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Business briefing: Anger as Bank’s briefings ‘hijacked for hedge funds’

A SENIOR Bank of England official has been urged to resign over a security breach that leaked vital information to traders.

A hacked audio feed of the Bank’s press conferences was relayed to hedge funds eight seconds ahead of the broadcast feed, a newspaper investigation revealed.

According to The Times, a back-up communications system installed by the Bank had been ‘hijacked’ by one of its suppliers and shared with a market news service.

Having access to briefings by Bank governor Mark Carney (pictured above) moments ahead of a rival would give traders a vital competitive advantage.

Danny Blanchflower, who served on the Bank’s monetary policy committee, called on chief operating officer Joanna Place to resign. He said her position as the person responsible for information security was untenable after the Bank admitted the breach.

‘Carney should be absolutely furious,’ Mr Blanchflower told the Guardian. ‘The person in charge of the Bank’s security should be quitting within the hour.’

The eavesdropping can be compared to insider trading because it gave traders a boost based on information rivals did not have. High-speed traders can make millions on tiny market moves.

The Bank said the audio feed had been installed in the event of a failure of the video broadcast, and had been misused by the supplier since earlier this year. It said: ‘This wholly unacceptable use of the audio feed was without the Bank’s knowledge or consent, and is being investigated further.’

I’m Bill, follow me to check-in

Fly-tech: The robots – both named Bill – will help T5 passengers PICTURE: BRITISH AIRWAYS/PA

BRITISH AIRWAYS is to deploy a pair of robots to help passengers find their way around Heathrow.

The machines will interact with customers in multiple languages and escort them to locations in Terminal 5 such as cafes, toilets, meeting rooms and family check-in zones.

They are being supplied by west London-based BotsAndUs and will use geolocation technology and dozens of sensors to move around the terminal without hitting passengers or their suitcases.

They will both be named Bill after Lt EH ‘Bill’ Lawford, who captained the world’s first daily international passenger air service from London to Paris in 1919.

Ricardo Vidal, head of innovation at BA, said: ‘In the future, I envisage a fleet of robots working side-by-side with our people offering a truly seamless travel experience.’

Consumer confidence hits three-year high

PUBLIC optimism about the economy’s prospects next year has risen at the sharpest rate since the summer of 2016. Market research firm GfK’s consumer confidence index remains deep in negative territory but is up three points to minus 11 this month. Expectations for the general economic situation rose seven points to minus 27 and confidence in personal finances increased by two points to plus three. There is a ‘clear sense of a change in consumer sentiment’, said GfK’s client strategy director Joe Staton.

BUSINESS BITES

■ TWO bosses at Royal Bank of Scotland’s investment arm — NatWest Markets CEO Chris Marks and CFO Richard Place — are to step down after the company reported a £193million third quarter loss.

■ THE Bank of England has held interest rates at 0.75 per cent -but indicated it may cut the cost of borrowing if global economic and Brexit uncertainties persist. It also cut growth forecasts for the fourth quarter to 0.1 per cent.

■ BREEZE Energy has ceased trading. The energy supply to its 18,000 customers will continue and Ofgem will choose a new supplier for them. Customers are advised not to switch suppliers until a new one is appointed.

■ RETAIL sales volumes rose one per cent year-on-year last month — the weakest growth since April 2018. Sales fell 0.4 per cent in the three months to the end of November, compared with the previous three.

■ A SHORTAGE of skilled workers remains a ‘huge concern’, a survey of employers shows. Half of firms in a variety of sectors are worried about filling full-time roles, the Recruitment and Employment Confederation found.

■ AN INQUIRY into the collapse of package holiday giant Thomas Cook has been expanded. The Financial Reporting Council is to analyse audited statements back to 2017, a year earlier than previously.