fuelled by the impressive number of benefits that platforms offer to both advisers and their clients.
Alliance & Leicester has been fined £7m for misselling payment protection insurance and has agreed to pay redress to up to 211,000 policyholders.
Abbey has revealed it is not passing the Bank of England’s 0.5 per cent cut in the base rate on to new business tracker rates.
Aberdeen global emerging markets fund manager Mark Gordon-James has questioned the number of investment firms launching Middle East and North Africa funds.
The Association of British Insurers has claimed a lobbying victory as the Government has confirmed there will be contribution caps on personal accounts.
The Association of Investment Companies has endorsed HM Treasury proposals to allow investment trust companies to invest tax-efficiently in bonds and other interest producing assets.
The Association of Independent Financial Advisers has backed the Conservative's proposal to end forced annuitisation at 75 during the current tubulence.
AIG Life has warned investors in its £5.5bn enhanced fund that they face losing up to 25 per cent of their capital if they are not prepared to lock away half their investment for three- and-a-half years.
The US Federal Reserve last night injected another £22bn of liquidity into AIG as it struggled to regain financial stability.
Zurich Financial Services Group has appointed former AIG chief underwriter Philip Wilson as its chief underwriting officer for global life.
AIG's proposed sale of Alico will bring greater security to UK investors in Living Time, it is claimed.
Just when investors thought equities had taken all the knocks they could take, the rollercoaster ride started up again this week with renewed vigour.
If a week is a long time in politics, as remarked by Harold Wilson, a month in today's mortgage market is interminable. Last month I reported some good news on mortgage rates, with the bigger lenders - Halifax, Abbey, Nationwide and Lloyds TSB - reducing fixes and trackers on the back of falling swaps. The situation has now reversed as rising money market rates see lenders hike rates on residential and buy-to-let mortgages.
Approximately 180,000 UK retail deposits in Heritable and Kaupthing Singer & Friedlander have been fully guaranteed by the Treasury and the Financial Services Compensation Scheme, after both banks went into default.
Allianz SE has invested £1.4bn in The Hartford, representing up to a 24 per cent stake, after the US insurance company predicted third-quarter losses of around £1.25bn.
It has been hard to escape the hype surrounding absolute return funds, particularly BlackRock UK absolute alpha. For a number of consecutive months, the sector has been the biggest taker of net new assets and BlackRock's fund has grown to more than £1.5bn. Good luck to it but does it justify the hype?
Speaking at the Facing Retirement Forum in London today pensions and investment expert Dr Ros Altmann has called for radical rethinking when it comes to pensions.
Pension reform expert Dr Ros Altmann claims the Government is trying to solve the banking crisis without understanding the problem and says some banks should be allowed to fail.
The clarification by the Conservatives of their proposal to increase the nil-rate band for inheritance tax to £1m was well reported when made only a few weeks ago. Since then, we have had some more serious issues to consider in the shape of the extreme financial turbulence experienced over the past few weeks and it would be something of an understatement to say that most of us have been too preoccupied by events on both sides of the Atlantic to give too much thought to IHT.
The Council of Mortgage Lenders has revealed that mortgage lending for August was down by nearly two thirds on 2007 figures.
AWD Chase de Vere has written to structured product providers stipulating that a counterparty credit rating of AA or above is now required for inclusion on its investment panel.
Axa is launching a £4m advertising campaign with Saatchi & Saatchi that will see it take over all the internal adverts on Central Line trains for two weeks.
Seven Investment Management director Justin Urquhart Stewart believes the Government's £37bn bail-out does not solve the banking crisis in the UK.
The chairmen and chief executives of two of Scotland’s leading banks have announced their intentions to step down this morning following the unveiling of the £37bn bail-out.
Executive directors of UK banks have lost over £49m in disclosed shares since January this year, according to research by digitallook.com.
Continued from p29Only Paul Warburg spoke out against the "unrestrained speculation" and called for Federal Reserve measures to reel in borrowing levels promptly or face "a general depression involving the entire country".
Barclays bank has turned down emergency funding from the government and says it will raise £6.5bn independently from private investors.
The Financial Services Compensation Scheme says it is unclear if Icesave depositors will have to apply both to the Icelandic and UK compensation schemes if the bank becomes insolvent.
Blue Sky Asset Management has added two new plans to its structured product range.
With the markets now positively shaken - not just stirred - the new name on the street is bonds, corporate bonds.
The US Government is set to follow the UK’s lead in buying up shares of its major banks.
Conservative Treasury select committee member Philip Dunne says the FSA should look at how structured products were advertised to ensure guarantees were clearly explained.
Axa is making moves to restore confidence in the insurance industry by launching a £4m advertising campaign with Saatchi & Saatchi.
Canada Life is introducing a one time underwriting process for group income protection in a bid to save time for advisers and their clients.
I am a member of the Top Trak study group, a pool of 20 IFAs who meet quarterly to share ideas, problems and concepts to assist in the growth of each other's business.
IFA Cavanagh Group saw profits increase by 23 per cent to £1.078m in the six months to June 30 from £875,000 in the same period last year.
The Bank of England is one of seven central banks to drop interest rates by 0.5 per cent as further attempts are made to stabilise the global economy.
The Chancellor Alistair Darling has said the Council of Mortgage Lenders “clearly misunderstood” his comments on a return to 2007 mortgage levels.
The Chancellor has u-turned on his policy of not requiring Government representation on banks’ boards and is to make five independent appointments to the banks receiving Government investment.
Clerical Medical has launched Clerical Medical Investment Solutions, a new investment proposition which includes a range of 18 new funds.
Resolution Foundation chairman Clive Cowdery has written to the Chancellor to ask him to attach social commitments to banks in return for the Government’s rescue package.
Council of Mortgage Lenders head of research Bob Pannell has called for regulators to look again at Basel II as he claims it is not achieving its goal of regulating lending.
The Council of Mortgage Lenders has welcomed the £50bn rescue package for banks announced by the Government this morning, but has criticised it for excluding specialist lenders.
The legislation allowing a merger between Co-op Financial Services and Britannia Building Society is simply awaiting the publication of final legislation from Treasury ministers with political experts expecting this to be speeded up to allow the deal to go through.
Fitch Ratings has estimated the gross fiscal cost of the Government response to the financial crisis is 7 per cent of gross domestic product.
Credit Suisse's multi-manager team has lowered its exposure to Mark Lyttleton's BlackRock absolute alpha fund by a third, investing most of the proceeds in a Barclays ishares exchange traded fund.
Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg has warned that the financial crisis could become an “economic 9/11”.
The Conservatives and Liberal Democrats have given their support to Government measures to stabilise the banking system.
Aifa has hit out at the Government's call for a review of financial services regulation, claiming it would be "pointless, costly and irrelevant" and doubles up on existing European Commission work.
Given the events of the last two weeks, how much blame lies with the ratings agencies which seemed to give Lehman Brothers, AIG, Merrill Lynch and HBOS a relatively clean bill of health?
The Government is expected to announce a huge package of support for the banking industry following pressure to inject additional capital into banks in exchange for equity stakesChancellor Alistair Darling met the chief executives of Royal Bank of Scotland, Barclays and Lloyds TSB earlier this week to discuss fund-raising measures after industry concern that Government support was not going far enough.
Well designed default funds can help against the problems that politicians are seeking to address by reviewing rules on compulsory annuitisation.
Deposit-taking firms will need to stump up more than 450m in Financial Services Compensation Scheme levies next year following Bradford & Bingley's collapse compared with the 5m they contributed this year.
I read your article, Time to hang up on phone surveys (Money Marketing, September 18), with extreme interest, not least because Defaqto is currently in the middle of a big and very important piece of independent research being conducted with IFAs.
IFAs are advising investors to maintain long-term strategies rather than rush to sell funds due to the financial crisis.
Edeus has gone into administration, the firm's auditors KPMG have confirmed today. The firm's chief executive Michael Bolton takes redundancy from today with other staff remaining for the next few weeks while a buyer is sought.
The FSA has admitted that Financial Services Compensation Scheme levy payers may see an "enormous" increase in fees if a mid-sized bank fails following last week's increase to the compensation limit.
The FTSE 100 was up almost 3 per cent this morning as numerous European markets rallied on the back of yesterday’s decision by central banks to cut interest rates.
F&C has launched a new pooled-investment fund.
UK companies could stop offering insurance benefits to employees if the European Court of Justice rules in favour of the Heyday case, warns Ron Wheatcroft.
The Financial Services Authority has fined two firms for failures relating to the sale of geared traded endowment policies.
The FSA has lost part of its appeal against an Information Commissioner's ruling that it must disclose the names of the 12 or more life offices involved in the “Lautro 12” dispute.
SimplyBiz is calling on the FSA to give leeway to advisers who fail to meet its reporting deadline due to problems with new filing system Gabriel.
The FSA is to publish a general review on remuneration structures of the London market after reiterating concerns over bonuses being paid.
The FSA has fined TBO Investments Limited 28,000 for failing to clearly document the explanations it gave to clients concerning the risks of their transactions.
The FTSE 100 has lifted by over 200 points, rising to 4,311 in early trades this morning following a pledge by the government to bolster the UK banking system.
The FTSE 100 index has finished 20 per cent lower on last week's close, falling by over 1000 basis points to 3,974 from 4,980 last Friday.
Energy stocks tumbled at start of trade today, dragging the benchmark FTSE 100 index by 4.23 per cent to 4,410 despite confirmation of a £50bn government bail out.
UK stocks on the FTSE 100 rallied in opening trades today, gaining on yesterday’s close of 4256,90 to open at 4,301.53 after a strong overnight performance on Wall Street.
Banking fears continued to drag on the FTSE 100 this week following reports that retail banks were pushing the Government to rush through additional funding for the sector.
Gartmore has postponed the launch of its European absolute return fund following turbulent market conditions.
I find the headline 'Bye Bye PPI' (Money Marketing, 1 October) and much of the subsequent article highly misleading and in danger of tainting a very valuable insurance cover, namely mortgage payment protection insurance.
The seriousness of the situation capital markets face has been acknowledged with co-ordinated and decisive action, a major and necessary step forward from the piecemeal, case-by-case actions seen in recent months. Details of rescue and stabilisation plans have emerged, and continue to do so, from Australia and New Zealand and across Europe.
The Government has pledged to protect the retail deposits of savers in the UK subsidiary of Icelandic bank Kaupthing.
The new pensions minister Rosie Winterton has refused to rule out a Conservative proposal to temporarily suspend forced annuitisation at 75 due to the current market crisis.
The Government is launching a banking liaison group to help prepare the special resolution regime.
The Government has unveiled details of a £37bn capital injection into Royal Bank of Scotland, Lloyds TSB and HBOS in return for shares.
Aegon says a small number of clients that invested in GuestInvest hotel rooms through its Sipp could be affected by the company filing for administration.
The Hartford Financial Serv-ices Group has announced it has exposure of £143m in Lehman Brothers and £8.5m in AIG as at September 16.
Henderson director of fixed income John Pattullo says the months leading up to Christmas is the right time for investors to be bullish on bonds in the wake of the financial crisis.
Henderson Group has released a profits warning to the market after admitting that it will not meet its 2008 target of £90m.
Heritable Bank has confirmed it is in administration after its Icelandic parent Landsbanki was taken into state control.
The deaths of most mortgage products have been heralded over the last few weeks as deals are withdrawn and more lenders leave the table. Last week, Moneyfacts revealed there are only 3,469 products left in the UK, down from more than 13,000 in August 2007. But are all the mortgage sectors still breathing and what can we expect in the future? Money Marketing asked advisers and mortgage providers for their thoughts on the current state of mortgage products.
House prices dropped by 1.3 per cent in September making it the smallest monthly fall for seven months, according to the Halifax House Price Index.
HSBC has met its commitment to the Government to recapitalise its UK subsidiary with a £750m equity injection from the group’s own resources.
The IFA Defence Union has questioned the legality of Government plans for the Financial Services Compensation Scheme to take on the £14bn loan to cover its Bradford & Bingley intervention.
Lawrence House Fund Managers head of investments Alan Stokes is warning that advisers with limited experience are buying into new investment strategies without fully understanding the potential risks.
The Intermediate Mortgage Lenders Association executive director Peter Williams has welcomed the Government’s dramatic £37bn rescue package of British banks.
With the failure/nationalisation of several huge financial services players, all manner of stresses and strains have been placed on products sold by IFAs. To date, this par- ticular blame game has centred on bankers of all three types, investment, high street and central.
The industry has reacted positively to today's news that the Government is injecting £37bn into Royal Bank of Scotland, HBOS and Lloyds TSB.
InfoComp has appointed Eric Welsby as a business consultant. Welsby joins from Adnitor. InfoComp says Welsby's experience of the UK wrap market will help the firm prog- ress its expansion plans in the sector.
At least the US administration obtained its bailout fund. Whether this will be sufficient to calm investors' collective nerves, only time will tell. Wall Street was suitably cautious in the trading immediately after the vote that delivered the required result took place.
Advisers and employers are failing to take advantage of the group protection market despite it accounting for 70 per cent of income protection business and 40 per cent of life business, says Swiss Re.
The UK's inaugural Financial Planning Week (FPW) took place the week before the Lehman Brothers collapse. As reported in Money Marketing, the week itself was a great success but it also highlighted what a huge job there is to do in assisting people with planning their finances and, where appropriate, getting them in front of professionals to help them establish and realise their goals.
Jeannie Drake has been appointed as acting chair of the Personal Accounts Delivery Authority today.
It is the 30th anniversary of the Henderson preference & bond fund this week and despite an "exceptionally poor" past month, co-manager John Pattullo remains upbeat about the prospects for the bond market.
The Resolution Argonaut European alpha fund managed by Barry Norris has an outstanding record. Norris started his career with Baillie Gifford and spent some time with Neptune where he ran the European opportunities fund. He then decided to start Argonaut Capital Partners in 2005 with Oliver Russ.
In a recent study, my organisation identified that the potential market capitalisation of advisers in the retirement market over the next 10 years could be as much as £7.5bn. Given this is many times the entire market capitalisation of the quoted UK IFA sector, it is fair to say this area represents the largest single opportunity for the adviser community today.
The US House Oversight and Government Reform Committee has attacked Lehman Brothers chief executive Richard Fuld for authorising huge bonuses for departing exec-utives in the run-up to the bank's collapse.
Mortgage Intelligence is teaming up with Lighthouse to offer its appointed representatives the opportunity to write investment and pensions business under the Lighthouse banner as long as they have the relevant qualifications.
Lowes Financial Management has told clients not to build their hopes up of regaining capital from Meteor direct investments backed by solvent Lehman companies.
Long-term care specialist Symponia has attacked the ifs School of Finance for introducing an LTC qualification which it says fails to address the real issues around care.
Global equity markets have endured painful and dramatic gyrations in recent weeks. At Barings, we had been expecting further failures in the US financial sector for some time and have long been cautious from a top-down perspective on Western financials.
The latest Pensions Bill will become law during the autumn Parliamentary session. This makes it the fifth Pensions Act in 10 years. It follows the recommendations of the Pensions Commission in requiring employers to enrol their employees in a pension scheme. This can include a personal account.
More people are choosing their job based on the pension scheme that is offered to them, according to new research from Alexander Forbes Financial Services 2008 Return on Pension Expenditure Survey.
A week is a long time in politics and even longer when there's a credit crunch on.
Brokers have expressed surprise that Peter Mandelson has returned to the Cabinet with a brief that includes responding to the financial crisis, after he was sacked from the Government for failing to disclose a loan to his mortgage lender.
Cazenove co-head of multi-manager Robin McDonald believes the current market benefits managers with overall market views rather than asset or geographical specialists.
Mena - Middle East and North Africa - looks set to take over from Bric as the acronym of the moment.
Met life, Scottish Widows, Zurich and Prudential are the latest providers to join Bankhall’s Portavista platform.
MGM Advantage has appointed Lynsay Dickinson as its new head of marketing.
The proposed Money Guidance scheme is causing confusion in the industry as only one-fifth of advisers would sign up to it, according to Aifa research. The trade body says its view is that Money Guidance requires more work before advisers will throw their weight behind it.
Bestinvest has announced a restructuring of its investment management division.
Investment research firm Morningstar has acquired closed-end fund data provider Fundamental Data in an 11m deal.
Treasury Select Committee MP Jim Cousins has challenged why the Government is urging a return to 2007 lending levels for some banks while nationalised Northern Rock and Bradford & Bingley are managing their loan books more tightly.
Globalisation has accelerated market correlation but a multi-asset strategy can improve diversification and manage downside in a bear market, says Schroders head of IFA sales Steve Jackson.
Former Gartmore chairman Paul Myners is stepping down from his role as personal accounts delivery authority chairman to take on the newly-created position of financial services secretary.
Nationwide is increasing some of its tracker deals for new customers by up to 0.3 per cent despite last week’s cut in the Bank of England base rate of 0.5 per cent.
Nationwide has pledged to increase capital by £500m through normal market channels.
An investor who fears losing a big chunk of the £50,000 he invested in a Lehman-backed NDFA structured product has written to the Government calling for greater transparency on capital guarantees.
Advisers have expressed disappointment that the Government has chosen to replace yet another pensions minister with many important decisions regarding personal accounts still up in the air.
Novia chief executive Bill Vasilieff has revealed his wrap proposition will launch with a group of around a dozen IFAs by the end of this month.
Omnis head of multi-manager Lothar Mentel says he is delighted with the £30m of assets the group has taken since its launch in July.
The Neptune Russia & Greater Russia fund is down sharply over recent months amid falls in the Russian market. Fund manager Robin Geffen has recently come back from visiting companies in Moscow and I have spoken to him on several occasions, so this is an opportune time to update you.
Paul Lothian is to replace Robert Reid as president of the Personal Finance Society from November 11.
In my opinion, a wrap is more useful to a financial planning practice than it is to a client. The problem, as I see it, is the cost of the wrap against the value added for the client.
Personal Assets Trust managing director Ian Rushbrook died yesterday following a short period of illness.
The Government is committed to launching personal accounts in 2012 to complement workplace private pensions.
Pioneer has unveiled its plans to enhance its professional income protection plan by increasing the maximum benefit and allowing customers to choose between underwriting on acceptance or at claim.
This financial crisis has redefined our perception of risk and trust. In the past when stockmarkets wobbled, you could switch some of your assets to corporate bonds if you wanted an asset that performed contra-cyclically, or you could choose shares and dabble in some commercial property.
Plum Software users can now give clients access to the software provider’s facilities from their own computer.
The Prime Minister Gordon Brown has said that bankers and financiers who take irresponsible risks should be punished for their actions.
The FSA has revealed that poor data security is currently the biggest risk to the FSA’s financial crime objectives.
Investors will be painfully aware that most equity markets have fallen this year and it would be a brave man who suggests that we are now through the worst.
The principles which will underpin proposals for the long-term future of the pension protection levy have been revealed.
With redundancy rates rising thanks to Lehman Brothers, Bradford & Bingley, Lloyds/HBOS et al, questions are being asked of those providers offering protection against unemployment. Are they offering enough advice on the product? How well positioned are insurance firms to deal with the imminent influx of redundancies? And will providers start cherrypicking a client base, swerving to avoid those working in the financial sector?
Prudential is slashing the maximum LTV on its lump sum lifetime mortgages by 5 per cent due to predictions of falling house prices.
The Treasury Select Committee is giving the public the opportunity to grill the Chancellor on the financial rescue package by submitting email questions.
Moody’s rating agency is confident that the £17bn Lloyds TSB HBOS bailout will protect against any further market downturns.
What is the point of a rating agency that cannot predict when a company, bank or fund is not fit for difficult times? That is a question which I think the big global agencies should be answering themselves.
If protection sales are included in the retail distribution review, it could hinder sales and increase the existing £2.3tn protection gap, warns Swiss Re Life and Health technical manager Ron Wheatcroft.
In recent letters to the trade press regarding the proposals contained within the retail distribution review, I have been challenging our industry on a number of points but on two particular key issues.
J O Hambro Capital Management has announced the appointment of Gavin Rochussen as chief executive officer.
Schroders head of UK equities Richard Buxton says there are plenty of opportunities in the market for UK investors provided that they stay patient.
The future looks grim for mortgage brokers as £150bn of lending falls out of the market over the coming year, says Premier Mortgage Service managing director John Malone.
Fidelity UK special situations fund manager Sanjeev Shah believes the financial crisis has created fantastic buying opportunities.
What challenging and interesting times we live in. Many of my IFA clients of old who have time to follow the rather excitable press ask me in rather dramatic terms if we are "approaching the end of the world". I try not to get on my soap box and point out the more pertinent issues that may seal the world's demise such as climate change and lack of sustainability. But for the purposes of this analysis, let's stick to financial matters.
Skandia is expanding its fund range with the launch of five US funds in the UK.
Outgoing Bankhall chief executive Peter Mann is predicting a 20 per cent fall in the number of small and medium-sized IFAs by 2015.
Software provider Solution4 has enhanced its Senro proposition to include a client record management system to handle multiple applications with multiple loan accounts and securities.
This week 11 of the UK’s leading health insurers united to form a fraud intelligence system to support the Health Insurance Counter Fraud Group's fight against healthcare fraud.
Stroud & Swindon has revealed that its online intermediary arm will be called ITL Mortgages.
The news that B&B needs rescuing by the Government makes me wonder if the FSA would not have been better dealing with properly inspecting the banks pre-crisis and truly understanding what they were up to.
Jim Reeve chief executive officer, Positive Solutions"Brown did well to put himself across as the man with the experience to bring back stability. What will be critical is to rebuild consumer confidence in the financial system and prevent money moving to Ireland."
"Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it," said philosopher and essayist George Santayana.
I am 28 and do not have a pension plan. Is it sensible for me to start saving towards a pension or should I just rely on the state?
While the credit crisis is rightly taking centre stage in everyone’s thoughts it would be wrong to ignore the vital arguments around pension reform that are taking place.
Threadneedle has appointed Nick Ring as global head of product. Ring joins from Northern Trust International Wealth Management, where he was head of the company.
I am tempted to wonder if we’ll need a Minister for Mortgages alongside the Minister for the City if the “stakes in banks” plan actually has to be implemented. Heavyweight HSBC and the safer than houses Santander can probably do it on their own. But others will almost certainly need to call on the Government.
The Conservatives have called on the Government to temporarily end forced annuitisation at 75 due to the current market turmoil.
Conservative Shadow Financial Secretary to the Treasury Mark Hoban is warning that the retail distribution review's definitions of sales and advice may be too strict.
The average fees charged on tracker mortgages have trebled from £239 to over £750 in the last year.
Artemis anticipates further volatility in the UK economy as a ‘riot’ continues to plague the global markets.
Interest rates will drop to 3.5 per cent by the end of 2009 and are likely to fall and stay lower for “a considerable point of time”, says Schroders chief economist Keith Wade.
The British Government has stepped in to protect Icesave deposits held by UK savers with estimates that around 300,000 people had accounts with the UK operation of Icelandic bank Landsbanki.
The National Association of Pension Funds has revealed there are four areas where UK pensions regulation is out of synch with international practice.
"Why the long face?" I asked the managing director of Huxley Epsilon, the self-proclaimed future of financial advice, as I walked into his office. "I mean, of course, beyond the obvious horridness of world markets and the general uncertainty of whether every major bank we've ever heard of is, on a day-by-day basis, going to stick, nationalise or fold."
It became one of the biggest investment themes of 2007 but will climate change funds lose their appeal as the economic climate gets more hostile?
Invesco Perpetual income guru Neil Woodford believes that the credit crisis is nearing its lowest point and that there a number of opportunities appearing in the market.
Advisers must recognise that TCF means treating customers fairly, not treating customers equally, says Bankhall senior area manager Adrian Evans.
Zurich has appointed David Etherington as chief growth officer to drive forward its expansion plans.