Receiving Wide Coverage ...

Big brother: Credit Karma and Mint are ready to offer automated tax preparation services as part of new features "that will make them feel more like robotic financial advisers, tapping customers on the shoulder when they could make better financial decisions," as the New York Times puts it. Credit Karma said Wednesday it acquired AFJC Corp., an online tax preparation and filing company, and would begin offering its services, called Credit Karma Tax, in time for the 2017 filing season, the Wall Street Journal reported.

The two companies join several fintech startups whose services provide more advanced capabilities, the Times said. Albert Corp.'s new app, called – what else? – Albert, for example, offers a personalized savings account but can also help users find better deals on auto insurance and credit cards. Credit Karma, which said it isn't planning to charge for its tax prep services, will use the data it collects to help it recommend better loan products to its customers.

Wall Street Journal

Referral ultimatum: Merrill Lynch said it will require brokers to make at least two client referrals to other parts of parent Bank of America next year. Brokers who fail will have 1% cut from their take-home pay or deferred compensation. The move "comes as Wall Street brokerages try to drum up new business while avoiding the type of aggressive cross-selling tactics that shook Wells Fargo," the Journal said.

Blackout: Bank of New York Mellon was unable to process client payments sent over the Swift network for nearly 24 hours over the weekend, the Journal reports, "a rare outage that caused some payments to fail and casts a spotlight on operational risks at one of Wall Street's largest custody and clearing banks." The outage started around 2:30 p.m., EST, Sunday and lasted until almost 10:00 Monday morning. "The incident comes as the bank has drawn scrutiny from supervisors at the Federal Reserve for its large market share as a payment and settlements provider," the paper commented.

Building: The volume of new residential home construction loans grew at the fastest pace in more than two years in the third quarter, "a sign that tight post-recession lending conditions might be easing for home builders," the Journal reports. "A return of such lending could spark more home construction." Small private construction companies, which build nearly two-thirds of single-family homes in the U.S., have had trouble accessing credit since the mortgage bust eight years ago. That has been a main reason for the tight supply of new homes, which has driven up prices. Construction has been running about 25% below historical averages.

Trouble brewing?: Chinese banks are hiding more than $2 trillion in loans by classifying them as "investment receivables," according to the Journal, "a loosely regulated category of assets that allows bank officials to set aside little or nothing for potential losses." The practice "is rampant across China," the Journal says, and the $2 trillion in loans – up from $334 billion five years ago – equal 20% of the total loans at 32 publicly traded Chinese banks, up from 6%. The 32 banks own about 70% of all the country's banking assets.

Financial Times

Unprepared: Deputy Treasury Secretary Sarah Bloom Raskin told the FT that many recent cyber-attacks on the financial system "could have been avoided relatively easily if the private sector and government institutions had taken basic security precautions," the paper reports. "While the financial services industry was ahead of most other sectors in addressing the challenge of cyber security, it still had a long way to go to contain such a rapidly evolving threat."

Washington Post

New gig: Jamie Dimon, the chairman and CEO of JPMorgan Chase, will become chairman next year of the Business Roundtable. A self-described Democrat and a member of President-elect Trump's economic advisory team, "appears likely to push the group to embrace the opportunities of the shifting political landscape, including possible cooperation with Trump and the Republican majority in Congress on lowering corporate taxes and rolling back environmental, financial and other regulations issued by the Obama administration," the Post reports.

Quotable ...

"We don't want to be a credit score company. We want to be a company that helps you understand your finances." – Credit Karma CEO Kenneth Lin

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