RCI gives entire fleet Royal Advantage

first_imgSource = e-Travel Blackboard: N.A The ‘Royal Advantage’ initiative has gone into overdrive with Royal Caribbean International committing to invest approximately $300 million to enhance their 22- ship fleet in the next 3 years.Commencing earlier this year, the line has already completed revitalisations of Liberty of the Seas, Freedom of the Seas and Radiance of the Seas and will continue with Splendour of the Seas going into dry dock in October 2011. Taking the best features from their innovative Oasis-class ships, Lisa Bauer, senior vice president of Hotel Operations for RCI said, “we are thrilled that the ongoing Royal Advantage revitalisation program will result in a virtually brand-new fleet that offers the most contemporary experience, no matter which ship or itinerary vacationers choose.”As part of the initiative, Australian favourite, Rhapsody of the Seas, is scheduled to have her ‘Oasis-class treatment’ in March 2012. Based in Australia for the summer cruise season since 2007, Rhapsody will dry dock in Singapore for an additional 14 days resulting in the cancellation of four cruises from Sydney next year.These cruises will be replaced with two repositioning cruises pre and post dry dock. Cruisers will have the opportunity to choose either a 14-night cruise from Sydney to Singapore departing 16 February 2012 or a 15-night return cruise departing Singapore on 29 March 2012. These voyages will take in such ports as Bali, Darwin, Cairns and The Whitsundays and will be priced from $1385 per person for 14-nights. “We’re fully committed to ‘raising the bar’ by heavily investing in our growing Australasian fleet and delivering a superior product to the local market – either by introducing new ships or by revitalising existing ones,” said Gavin Smith, managing director Royal Caribbean Cruises Australia.“Rhapsody of the Seas is already a tremendously popular ship and now we will invest in making her even better.”Vision, Voyager and Radiance-class ships are all expected to have a host of enhancements including:All-encompassing Wi-Fi, interactive flat-screen TVs in staterooms and electronic mustering.Plasma and LCD touch screen signs throughout the ship to give passengers customised directions, list onboard activities and offer ship facts.Large LED screens on the pool deck.Royal Babies and Tots NurseryAdditional dining options including Chef’s Table, Izumi, Chops Grille, Park Cafe, Rita’s Cantina and Boardwalk Doghouse.“We never stop trying to make the experience even better, and no other cruise line can offer the same high quality vacation experience with such an array of choices that cater to every guest,” said Adam Goldstein, president and CEO of Royal Caribbean International. last_img read more


Women spend 5 hours thinking about packing

first_imgEver wondered what goes into women’s luggage? Thinking about how much time to allocate to the packing process? Just curious about bags in general?British Airways recently surveyed 600 Australians to answer some of the age old questions of packing and the results were, well, not too surprising, the solutions however are: Two-thirds of Australian women pack their bags more than once before travelling, as well as spend on average five hours contemplating what to pack; memories will after all be created with the holiday snaps so it pays to look good I guess.Men, however, spend just three hours, on average, thinking that far ahead.Combined, three-quarters of Australian travellers struggle to pack their entire wardrobe for their dream holiday, with 64 percent of people finding this experience stressful and frustrating. If the Aussies did manage to fit their life discreetly into their luggage, unfortunately half have been forced to leave some items behind due to baggage size and weight restrictions from strict airlines.Tip: British Airways personal stylist Sophie Hart recommends bringing simple clothes, separates for maximising mix-and-matching and items that require little maintenance throughout the journey. Ever wondered what goes into women’s luggage? Image: Buzzle Source = e-Travel Blackboard: A.Nlast_img read more


Virgin invites passengers to lounge around

first_imgVirgin Australia Velocity members may purchase single entry passes using frequent flyer points, however, these passes must be purchased via the reward store and not at lounge reception. The following city’s airports contain Virgin Australia lounges; Adelaide, Brisbane, Cairns, Canberra, Gold Coast, Mackay, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney. Virgin Australia offers lounge patrons a range of boutique wines, beers, tea and coffee, a specially-designed buffet, free Wi-Fi access, Foxtel, showers and change rooms. Passengers travelling with the airline can purchase exclusive passes at the lounge’s reception area for AU$65.00, however, these can only be used a maximum of two hours prior to flight departure.center_img Virgin Australia began selling single-use entry passes to its domestic airport lounges earlier this week, permitting non-Velocity and non-Virgin Australia members limited access. Source = ETB News: P.T.last_img read more


Airlines expand codeshare cooperation on Brazil Routes

first_imgJAL and AA will expand their codeshare agreement by serving Brazilian routes from 26 October.This leads to additional JAL codeshare flights available on the US to Brazil routes operated by AA.Furthermore to JAL’s code share flights (operated by AA) to Brazil via New York and Dallas Fort Worth, the airline has added new codeshare flights on Los Angeles to San Paulo route into its network between Japan and Brazil, to provide customers with improved convenience and benefits.last_img


Hertz New Zealand named Leading Rental Car Company 2015

first_imgHertz New Zealand is proud to announce it has been honoured with the title of “Leading Rental Car Company” by readers of New Zealand’s leading travel industry magazine, Travel Digest.The award comes in a hugely successful year for the car rental company, which was awarded Best Car Rental Operator at the National Travel Industry Awards and received a Highly Commended Award in the Readers’ Digest Trusted Brands 2015 survey.Speaking about the win, Mark Righton, Country Manager Hertz New Zealand, comments: “We are truly honoured to have been awarded the title of Leading Car Rental Company 2015 by Travel Digest readers.“At Hertz New Zealand, we are consistently reviewing ways to improve and grow, both for our customers and the industry as a whole.“This award is testament to our continued dedication in this space and we are delighted to be recognised by our industry peers as we look to continue our efforts into 2016 and beyond.”The Travel Digest’s Travel Industry Awards, now in their eight year, celebrate the very best of the tourism and travel industry in New Zealand. These awards are voted on by industry professionals across the sector, including tour and hospitality operators, tourism and travel professionals, travel agencies and  tourism companies across New Zealand.On the Travel Digest Travel Industry Awards, Travel Digest Publisher, Lorraine Thomson, notes:“The awards are a recognition and testament to marketing investment, professional service, positivity, leveraging technology initiatives and undivided attention to detail. The awards are also about risingabove adversity, facing global terrorism and geographic disasters and coming up with, in many cases, alternative and innovative strategies.” Hertz New ZealandSource = Hertz New Zealandlast_img read more


IACC set to launch meeting room of the future

first_imgIACC set to launch meeting room of the futureA dynamic new initiative from the International Association of Conference Centres (IACC) is set to transform the meeting experience through a global collaboration of leaders in conference room design, audiovisual technology, hospitality, academia and conference management.The project and initial global survey results are be unveiled at IACC-America’s Connect annual conference in New York City this April. The IACC Meeting Room of the Future™ combines innovation and entrepreneurialism with the expertise of meeting industry professionals and planners.The program’s ambitious goal is to predict and showcase a clear vision of what is new for today and what solutions need to be sought for tomorrow’s meeting rooms, to deliver what clients want and need for maximum productivity. Collaboration, productivity and inspiration will be at the heart of the 2016 concept, with the plan to build on this annually.The initiative brings together the brightest minds and companies in the industry, to create both a physical and virtual meeting environment. Contributors include leading universities in the US, Europe and Australia, several meetings and technology companies and leading designers of venue furnishings. “As the only global organisation representing smaller meetings and venues, IACC is singularly-positioned to spearhead this initiative,” affirms IACC’s CEO Mark Cooper.Effective research is at the core of the initiative. IACC is surveying a broad spectrum of the industry to identify and understand needs, track current trends and innovations and determine the kinds of learning environments that foster collaboration, ideas exchange and relationship building.“These environments profoundly influence people, behaviours, companies, politics and ultimately economies.” Cooper notes. IACC will engage with planners, meeting hosts, delegates, operators and suppliers, and is partnering with Meeting Professionals International (MPI) on a survey involving 1000 of the association’s members.The project will address the most challenging issues facing the meetings industry today while showcasing the most innovative and useful aspects of tomorrow’s meeting room. Access to sufficient bandwidth is clearly a critical issue and one that demands thoughtful study and careful investment in equipment and training. As the industry becomes even more global, conference venues must offer first-rate teleconference services. The rapidly expanding number of new mobile devices used by planners and attendees demands powerful, high-speed connectivity that can host any number of devices and any group or number of groups.“Connectivity affects every aspect of the meeting experience. Super high-speed Wi-Fi is essential throughout the facility as part of security and privacy, critical communications within the meeting experience and with colleagues beyond, sustainability and guest services,” Mark Cooper said.The results of the IACC Meeting Room of the Future™ survey will be published globally and at IACC-America’s Connect annual conference this April.Current contributors and research partners include Meeting Professionals International (MPI), Microsoft, Dianne Devitt.net, Corbin Ball Associates, Sli-do, Benchmark Hospitality International, MGSM Executive Hotel & Conference Centre and PSAV. IACCSource = IACClast_img read more


Worlds three largest cruise ships meet for the first time

first_imgWorld’s three largest cruise ships meet for the first timeWorld’s three largest cruise ships meet for the first timeRoyal Caribbean International’s Oasis-class ships, Oasis of the Seas, Allure of the Seas and the new Harmony of the Seas, struck a chord today, greeting each other at sea for the first and possibly only time. In a meeting of unprecedented proportions, the three record-breaking sisters came together to celebrate the U.S. arrival of Harmony of the Seas on the eve of the ship’s debut in her new permanent homeport of Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.The Oasis-class ships are architectural and engineering marvels, boasting industry-changing and unexpected onboard experiences. Each ship features seven themed neighborhoods – a distinctive feature of the Oasis-class ships – and a number of spectacular features, adventures and thrills, including the lush and tranquil Central Park with nearly 12,000 plants and trees, FlowRider surf simulators; a thrilling zip line 82 foot long that races guests nine-decks in the air, luxurious multi-level loft suites with expansive floor-to-ceiling windows, the outdoor AquaTheater that hosts dazzling high-diving, aquatic and acrobatic performances, a Boardwalk with a hand-carved carousel, and The Rising Tide Bar, the first moving bar at sea.The newest and youngest of the three ships, Harmony of the Seas, officially claimed the title of world’s largest cruise ship, beating her sisters by a mere foot in length and nearly 1,700 gross registered tons. The ship features a bold lineup of new thrilling experiences, imaginative dining, unparalleled entertainment and the latest technology, including VOOM, the fastest internet at sea. Harmony combines the iconic seven neighborhood concept with some of the most modern and groundbreaking amenities and offerings that will appeal to guests of all ages. From The Ultimate Abyss, a dramatic 10-story tall slide, to unparalleled entertainment including Broadway’s hit musical Grease, sophisticated dining in venues ranging from Jamie’s Italian Cuisine by celebrity chef Jamie Oliver to Royal Caribbean’s whimsical restaurant Wonderland, which is a unique culinary adventure for the senses, and robot bartenders, there is an adventure for everyone onboard Harmony of the Seas. Royal Caribbeanfor more information, visitSource = Royal Caribbeanlast_img read more


Introducing Essence Suites Taringa

first_imgIntroducing Essence Suites TaringaIntroducing Essence Suites TaringaEssence Apartments and Suites has today opened its newest development, Essence Suites Taringa in Brisbane’s western suburbs.Located above the new Westside Private Hospital, these 63 luxuriously appointed studios, one and two-bedroom suites make Essence Suites Taringa the ideal accommodation choice for business or leisure stays.The unique building design, modern accommodation and convenient location can be enjoyed for any conventional purpose whilst also allowing unprecedented convenience for medical stays.With the brand-new building now complete, this $65-million development will be managed by Essence Apartments and Suites’ parent company UniLodge Australia.UniLodge CEO, Mr Tomas Johnsson said the opening of the property coincides with the opening of the new world-class Westside Private Hospital and adds to Essence Apartment and Suite’s portfolio.“As a uniquely integrated hotel and hospital building, Essence Suites Taringa is a fantastic new addition to our growing portfolio of healthcare accommodation properties throughout Australia and cements our role in the tourism space,” said Mr Johnsson.“Situated in the leafy suburb of Taringa, with sweeping views out to Brisbane CBD, the property consists of 63 beautifully appointed suites featuring kitchenettes with ultramodern appliances, Smart TV, Foxtel and Wi-Fi with some suites also fitted with beautiful sofa lounges.“Essence Suites Taringa boasts great facilities to make any purpose stay a special one, including state-of-the-art meeting and conferencing facilities, secure car parking, and an exclusive guest lounge looking out to Brisbane city.“Amaretto Restaurant, Café & Bar opposite reception will open for breakfast, lunch and dinner seven days a week for hotel guests and serve a mouthwateringselection of Australian and Italian dishes.”Westside Private Hospital and Montserrat Day Hospitals CEO Ben Korst said he was looking forward to opening the doors of Queensland’s only hotel and hospital in one.“Westside Private Hospital is Brisbane’s newest short stay private hospital. With direct lift access to Essence Suites Taringa, we know that Queensland’s only Hotel and Hospital is a welcome addition to Brisbane’s west,” said Mr Korst.The new development will be a one stop shop for hospital patients and hotel guests as they can drive in to the one car park, drop their children at the childcare centre and stop for a coffee or a bite to eat at Amaretto Restaurant, Café & Bar before checking into Essence Suites Taringa or the Westside Private Hospital.Essence Suites Taringa is conveniently located minutes away from Indooroopilly Shopping Centre, Taringa train station, the University of Queensland and the Indooroopilly Golf Club.Essence Suites Taringa is located at 28-32 Morrow Street, Taringa, Brisbane.Opening rates start from $129 for a studio suite. Book before 28 February 2019 to secure this fantastic rate by heading to www.essenceapartments.com.au or by calling (07) 3556 5000 or emailing res.taringa@essenceapartments.com.au. Source = Essence Apartments and Suiteslast_img read more


Fitch Ratings Slashes ResCap Credit Ratings

first_imgFitch Ratings Slashes ResCap Credit Ratings Share in Government, Origination, Servicing Agents & Brokers Company News Fitch Ratings Investors Lenders & Servicers Processing Service Providers 2012-05-14 Ryan Schuettecenter_img May 14, 2012 427 Views “”Fitch Ratings””:http://www.fitchratings.com/web/en/dynamic/fitch-home.jsp downgraded servicer ratings for “”Residential Capital LLC””:https://www.rescapholdings.com/ on the heels of a bankruptcy filing by the “”Ally Financial””:http://www.ally.com/financial/ subsidiary.[IMAGE][COLUMN_BREAK]The ratings agency slashed credit ratings for the residential servicer to RMS4, down from RMS3.””The ratings downgrade is due to the bankruptcy filing by RFC’s parent, Residential Capital LLC,”” Fitch said in a statement, adding that analysts placed the company on negative rating watch.Earlier Monday Ally Financial announced that Residential Capital, or ResCap, decided to file Chapter 11 bankruptcy, selling assets from the estate to Lewisville, Texas-based “”Nationstar Mortgage Holdings Inc””:https://www.nationstarmtg.com/.Nationstar billed the maneuver as one that would make it the nation’s largest non-bank residential mortgage lender and one of the largest residential mortgage originators.The market shift takes place as numerous other lenders and servicers shrink their share of the residential mortgage market.last_img read more


Initial Jobless Claims Climb for Fifth Time in Six Weeks

first_img in Data, Government, Origination, Secondary Market, Servicing First time claims for unemployment insurance rose to 386,000 for the week ended June 9, from the prior week’s 38,000, (revised from the originally reported 377,000), the “”Labor Department””:http://www.dol.gov/ reported Thursday. [IMAGE]Economists had expected the report would show 3795,000 initial claims. The bump in claims was the fifth in the last six weeks and eighth in the last 10.Continuing claims ├â┬ó├óÔÇÜ┬¼├óÔé¼┼ô reported on a one week lag ├â┬ó├óÔÇÜ┬¼├óÔé¼┼ô fell 33,000 to 3,278,000 from 3,311,000, the highest level in six weeks. The prior week’s level was revised up from the previously reported 3,293,000.That the prior week’s report was revised upward was no surprise: first time claims have been revised upward for all but three of the 22 weekly reports this year. The claims report continues to show labor market struggles. In the first nine weeks of the quarter, first time claims have averaged 380,700, compared with 371,100 in the first ten weeks of the first quarter.[COLUMN_BREAK]The drop in continuing claims reflected in part the federal legislation enacted in February when Congress approved an extension of the payroll tax reduction which capped unemployment benefit programs cutting off benefits for some individuals. Continuing claims have dropped week-week in all but three of the 14 weeks since the legislation took effect.Initial claims remain above 350,000 which economists consider a tipping point between an expanding and contracting jobs market. First time claims filings were last below 350,000 in March 2008.The four week moving average for initial claims rose to 378,000 an increase of 3,500 from the preceding week. The four week moving average which smooths the volatile weekly numbers has increased in 10 of the last 15 weeks. The four week average for continuing claims fell 2,500 to 3,281,500.The total number of people claiming benefits in all programs ├â┬ó├óÔÇÜ┬¼├óÔé¼┼ô reported on a two-week lag — for the week ending May 26 was 5,824,739, a decrease of 145,990 from the previous week. According to the latest BLS report, 12.72 million people were officially counted as unemployed in May.States reported 2,555,513 persons claiming EUC (Emergency Unemployment Compensation) benefits for the week ending May 26, a drop of 17,045 from the prior week, the Labor Department said. There were 3,293,507 claimants in the comparable week in 2011.According to the Labor Department detail, also reported on a one-week lag, the largest increases in initial claims for the week ending June 2 were in Oregon (+975), Virginia (+838), New Mexico (+531), Wisconsin (+213), and Nevada (+189), while the largest decreases were in California (-4,168), North Carolina (-2,683), Texas (-1,854), Massachusetts (-1,373), and Georgia (-1,367). Initial Jobless Claims Climb for Fifth Time in Six Weeks June 14, 2012 455 Views center_img Share Agents & Brokers Attorneys & Title Companies Investors Jobs Labor Department Lenders & Servicers Processing Service Providers Unemployment 2012-06-14 Mark Liebermanlast_img read more


First Estimate of ThirdQuarter GDP Growth Beats Expectations

first_img in Data The nation’s economy performed well above expectations in the third quarter, according to an advance “”GDP estimate””:http://bea.gov/newsreleases/national/gdp/2013/gdp3q13_adv.htm released Thursday by the “”Bureau of Economic Analysis””:http://bea.gov/index.htm (BEA).[IMAGE]BEA’s report shows third-quarter growth rose to an annual rate of 2.8 percent, beating the second quarter’s 2.5 percent. The median forecast among economists surveyed by Bloomberg called for 2.0 percent growth.BEA’s advance estimate is the first of three that will be released for the third quarter. The second estimate, which will pull its numbers from a more complete data picture, which be released December 5.According to the government, the increase in real GDP in Q3 “”primarily reflected positive contributions from personal consumption expenditures (PCE), private inventory investment, exports, residential fixed [COLUMN_BREAK]investment, nonresidential fixed investment, and state and local government spending.”” Gains were partially offset by a decline in federal government spending and an increase in imports, which contribute negatively to the calculation of GDP.Real residential fixed investment, a measure of housing’s contribution to the economy, increased 14.6 percent, pulling up from 14.2 percent in Q2. Real nonresidential fixed investment slowed down, meanwhile, increasing 1.6 percent–down from 4.7 percent in the second quarter.Consumer spending numbers were less encouraging, coming in at 1.5 percent. Expenditures on durable goods increased 7.8 percent compared to 6.2 percent in the second quarter, while non-durable goods increased 2.7 percent compared to 1.6 percent. Meanwhile, spending on services barely grew at 0.1 percent compared to an increase of 1.2 percent the previous quarter.The price index for gross domestic purchases increased 1.8 percent, ramping up from 0.2 percent in the final Q2 report. Removing food and energy prices, the price index was up 1.5 percent compared to 0.8 percent.Disposable personal income increased by $138.1 billion–4.5 percent–in the third quarter, beating out a gain of $103.2 billion in the second. Accounting for price changes, though, real disposable income was up only 2.5 percent, down a percentage point.The personal saving rate–personal saving measured as a percentage of disposable income–was 4.7 percent, slight ahead of the second quarter. November 7, 2013 438 Views First Estimate of Third-Quarter GDP Growth Beats Expectationscenter_img Agents & Brokers Attorneys & Title Companies Consumer spending GDP Investors Lenders & Servicers Service Providers 2013-11-07 Tory Barringer Sharelast_img read more


FHFA Announces Plans to Combine Divisions

first_img As the newly confirmed “”Mel Watt””:https://themreport.com/articles/senate-confirms-mel-watt-as-fhfa-director-2013-12-10 prepares to take the reins at the “”Federal Housing Finance Agency””:http://www.fhfa.gov/ (FHFA), current Acting Director Edward DeMarco has announced changes to the agency’s senior staff.[IMAGE]According to a release from FHFA, Jeffrey Spohn, deputy director of the Office of Conservatorship Operations (OCO), will retire in January. To fill the vacant role, the agency has appointed Wanda DeLeo, who currently serves as deputy director in the Office of Strategic Initiatives (OSI). The two conservatorship-related divisions will be combined into a new Division of Conservatorship to ease the transition.””Combining OCO and OSI into a new division will enhance the already existing coordination between these two offices,”” DeMarco said. “”I am pleased to have an executive [COLUMN_BREAK]with Wanda’s experience to manage this new division and am grateful to her for her willingness to take on this added responsibility.””DeLeo has been with FHFA since its creation in 2008, taking over her current position at OSI when it was formed in 2012. In that capacity, she has overseen the development of a common securitization platform between Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac as well as periodic progress reports and annual conservatorship scorecards.As the new deputy director of the Division of Conservatorship, she will serve as FHFA’s central point of contact for all matters related to the GSEs’ conservatorships.Spohn has also served at FHFA since 2008, working with executives at the agency and both enterprises on all conservatorship-related matters, including the management of business settlements. He deferred his original retirement plans to continue working to resolve legacy business issues, the agency’s release says.””Jeff’s unique contributions to the stability achieved with the two conservatorships cannot be overstated,”” DeMarco said. “”He has personally and substantially contributed to billions of dollars of recovers on behalf of taxpayers at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and he has earned widespread respect for his strong communication and problem-solving skills during these five-plus years of conservatorship.”” in Government, Secondary Market Agents & Brokers Attorneys & Title Companies Edward DeMarco Fannie Mae FHFA Freddie Mac Investors Lenders & Servicers Movers & Shakers Service Providers 2013-12-12 Tory Barringer FHFA Announces Plans to Combine Divisionscenter_img December 12, 2013 482 Views Sharelast_img read more


Is the Regulatory Burden About to Lifted for Financial Institutions

first_imgIs the Regulatory Burden About to Lifted for Financial Institutions? Banks are about to receive some of the regulatory relief they have long been seeking.As part of the review required every 10 years by the Economic Growth and Regulatory Paperwork Reduction Act (EGRPRA) of 1996, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) on Monday announced proposed changes in order to remove outdated or unnecessary provisions and rules, therefore reducing the regulatory burden on banks and federal savings associations.The proposed changes announced Monday followed three Federal Register notices and six outreach meetings conducted nationwide since late 2014. In these outreach meetings, the OCC solicited comments from bankers, consumer and community groups, and other stakeholders or interested parties.While the FDIC, the Federal Reserve, and the OCC are required to review the EGRPRA jointly, the proposed rule changes announced on Monday are exclusive to the OCC and its supervision of banks and federal savings associations, according to the announcement.“Rather than delaying proposed changes until the completion of the EGRPRA review at the end of the year, the OCC is seeking to reduce undue burden sooner where possible,” the OCC’s announcement stated.According to the OCC, Monday’s proposal complements other actions the agency has taken to further the EGRPRA’s mandate both separately and with other agencies. Those actions include:A final rule by the OCC issued last May to remove outdated or unnecessary licensing requirements;Interagency efforts to streamline Call Report requirementsAn interagency interim final rule that allows more qualifying community banks to be eligible for the 18-month exam cycle;Interagency guidance on the evaluation process in the appraisal rulesIn addition to those actions, the OCC has recommended further regulator changes to remove or reduce unnecessary regulatory burden, such as: allowing community banks an exemption from the Volcker rule and a proposal to provide federal savings associations with more flexibility to adapt to business and economic changes, which in turn would allow them to better serve their communities.The proposal published on Monday would:Remove notice and approval requirements for certain changes in permanent capital involving national banks;Simplify certain licensing rules for business combinations involving federal mutual savings associations;Clarify national bank director oath requirements;Remove certain financial disclosure requirements for national banks;Remove certain unnecessary regulatory reporting, accounting, and management policy requirements for federal savings associations;Allow the electronic submission of filings required under the Securities Act of 1933 and the Securities Exchange Act of 1934;Remove unnecessary requirements in the electronic activities rule for federal savings associations;Update recordkeeping and confirmation requirements for national banks’ and federal savings associations’ securities transactions; andIntegrate and update OCC rules for national banks and federal savings associations relating to municipal securities dealers, Securities Exchange Act disclosures, securities offering disclosures, and insider and affiliate transactions.Click here to view the notice published in the Federal Register by the OCC on the proposed rule changes. Comments must be received within 60 days of the notice’s publication in the Federal Register. Banks Federal Savings Association Office of the Comptroller of the Currency 2016-03-14 Seth Welborn in Daily Dose, Government, Headlines, Newscenter_img Share March 14, 2016 562 Views last_img read more


Construction Spending Takes a Tumble

first_img Share June 1, 2016 490 Views Just when the industry was beginning to feel hopeful about more dollars being poured into the construction sector, spending in this area reversed course.The U.S. Census Bureau of the Department of Commerce reported Wednesday that construction spending in April 2016 was estimated at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $1,133.9 billion, 1.8 percent below the revised March estimate of $1,155.1 billion.Year-over-year, the April construction spending figure is up 4.5 percent from $1,085.0 billion last April, the Bureau reported. During the first 4 months of this year, construction spending amounted to $334.8 billion, 8.7 percent above the $307.9 billion for the same period in 2015.After experiencing the largest decline in three months and raising unexpected concerns among market watchers in the industry, U.S. construction spending bounced back in March, the U.S. Census Bureau of the Department of Commerce announced last month. According to the data, construction spending for March was estimated at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $1,137.5 billion, 0.3 percent higher than February’s estimate of $1,133.6 billion. Year-over-year, construction spending was up 8.0 percent from the March 2015 estimate of $1,052.9 billion.Dr. Issi Romem, Chief Economist at BuildZoom told MReport that home construction is on the rise right now, and it is increasing for single-family homes as well; it’s just not hitting the pre-recession levels or the level we saw in the early 2000s during the housing boom.”Whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing is not obvious. It’s not trivial that we want to go up to those levels we were at then,” he said. “The catch to understanding how this corresponds to low inventory is that there’s not really a shortage of housing in America—there’s a shortage of housing in specific places in America, and it’s in those metro areas where there’s a shortage of homes—because there is very strong demand for living there—that prices have been going up over the last three or four decades.”According to the April data, private construction spending fell 1.5 percent below the revised March estimate of $855.9 billion to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $843.1 billion. Meanwhile, residential construction was at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $439.7 billion in April, 1.5 percent below the revised March estimate of $446.3 billion. In addition, nonresidential construction was at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $403.5 billion in April, 1.5 percent below the revised March estimate of $409.6 billion.”For the rest of the year, I expect you will see construction numbers continue to increase at a gradual pace, and you will probably see those prices continue growing as slowly as they have in the past year, if not a bit slower,” Romem said. “My guess is that some parts of the country might be near an inflection point where they start dropping or at least stay level for a while. I don’t think there’s a big crash in our future, but I anticipate a modest slow-down of housing price growth in expensive coastal cities and continued growth in more expansive, lower-priced cities.”Editor’s note: Read more about construction and inventory levels in an exclusive interview with Issi Romem, Chief Economist at BuildZoom in the June 2016 edition of MReport.  Construction Spending Inventory U.S. Census Bureau 2016-06-01 Staff Writercenter_img Construction Spending Takes a Tumble in Daily Dose, Data, Government, Headlines, Newslast_img read more


Enhancing the Experience How Tech is Improving Customer Convenience and Control

first_img Altisource Compliance Consumer Experience Regulation technology 2017-02-15 Mirasha Brown In an industry that is conforming to technology, mortgage originators are not only streamlining their business verticals to keep up with the industry standard, but they are also aligning with consumer interest by making services convenient and accessible. Jon Gerretsen joined Altisource as its President of Origination Services, now Trelix, last May, and brings more than 25 years of consumer banking experience to the table. Previously, he worked as First Senior Vice President for the Mortgage Banking Division of New York Community Bank and held senior leadership positions at AmTrust Bank, CitiMortgage, and KPMG.Gerretsen sat down with MReport to talk tech—how it’s changed in recent years, where it’s headed, and how it’s improving the customer experience from start to finish. Q: What would you say is the most cutting edge development in origination tech right now? A: Most of today’s emerging tech is based around improving the client experience. Historically, most of the technology was based on improving scale, efficiency, and building out, but it was directed toward the lenders. Then lenders could improve their process, but little of it was really borrower-focused or borrower-friendly, if you will.The last six years, beginning with RESPA in 2010 and ending up with TRID in 2015, you take those large platforms and you add in longer waiting periods and more complex regulations, it made for a poor experience for the borrower, to put it mildly. It’s almost as if after 2015 there was a collective sigh, a lot of the innovation you see today,, could be placed back into competitive advantages and borrower and client experience.Today’s tech is all based on improving the customer experience. I liken it to 10 years ago, when a very famous pizza company came out with this online tool where, at any point after you called in your order or put in your order online, you could click it on and see where your status was. You know, “Phil just put the pepperoni on your pizza,” “John just put it in the oven,” “Now it’s in the car,” that type of thing. That’s always been a vision for the mortgage industry—to be able to provide that type of access and that self-service, if you will, to the lending public.Most of us that have been in the industry for a number of years have lived in the loan approval environment where you throw it over the wall, then back over the wall, and then we’ll go back and forth, and days later we would find out page two was missing, right? So we would have to start over. Today, you build out systems where either the borrower or the lender can go online and say, “Oh, it looks like they didn’t get the second page of the addendum when we uploaded it.” Boom: It goes in, and five minutes later it’s done. That first point of contact provides for a more immediate resolution. It’s about efficiency, simplicity, and control.Q: From a borrower’s perspective, origination technology is really just about cutting down the time, wouldn’t you say?A: The most cutting edge technology is one that increases convenience for the borrower. Instead of telling them to bring 22 pages or three months of their last four bank statements, the borrower goes online, goes into their account, clicks an “Okay” button, and the lender has access. Then the lender immediately gets verification of what’s on those accounts from a trusted third party.A mortgage is really nothing but a manufactured process of locking down data. Now, with new technology, you can lock down that data at each point in the mortgage. Historically, the credit report was the only piece that would come in from the Bureau. It came from the Bureau, it’s a trusted source, so boom, you’re locked in.Now, creating avenues where you can do that with assets and income is another issue. If there were a number of different outlets or third parties you could go to in order to validate income—without telling the borrower they have to call their accountant and get 52 pages of tax returns, W-2s, and pay stubs—it’d be much simpler and would allow the borrower to control their own destiny.Q: With all the new technology, how quickly can a borrower go from initiation to closing? A: You still have regulatory, mandated waiting periods, so that the borrower has three days to review their lending estimate. They have seven days prior to closing after they get their closing disclosures, so those are still there. But other than that, the process itself is much faster than before.If you go back, 15 years ago—which sounds like a long time ago—you used to send out verifications to banks that would say, “Please verify that Jon has X amount in his checking account and X amount in his savings account.” Then it’d be mailed back and, if the loan didn’t close on time, that verification was only good for a certain number of days. You’d have to mail it back and get it re-certified. It’s those types of things that are eliminated by creating this type of technological integration.The added benefit is two-fold. The two things today that are the drivers of emerging tech are the client’s experience and the risk mitigation. Think about it: you’re not dealing in a paper world anymore and you’re getting electronic verifications from either a work verification source or a lender through the borrower permitting access, risk mitigation is as good as it gets. Not only are you doing it faster, but you’re enhancing the quality of the loan. While  doing that, you’re also allowing the borrower experience to improve.Q: What are some possible downsides to some of these new technologies? Are there any disruptions that you’re seeing in this particular sphere of the industry?A: I wouldn’t call this a downside, but growing pains are seen in the scope area. Today, not all of the third-party sources to verify employment are integrated, and it still can’t help with self-employment. It’s not a 100-percent effective solution.On the assets end, there are some institutions that, for one reason or another, do not allow that connectivity or that integration, so that you still have to go the old route. If you have to go the old route, you still have the technology for 50 or 60 percent of the application, though the benefit is limited.Q: Do you think technology can step in to make things even more efficient? A: That’s exactly where it’s focused today. Again, think of it as a manufacturing process. Each time one of these data elements are collected and locked down from a third party, it’s as secure as we can get, it’s as compliant as it can get, and risk mitigation is achieved.I can remember when lenders were not allowed to share FICO scores with borrowers. Think about how absurd that is today. I’m only talking about probably 18 years ago. ECOA and a lot of the other regulations came in and changed that, but we’re light years ahead of where we used to be.Q: So all these possibilities, these are things the industry can do right now with the technology currently available? A: Yes, but it’s not a 100-percent solution. As an industry, we’re building it now. Our platform is focused on the client experience. One of the other big pieces, and one of the things that is built in, is a transparency into the process.Again, from practical experience, if you’re a client or a borrower and you have a condition to satisfy on your loan before you can close, in the old days the leading edge technology was OCR—optical character recognition. You could upload documents, and the system would figure out exactly what this was and route it on its way. That was state-of-the-art, but it still didn’t guarantee that it fit the bill. Now, in the system, the transparency that’s created, in these new client-focused systems, the client goes on and can say, “This is condition B which applies to condition B-1 that was placed on the loan,” and tag it there. The person clearing the condition doesn’t have to play the match game with what gets uploaded versus what’s outstanding on the loan.Quality, compliance, customer experience, all those things are enhanced by this self-service component, instead of just uploading and trusting. It just puts borrowers in control. in Headlines, News, Technology, Uncategorized Sharecenter_img Enhancing the Experience: How Tech is Improving Customer Convenience and Control February 15, 2017 529 Views last_img read more


FHFA Survey Mortgage Interest Rates Continue to Fall

first_imgFHFA Survey: Mortgage Interest Rates Continue to Fall Share May 30, 2017 626 Views The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) has conducted its monthly interest rate survey for 4,437 loans closed during the last five business days in April across 17 lenders, and has reported a decline by over 10 basis points across in all mortgage interest rates. Interest rates have been falling since February 2017.The largest drop in interest rates from March to April was to 30-year fixed rates for homes costing less than $424,100, which fell 20 basis points from 4.24 percent to 4.04 percent. Factoring in other types of mortgages other than a 30-year fixed, the average interest rate on all mortgages showed the smallest drop, down 14 basis to 3.98 percent from a previous 4.12 percent.The National Average Contract Mortgage Rate for Previously Occupied Homes Index, which calculates interest rates on homes with at least one previous owner, dropped to 3.97 percent from 4.12 percent (15 basis points), and is currently the lowest interest rate reported by the institutions surveyed. Similarly, the average effective interest rate on all loans also declined 15 basis points from 4.25 percent to 4.10 percent, which is good news for homeowners but less fortunate for lenders.In keeping with April’s trend, the average loan amount also fell slightly from $312,700 to $311,600, a nominal difference of $1,100 in comparison to March’s $11,100 mean increase.It’s worth noting that all reports, with the exception of the specified 30-year fixed, can include 15-year mortgages and adjustable-rate mortgages. The survey, however, does not include mortgages that were refinanced from another mortgage or balloon mortgages. Nor does it include mortgages that are insured or guaranteed by the Federal Housing Administration or the United States Department of Veteran Affairs, multi-family loans, or loans on mobile homes.While the FHFA does not name the 17 lenders surveyed for the report specifically, it does specify that they include an array of commercial banks, mortgage companies, savings associations, and mutual savings banks.May’s index values will be released on Thursday, June 29. You can find previous months’ index reports here.center_img in Daily Dose, Data, Featured, Government, News Federal Housing Finance Agency FHFA Mortgage Interest Rates 2017-05-30 Staff Writerlast_img read more


Facing Housing Market Challenges

first_img Five Star Conference HOUSING mortgage 2017-11-04 Nicole Casperson Share MReport talks with John Carroll, Owner of Village Real Estate, and Mayor of Galena, Maryland to discuss some of the difficulties—and potential solutions—facing the housing market today. What can the industry do to take steps toward progression? See the exclusive interview here.To sign up for updates for 2018 Five Star Conference and Expo, click here. in Daily Dose, Featured, Headlines, Newscenter_img November 4, 2017 612 Views Facing Housing Market Challengeslast_img read more


SP Accepts MetaSource as ThirdParty Due Diligence Firm

first_img MetaSource, a mortgage quality control services and technology provider, has been accepted to the Standard & Poors’ (S&P) list of reviewed firms that conduct third-party due diligence for U.S. residential mortgage-backed securities. MetaSource is one of only a small group of firms that met the assessment factors that are part of S&P’s increasingly strict criteria for the list.“The rating is considered to be one of the ‘gold standards’ of the industry, and the fact that MetaSource has achieved it should give investors tremendous confidence in our abilities as we move further into this marketplace,” said Adam Osthed, President and CEO at MetaSource.In reviewing firms to create the list, which is updated every 18 months, the S&P employs rigorous criteria, scrutinizing such factors as loan data quality, compliance with required underwriting guidelines, property valuation, supporting technology and regulatory compliance.As part of the process, the S&P reviewed MetaSource’s proprietary web-based platform that allows for complete transparency among buyers and sellers as it completes third-party securitization-related due diligence.Through MetaSource’s interactive platform, both buyers and sellers can see work happening in real-time as it is being completed, including the audit results. “We’re very unique in how we’re able to interact with our customers and sellers through the process. We can set the level of transparency a client wants based on their requirements,” said Mary Kladde, SVP of mortgage services at MetaSource.In addition, the platform utilizes such technologies as Robotic Process Automation and Optical Character Recognition to speed up turnaround times. “Some firms still rely on using Excel spreadsheets and manual processes to enter and validate data. We’ve automated many traditionally manual processes and as a result, we’re shortening transaction times and improving accuracy,” Kladde said.“With the S&P acceptance and our ability to provide complete transparency and faster transaction turnarounds, MetaSource is working to revolutionize the mortgage due diligence marketplace and setting new standards for speed, quality and accuracy,” she added.Utah-based MetaSource is focused on business process outsourcing, and business process management services integrated with enterprise content management, workflow solutions, compliance services and customer experience processes. MetaSource’s mortgage services include quality control audits (pre-fund, post-close, servicing, MERS), lien release, whole loan purchase reviews, and technology services. S&P Accepts MetaSource as Third-Party Due Diligence Firm in Featured, Headlines, News Sharecenter_img Adam Osthed Mary Kladde MetaSource residential mortgage backed securities Standard & Poor’s 2019-01-13 Donna Joseph January 13, 2019 672 Views last_img read more


The next day began with a Thought Leader Breakfast

first_imgThe next day began with a Thought Leader Breakfast Panel hosted by Perishable Pundit Jim Prevor, after which attendees headed to the trade exhibition. Thursday also featured a series of chef demonstrations, a student program, a media program, and even a visit by the U.S. Ambassador to the U.K., Woody Johnson.Concluding the event on Friday were four industry tours, including a visit to a wholesale market, a fruit farm, some of London’s most innovate foodservice outlets, and leading retailers.Please find below a selection of photos from the first two days of the event.[Not a valid template] The fifth annual London Produce Show and Conference took place last week at Grosvenor House in the heart of the U.K. capital.Hosted by the Fresh Produce Consortium and Produce Business magazine, the three-day event included educational panel discussions, a trade fair and industry tours, bringing together a range of people from across the entire fruit and vegetable sector in an intimate environment.The sister event of the Amsterdam Produce Show and New York Produce Show kicked off on June 6 with a Food Service Forum and seminar on accessing the U.K. market, followed by an opening cocktail reception. Colombia’s blueberry industry “developing quite we … You might also be interested in U.S.: Autumn Glory apples gain ground in February … center_img Bayer faces second U.S. trial over alleged Roundup … Spain’s largest avocado cooperative expands into P … June 13 , 2018 last_img read more


tourismTTFvisas

first_imgtourismTTFvisas The Tourism & Transport Forum (TTF) has urged the federal government to ensure that changes to skilled labour visas do not disadvantage the tourism industry.TTF chief Margy Osmond said a continuous pipeline of skilled labour from overseas was vital for sectors such as hospitality, which has ongoing shortages of key staff including chefs and hotel managers.“Tourism is now a super growth industry in Australia, and a critically important contributor to our national economy,” Osmond said.“The industry directly employed 580,200 people in 2015-16, or 4.9 per cent of the national workforce, and continues to grow. By comparison, agriculture employed 321,600 people and mining provided 227,800 direct jobs.“TTF stands ready to work with the Federal Government on the implementation of the new temporary skilled migration program to ensure the best possible outcome for the sector.”Osmond said Australia’s global campaigns to attract more international visitors had been and continued to be a resounding success. “We now need to ensure that the industry is sufficiently resourced to continue supporting the visitor economy, which is now a bigger export earner than coal or agriculture, and will continue to grow.”Image: barossabackpackers.com.aulast_img read more