Archive for July, 2014

SQL Server 2012 Service Pack 2 Cumulative Update #1

July 30th, 2014

SQL Server 2012 SP2 Cumulative Update #1 updates Service Pack 2 to include the fixes from SP1 CU#10 and a few from CU#11, including the fix for the online index rebuild corruption issue

•KB Article: KB #2976982
•Build # is 11.0.5532
•Currently there are 45 public fixes listed (46 total)

Relevant for builds 11.0.5058 -> 11.0.5531.
Do not attempt to install on SQL Server 2012 RTM (any build < 11.0.3000) or SP1 (any build < 11.0.5058), or any other major version.

SQL Server 2014 Permissions: CONNECT ANY DATABASE

July 30th, 2014

In a recent blog post New SQL Server 2014 Permissions: CONNECT ANY DATABASE Edward Pollack, explains a new feature in SQL2014 which is paraphrased here.

CONNECT ANY DATABASE is a simple server-level permission that provides access to all current and future databases. When combined with:

- VIEW SERVER STATE, a login can monitor server and database metrics via a host of dynamic management views.

- or with SELECT ALL USER SECURABLES, a login can view data in all databases (read-only).

Many professions have restrictions over what employees are allowed to view, e.g. hospitals, where HIPAA greatly influences the flow of information. CONNECT ANY DATABASE provides database-level permissions without giving any access to the objects within. This also allows for scenarios where access is granted to all databases, but only for specific tasks, such as selecting all data, updating, deleting, etc. Security scenarios that used to be cumbersome to implement are now simplified. No need to create users in all databases for a login, nor to assign specific database-level permissions to ensure that a service account or monitor can do its job correctly.

for more information see – 2014/07/29 http://www.sqlservercentral.com/articles/Security/111116/

Eid Mubarak

July 27th, 2014

As we head into the long weekend we wish all our readers Eid Mubarak.

Synergy offices will be closed Fri, Sat, Sun, Mon , Tue and will re-open on Wed 30th August.

(Blessed Eid ( عيد مبارك‎,) is a traditional Muslim greeting reserved for use on the EID festivals. Muslims often use the phrase Eid Mubarak after performing the Eid prayer).

Budget time is nigh – make life easier with Prophix – Synergy Software Systems, Dubai

July 27th, 2014

Budgets usually mean late nights, and weekends. Spreadsheets are great for individuals but with multi-company, multi-department and multi-cost centres, and multiple budget versions issues arise from the spreadsheet proliferation:

- How to manage the distribution, notify users, confirm receipt, review, validate and approve?

- How to aggregate the data at multi reporting levels without complex look up formulas or tedious cut and paste and risk of manual error?

With a large user base involved in the budget process, inevitably some mails don’t get read, or the work slides, or a key person is off sick, or on holiday, or at an exhibition. So how do you track who has submitted their budget? How to auto generate notifications and expedite overdue submissions? How do approvers know that spreadsheets are received for their review? Is the budget right first time? If not, then how do you version control and compare versions?

Use in built tools to create budget templates, and to spread budget numbers, budget top down or bottom up, base on prior year seasonality, or derive from cost drivers.

Use the detailed planning module for e.g. Manpower planning budgets by individual pay elements, or e.g.for capex budgets. Add comments. Create graphical workflows and see a colour coded dashboard display of budget completion progress status with drilldown to individuals.

Usually there are different versions and now the number of spreadsheets is doubled- how is version control maintained, how easy is it to compare numbers and to drill down and across and between versions , or compare this year and last year, or compare across companies and departments, or lines of business?

Watch this 10 minute video to see better a way to mange your budget processes and to cut down on that on those that out of hours working and budget deadline pressures. Let the CFO spend more time analysing the numbers and less time on administrating the the process. Once your budget is in place you can sue the same numbers to effect budget spend controls to report actual v budget, to project long term plans or to reforecast.

The current version is Prophix 11 SP1, released in February 2014. This version includes new capabilities to further automate and improve planning and reporting processes, enhance the user experience, and align with new technologies.

Prophix 11 includes support for mobile on-demand access to reports through Prophix Mobile for the iPad and iPad mini, a new user interface that is familiar to business users, and the ability to manage large workflow projects with many contributors.

Key future technical priorities include:

- Prophix Cloud, a deployment option for a Prophix-managed application and technical infrastructure.

- A thin client based on HTML5 to achieve a unified user experience across a variety of desktops and mobile devices.

- Prophix Mobile functionality to connect to workflow in Prophix to respond to exceptions and approve tasks, ad hoc analysis, and support for other mobile devices based on technological demands.

BASEL III for dummies

July 23rd, 2014

The Basel Committee on Banking Supervision (BCBS) is a group tasked with providing thought-leadership to the global banking industry (http://www.bis.org/bcbs). The BCBS has released volumes of guidance over the last decade to promote stability within the financial sector. The Basel Committee thus influences financial regulations globally.

In June 2011, the BCBS released “Basel III: A global regulatory framework for more resilient banks and banking systems.” This new set of regulations includes enhancements to previous rules and will have both short and long term impacts on the banking industry.

BNP Paribas Fortis presents this 10 minutes animation on Basel III for non-specialists. This Video “Basel III for dummies” is based on life presentations by Lars Machenil (CFO BNP Paribas) and Walter Rosenhek (Basel 3 Program Manager BNP Paribas Fortis.

The liquidity and capital consequences of these changes cannot be ignored. A new report produced by KPMG’s Global Financial Services Risk and Regulatory Centre of Excellence crystallises many of these issues. The report “Liquidity bigger challenge than capital ” highlights that:

Banks face high adjustment costs to satisfy the new liquidity ratios. Additional costs will emerge from the assembling and reporting of the necessary data, running stress and scenario tests and formulating recovery plans

In many instances, satisfying liquidity requirements will hurt profitability, particularly from the need to hold more high quality but low yielding liquid assets on the balance sheet.

Problems will be compounded because many banks will be making similar adjustments at the same time. Changes to business models and organisational structures will be the inevitable consequence in many cases.

For some banks the requirement to report unrealised fair value gains separately from losses could challenge existing systems. It is also clear that the recognition of these gains/losses within Common Equity Tier 1 capital under the Basel III framework will mean increased regulatory focus on the fair value policies and procedures of banks

Key features of Basel III include:
• A stronger capital base – More stringent capital standards and higher capital requirements

• Additional risk coverage:
o Enhanced quantification of counterparty credit risk
o Credit valuation adjustments
o Wrong way risk
o Asset Value Correlation Multiplier for large financial institutions
• Liquidity management and monitoring
o Introduction of liquidity ratios
o Introduction of leverage ratios

• Introduction of capital buffers

• Even more rigorous data requirements

Banking executives must consider:
• How will Basel III play into their Risk Appetite?
• How will they create project plans for Basel III when they haven’t yet finished implementing Basel II?
• How will new regulations impact capital distributions to shareholders? (Will new lead to diminished profitability and implementation problems.

Implementation challenges include:
Data availability, data quality/integrity, data lineage, dat retention data Models and Compliance in prescribed formats.

Manual approaches to regulatory reporting are already too cumbersome and automation and sue of metadata tools is now the norm. A strong, scalable architecture with work flow tools, logs and audit trails demonstrate data integrity. Manual touch points have to be minimized. o Data relevance/coverage – Data must be relevant to all portfolios and storage devices must allow for sufficient data retention.

Coverage of both on and off balance sheet exposures is critical. Model development – Requires highly trained resources with both quantitative and subject matter expertise. All Basel models need to be validated. This requires additional resources with skills that may not be readily available. All models should be properly documented.

Its important to ensure that the data and processes related to Risk assessment and management and financial reporting are integrated. For Basel compliance the Allowance for Loan and Lease Losses (ALLL) is calculated by Finance, yet the Expected Loss (EL) is calculated by Risk Management – and they need to give the same answer.This is not trivial to achieve.

A Compliance Challenges is that some Basel III requirements leave room for interpretation. Business lines are challenged by the competing priorities which arise from regulatory compliance and business as usual work. To provide internal and external auditors with robust evidence Banking executives complain that regulations will have a detrimental affect on business. The introduction of new regulations will no doubt hinder short-term profitability. The regulator view seems to be that by requiring banks to focus on premium growth, there is more potential for sustainable long-term profitability. The argument is that a stable banking system will increase consumer confidence which in turn will supports banking activity .

The regulations also aim to ensure that adequate funding is available for individuals and companies i.e stability brings profitability to banks. Therefore, it is important that every banking institution takes the steps necessary to properly manage, monitor and disclose its risks and this warrants the assistance and oversight of an independent regulatory authority.

Whether that noble view will endear itself to banks struggling to avoid fins and to get reports out on time remains to be seen. Its too late to debate Instead with regulators over the implementation of new requirements, the key task at hand is to implement systems that embrace these regulations with minimum pain and to fund ways to use the information and analysis to be more competitive.

Stressful time for banks

July 23rd, 2014

The European Banking Authority (EBA) last week launched a consultation on draft Guidelines setting forth criteria to identify institutions that are systemically important either at Member State or Union level, the so called ‘other systemically important institutions’ (O-SIIs). The ECB is reviewing the asset valuations of the euro zone’s 128 most important lenders and assessing their ability to withstand future crises. The results will be published in the second half of October, before the ECB takes on bank supervision on Nov. 4.

The ECB has been very transparent in engaging with banks and aims to provide as many details as possible to markets and other participants on progress in the comprehensive assessment and what the end of the process will look like,” said Danièle Nouy, chair of the ECB’s supervisory board. There is a sense of pragmatism that the ECB will try to achieve to minimize regulatory burden while ensuring methodological rigour with a schedule to start supervising around 120 banks in November.

The Guidelines aim at achieving an appropriate degree of convergence in the identification process as well as at ensuring a comparable, clear and transparent assessment of O-SIIs. The consultation runs until 18 October 2014.

The Economist: “This week the European Banking Authority, which co-ordinates national regulators, took a big step towards forcing banks to clean up their balance-sheets. It revealed details of the test it will administer to assess whether Europe’s banks can survive an economic shock or a downturn in markets. The previous set of “stress tests”, conducted in 2011, proved an embarrassing whitewash: some banks that had passed with flying colours came crashing down just a few months later. That left investors uncertain about banks’ true health, which in turn made it hard for banks to sell shares or issue bonds”

In April this year the EU presented stress tests as its final stab at fixing its fragile financial sector. Previous attempts gave pass marks to banks that soon needed new capital. The stress tests will allow “supervisors to address remaining vulnerabilities in the EU banking sector,” EBA Chairman Andrea Enria had said in a news release.

In October 23, 2013, the European Central Bank (ECB) announced the start of its
comprehensive assessment in advance of the supervisory role it would assume in November 2014. The goal of this mammoth undertaking is to restore confidence in the European banking sector that was lost during the financial and euro crisis and which could not be restored by the initial European stress tests in 2010 and 2011.The key building block of the exercise is the asset quality review (AQR).

The AQR is to assess whether:
- the assets held by the banks in Europe are properly valued,
- their exposures are correctly calculated,
- the collateral values are up to date,
- and even whether these assets should be reallocated to a different risk bucket.

The AQR comprises ten so-called work blocks that are scheduled to be executed on-site
between February 17 and August 1, 2014. 2 The AQR work is focused on concentrated the on-site credit file review (work block four) and the collateral and real estate
valuation (work block five) as well as the collective provision analysis (work block seven) and the valuation of level-three exposures (work block eight).

Blomberg reports that the European Central Bank will limit the amount of data it carries over from its asset review into a subsequent stress test and try to manage the burden from an unprecedented health check of euro-area lenders. Instead of entering all loan values, obtained in the Asset Quality Review that ends this month, into its stress test, officials will apply a “materiality threshold” to ensure only significant results are incorporated,

However Regulators have yet to sign off on the methodology, including a definition for that term.

Robustness Gauge

The stress test compare a bank’s balance sheets against a range of negative, hypothetical economic events to gauge their robustness. These tests are designed to help the ECB take over supervision with a clear picture of the banking system’s health.

Avoidance of Leaks

To give time for the market to digest the information before the ECB takes over supervision on Nov. 4, officials have penciled in a date of Friday, Oct. 17, to publicly.
disclose the outcome of the Comprehensive Assessment

The ECB aims to minimize the risk of results leaking early and causing market turmoil, warning banks from disclosing any findings resulting from the interaction between auditors and lenders, according to the document. To avoid a “disorderly publication of the outcome of the comprehensive assessment,” results will be given “very close to the public disclosure in order not to create disclosure obligations under the securities market regulation,” the document shows.

Banks will be informed of the AQR results in August only in cases where they have “a very severe capital impact,” to take corrective measures. When the final results will be disclosed banks will have two weeks to submit capital plans including corrective measures. The document showed that lenders will receive a detailed timetable for releasing results as well as dates for discussion of preliminary findings before publication.

Stress tests have become an important method of assessing whether financial institutions have enough capital to operate in bad economic conditions. In the USA under the provisions of the Dodd-Frank Act, both the Federal Reserve and large U.S. bank holding companies (BHCs) are required to do annual stress tests and to disclose these results to the public

In a letter issued 17 July 2014 The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) proposes to adjust the timing of the annual stress testing cycle and to clarify the method used to calculate regulatory capital in the stress tests. The proposal also would provide that covered institutions will not have to calculate their regulatory capital requirements using the advanced approaches method in 12 CFR 3, subpart E, until the stress testing cycle beginning on January 1, 2016. The notice of proposed rulemaking was issued in the Federal Register on July 1, 2013, with a 60-day comment period.

Highlights

The proposal would
• shift the dates of the annual stress testing cycle by approximately three months. The stress testing cycle that, under the current rule, begins on October 1, 2015, would instead begin on January 1, 2016.
• provide that no covered institution is required to use the advanced approaches capital methodology in its stress testing projections until the stress testing cycle beginning on January 1, 2016.

The annual stress test under section 165(i) of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (Dodd-Frank Act) only applies to national banks and federal savings associations with more than $10 billion in assets.

Middle East banks are not immune to such developments as they expand internationally and there is an increasing move to adopt BASEL iii compliance.

What should be done to address such requirements?
Some obvious steps include:
• Create a stress testing programme to define, coordinate and oversee bank-wide stress testing activities. Support this with comprehensive documentation that meets regulatory stress testing requirements and the board of directors governance obligations.
• Put in place systems robust automated systems for the aggregation, consolidation and management of relevant data bank-wide. A secondary step is to standardise and validate such data as much as possible, and to define policies and processed for data management, data clean up and data retention.
• Invest in a distress testing infrastructure that is an integral part of your compliance reporting . Such a solution should remove scope for manual error, and reduce administrative overhead by definition of business rules, and approval workflow processes that allow you to automates and streamlines the processed, manages data, orchestrates workflows, run what-if analysis, generate the regulatory and management reports provide notifications and alerts, and detailed audit trails and allow ad hoc inquiry on both current and historical data, against both current and historical reporting formats.

Its now time to reduce reliance on a patchwork of inefficient tools. Excel spreadsheets have their place for reporting outputs and analysis but random spreadsheets and manual cut and paste population of such sheets is not a substitute for a robust data warehouse.
• Such policies and systems must be able to work across divisions and business units, and geographies to meet the governance and compliance requirements of international standards and languages.
• Your technical solution must be able to scale up, and to easily accommodate different reporting frequencies, new tests and reports. This is where a data warehouse and integrated business processes for workflows, audits, security, aggregation etc. will pay dividends. the reports will change so the emphasis should be on selecting a robust, user friendly platform built-on proven, and familiar technology. For most banks that means the Microsoft stack of: SQL, SSAS, SSRS, with front end tools like Power BI, SSRS, Power BI, and SharePoint.

Ask us about BRSAnalytics.

Ax 2012 R3 call centre – a better way to do Order Management

July 22nd, 2014

Microsoft added a call center as a new type of retail channel in Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 R3.

However this provides many order management features that all companies can use - you do’n t have to have run a call centre nor to be a retail operation – the features are still useful.

New call centers and call center catalogs are created in the Retail module. Many tasks that are related to the setup and management of a call center are performed in the new Call center.

•A new retail channel type is added: call center. In a call center, workers take customer orders over the phone and create sales orders. Call centers can be added to organization hierarchies, and can be managed together with online stores and retail stores.
•You can create catalogs for call centers, and use new catalog features.
•You can associate details with sales items. This feature lets you view additional information about the selected line in the sales order form, such as images, purchase order information, delivery dates, and other relevant text.
•You can create scripts that appear in the Sales order form at the time of order entry.
•You can prompt the clerk who enters sales orders to up-sell or cross-sell products.
•You can set up and manage continuity programs, in which customers receive regular product shipments on a predefined schedule.
•You can create orders from an item list, which is a saved list of products that customers frequently order together.
•You can track the status of a direct delivery purchase order via the associated sales order, and use the direct delivery workbench to create and release purchase orders for direct delivery. You can also specify products that are always sent to customers via direct delivery.
•You can perform full-text searches for products in the Sales order form.
•Precise control over pricing for call center sales orders is available.
•You can view the calculated margin values for broker royalties and rebates in the sales order form.

Enhanced payment functionality can be used for call center orders.
•Default sales tax groups can be used to create and view default priorities for calculating sales tax groups.
•You can create coupons that can be applied to call center sales orders.
•Installment payments can be used in sales orders.
•Broker support is available.
•You can put sales orders on hold.
•You can set up an expedited shipping mode that can be applied to a sales order or sales order line.
•Automatic notification and cancellation for backorders is available.
•You can track sales order events.
•You can view detailed order status.
•You can attach notes to a customer, order, or order line.
•You can define letter templates that can be used to generate personalized customer communications.
•You can define fraud rules to warn call center workers about potential fraud situations.
•RFM analysis can be performed on customers.
•You can track customer statistics.
•Enhanced functionality for customer service is added.
•You can track customer cases.
•Sales history can be purged.

Dynamics Ax 2012 R3 Retail – omni channel features and licensing

July 22nd, 2014

The retail industry is undergoing one of the biggest changes in the past 20 years as retailers make the transition from multi-channel to omni-channel.

Forrester forecasts that purchases made via Smartphone and tablet online are to reach almost 30-percent of the total online retail purchases by the end of the year for a total of $86 billion.

Microsoft Dynamics™ AX 2012 R3 provides multi channel retail including eCommerce and mobile solutions for retailers to kick-start their business with online sales.
- Modern Point of Sale (POS), assisted sales and centralized store management
- eCommerce
- Social integration
- Omni-channel management
- Order management, processing and payment
- Merchandizing and catalog management

Organizational Management
- How to manage your organization model (modelling your organization hierarchy with operating unit),
- Retails parameters (workflow, number sequences, default values),
- Store integration (commerce data exchange services, asynchronous server profile, store locator)
- Retail channels (brick and mortar store, online store, social and marketplace channel integration, call center operation, warehouse based stores)

Point of Sale (POS) Management

- Manage POS profile setup (POS machine, tablet and mobile, store database connection and configure the POS extensible features),
- POS terminal profile (Receipt format, screen layouts, keyboard mapping, buttons and grids image, drawer operations),
- Barcode and label configuration.

Product Management

- Manage product category hierarchy,
- Product parameters,
- Product setup (single product, Kits product),
- Configure pricing and discounts,
- Release the products to your desired business units,
- Connect vendor information to products.

Retail Operations
- Configure Retail workers (security and shift management),
- Maintain the retail reports,
- Customer loyalty and gift card operations,
- Process end of day operations
- Manage the inventory replenishment.

POS Operations
- POS activities ),
- Create a customer quotation (manage a quotation to sales order),
- Create a sales order (Buy online and pick to store scenarios including delivery and deposit requirement).

Enterprise Operations
These features enable you on how to manage the retail transaction services to leverage the enterprise operations, perform the online activities (Reporting, receiving, transferring, stock counting) , Call center managements (Sales order – Cross sell and up sell products, Payment, Delivery and customer service)

Extended Features

- Manage trade allowances, rebate and royalty management for the enterprise retail business
– Centrally from the head quarter.
– Customer item template list that can be turned into sales order.

AX 2012 Retail Licensing:

TRADITIONAL STORE (BRICK AND MORTAR)

The Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 R3 solution runs on central servers at headquarters.
Each server running an instance of the Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 R3 software require one Server license per running instance.
Each store location will need to license a Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 R3 Store Server which provides access to the following new Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 R3 capabilities:
- Local caching for offline use of data
- Centralization of POS in the store
- Local management of items such as promotions

MOBILE POS
A retail company with Mobile POS devices directly connect to the central Microsoft Dynamics AX 1012 R3 solution running at the company headquarters.
All servers running an instance of the Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 R3 software require one Server license per running instance. These users and devices require CALs to access the solution functional and should be licensed in accordance with the Product Use Rights (PUR).

ECOMMERCE
AX 2012 R3 solution can runs on central servers at headquarters. A server running an instance of the Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 R3 software requires a Server license .
Standard Commerce Core Server should be licensed for all eCommerce scenarios.
Each Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 R3 Standard Commerce Core Server must be assigned an appropriate number of Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 R3 Standard Commerce Core licenses.

End of Mainstream support for SQL Server 2008 and SQL Server 2008 R2

July 13th, 2014

We would like to remind all customers that Mainstream Support for SQL Server 2008 and SQL Server 2008 R2 ended on July 8, 2014.

http://support.microsoft.com/lifecycle.

Customers are encouraged to prepare and execute on their upgrade and/or sustained engineering plans as early as possible for these SQL versions. Remaining current on your SQL Server version to ensures that your product remains supported per the Support Lifecycle policy and for the many enhancements, fixes, and security updates provided through the latest releases.

For both SQL Server 2008 and SQL Server 2008 R2, Microsoft will continue to provide technical support which also includes security updates during the duration of extended support. Non-security hotfixes for these versions will be offered only to customers who have an Extended Hotfix Support agreement.

Microsoft in the cloud – more free space, lower costs

July 11th, 2014

Last week Microsoft more than doubled the amount of free cloud storage users get with its OneDrive service (formerly known as SkyDrive). The 15GB offer puts Microsoft on par with Google Drive, and OneDrive is notably cheaper than Dropbox and Box — for now. (Box offers 10GB of free storage while Dropbox offers 2GB.)

It also cut prices for additional space in the cloud by about 70 percent.

In a related move the company also unveiled a new offer for subscribers to its Office 365 service: 1TB of free storage.

These updates will take effect in the next month and current subscribers will automatically be moved to the lower prices, according to Microsoft

Microsoft also made it easier to use the cloud service by integrating OneDrive with its latest Windows 8 and Windows 8.1 OS releases. Having a smooth interface between OneDrive and the Office 365 service is another and more significant advantage.

Flying to USA, U.K. – new mobile security

July 11th, 2014

Passengers from “certain overseas airports” flying to the US are being told to have their mobile phones, tablets and other electronic devices charged before they board the flight, online reports say.It is unclear at present what the situation is for passengers to and from the UAE, because the list of airports has not yet been published

All passengers flying into or out of the UK are also advised to ensure electronic and electrical devices in hand luggage are sufficiently charged to be switched on.Extra security checks came in at some UK airports last week for flights to the US, but these will now be extended. The government says the checks apply to unspecified flights to and from the UK. It comes after an apparent terror threat prompted the US to announce extra security checks last week. The Department for Transport (DfT) has now issued updated guidelines, saying: “In line with the US advice, passengers on some routes into and out of the UK may now also be required to show that electronic devices in their hand luggage are powered up or face not being allowed to bring the device onto the aircraft.

Approximately 1.8 million passengers pass through the USA airports every day. TSA has prepared the TSA Traveler’s Guide to help ensure passengers have the answers they need to common security screening questions. For travelers on-the-go, TSA has the “My TSA” mobile application for iOS (iPhone) devices, Android smartphones and mobile web users.
Etihad Airways will personalise its social media presence by offering potential customers direct travel tips, while hoping the campaign will attract more customers. It promises to respond within 10 minutes to queries on its Facebook and Twitter pages with suggestions for hotels, restaurants and tourist attractions in dozens of cities worldwide – and then offer to make bookings via Etihad Holidays.A team of online scouts will respond to general travel-related posts on the social media sites, “surprising users” with tips related to their trip. http://www.tsa.gov/traveler-information

http://www.pcworld.com/article/218671/9_ways_to_keep_your_mobile_devices_secure.html

A number of countries have laws that require you to produce a password if requested by law enforcement officials. In some of these countries, refusal to provide the password can result in arrest and time in jail. USA and Canada Customs occasionally searches laptops when a traveler returns to the country. They have been known to retain laptops for further analysis if a traveler refuses to unlock the system. It is advisable to unlock the laptop when asked by the Custom officers.

There are some additional factors to consider if you are traveling internationally with encrypted laptops.

The USA and Canada government export regulations includes an exemption for the personal use of encryption technology on portable devices except if the travel is to one of the countries that the US and Canada has designated as supporting terrorism (i.e. Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Sudan, and Syria). You must remove any encryption technology if you will be traveling to these countries.

Some countries have their own regulations restricting the use of encryption. The most prominent are France, South Africa, China and Russia

Etihad also announced this week the addition of more than 1,400 of the airline’s weekly flights to Google Inc’s Flights service. Google Flight Search lets passengers in select territories in North America and Europe view live ticket prices for Etihad’s 103 destinations

Some useful websites: In addition to the well know Lonely Planet and Trip advisor sites these are also worth adding to your favourites

WORLDTRAVELGUIDE.NET: With information visa regulations, how much duty free you can bring back, what the main sights are or when the best time of year to go is, this site also lists contact details for embassies and tourist boards

TRAVEL.STATE.GOV: A US government website providing country specific information for every country of the world. Featuring information about whether travellers need a visa, crime and security information, health and medical considerations, drug penalties and localised hot spots. Similarly the UK’s website is FCO.GOV.

SIMONSEEKS.COM: Featuring travel guides and holiday reviews written by experts, enthusiasts and celebrities.

EBA Implementing Technical Standards (ITS)

July 8th, 2014

The European Banking Authority (EBA) today published an XBRL taxonomy to be used by competent authorities for remittance of data under the EBA Implementing Technical Standards (ITS) on supervisory reporting. \

It presents the data items, business concepts, relations, visualisations and validation rules described by the EBA Data Point Model (DPM) contained in the ITS on supervisory reporting, including the amendments relating to asset encumbrance, forbearance and non-performing exposures.

The reference date is as of 30 September 2014 onwards and it includes the first reports under FINREP.

The taxonomy defines a representation for data collection under the reporting requirements related to own funds, financial information, losses stemming from: lending collateralised by immovable property, large exposures, leverage ratio, liquidity ratios and asset encumbrance.

As part of enhancing regulatory harmonisation in the EU banking sector and facilitating cross-border supervision, uniform data formats are necessary to enable comparable data on credit institutions and investment firms across the EU.

The EBA XBRL taxonomy was primarily developed for data transmission between competent authorities. The EBA, many authorities have been using it for the collection of supervisory reporting from the credit institutions and investment firms they supervise. The taxonomy proposed by the EBA will lead to convergence of supervisory practices across Members States and also facilitate supervisors to identify and to assess risks consistently across the EU and to compare EU banks in an effective manner.

The updated taxonomy issued today incorporates corrections to the COREP and FINREP reporting structures in line with the published ITS, and new reporting structures for asset encumbrance.

It includes the following technical documents:
• The set of XML files forming the XBRL taxonomy
• A description of the architecture of the XBRL taxonomy
• The DPM of which the taxonomy is a standardised technical implementation, includes both database and document representations, along with a description of the formal modelling approach on which it is based.

Date of applicability
The existing taxonomy (2.0.1) related to the September 2013 framework release is to be used for remittance to the EBA for reports with reference dates prior to 30 September 2014.

Reports with reference dates as of 30 September 2014 and beyond are to use this revised taxonomy (2.1), which is related to the March 2014 framework release. Remittance of FINREP reports will, therefore, commence using this revised taxonomy.

Legal basis and next steps
This XBRL taxonomy was developed based on the final draft ITS on supervisory reporting including amendments regarding asset encumbrance, forbearance and non-performing exposures (and incorporating some revisions arising from the publication and adoption process of the Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) No 680/2014) and in accordance with Regulation (EU) No 575/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 26 June 2013 on prudential requirements for credit institutions and investment firms (Capital Requirements Regulation – CRR).

While the original ITS were adopted by the European Commission and published in the Official Journal of the European Union on 28 June 2014, the ITS amendments regarding asset encumbrance, forbearance and non-performing exposures are pending adoption and publication. Hence, this taxonomy is subject to further necessary revisions following the publication and adoption process and based on any critical technical corrections that may be identified.

Later this year, the EBA expects to publish a further revision of its XBRL taxonomy incorporating further alignment corrections, and additional reporting requirements regarding funding plans, which is expected to be used for reports with reference dates as of 31 December 2014 and beyond.

It seems probable that similar reporting formats will be introduced to this region. So consider this when selecting your regulatory reporting solution, BRS Analytics data model and report outputs have already been extended to meet the COREP and FINREP requirements.

Azure ML

July 7th, 2014

Microsoft says it will launch a cloud-based machine learning service, called Azure ML, in July.

The service will help to create applications that can predict the future on the basis of previous data.

It will help bake predictive analytics into applications, and thereby enable organizations to process large amounts of data to provide all the benefits of machine learning to a wider audience

SQL 2014 now supports all versions of Dynamics Ax 2012

July 7th, 2014

SQL Server 2014 can now run with :
Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 R3
Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 R2 Cumulative Update 7
Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 Cumulative Update 5.
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FATCA – now in effect from 1 July 2014

July 2nd, 2014

Does the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA), affect you? The legislation came into full effect on the 1st of July 2014 and has many implications, particularly for US expatriates and for financial institutions with which they deal.

FATCA, a U.S. tax avoidance measure that requires foreign (non- U.S.) financial institutions (FFIs) to identify, report on and, in some circumstances, withhold on payments to account holders. The point of FATCA is increase transparency for the IRS with respect to U.S. persons that may be investing and earning income through non-U.S. institutions. FATCA imposes tax withholding where the applicable documentation and reporting requirements are not met.

U.S. taxpayers owning financial assets in excess of $50,000 in foreign accounts must report those assets every year on a new Form 8938 to be filed with the 1040 tax return.

The law requires foreign financial institutions (FFIs) to enter into an agreement with the Internal Revenue Service to identify their U.S. account holders and to disclose the account holders’ names, tax identification numbers, addresses and the transactions of most types of accounts.

FFI’s are now required to report the following:
1) The name, address and U.S. tax identification number (TIN) of each account holder that is a specified U.S. person;
2) In the case of any account holder that is a U.S. entity with one or more U.S. owners, the name, address and TIN of each substantial U.S. owner of such entity;
3) The account number;
4) The year-end account balance or value; and
5) Gross receipts and gross withdrawals or payments from the account.

If an FFI does not enter into an agreement with the IRS, all relevant U.S.-sourced payments, such as dividends and interest paid by U.S. corporations, will be subject to a 30 percent withholding tax.

Many Americans residing overseas are faced with ‘banking lock-out’ because financial institutions have in some cases chosen to eliminate their US client basis to minimize their exposure to FATCA reporting requirements, withholding fees and potential penalties.

While there is speculation that this law will make it less desirable for foreigners to do business with Americans and even a reduced desire to hold dollar-based assets there is still a need for Middle East FIs to address this reporting requirement.

US citizens working here should seek independent financial advice or speak to a tax advisor for more information and visit the IRS website – www.irs.gov/

(From Notice 2014-33: Comments received after the publication of the temporary Chapter 4 regulations have indicated that the release dates of the final Forms W-8 and accompanying instructions present practical problems for both withholding agents and FFIs to implement the new account opening procedures beginning on 1 July 2014. In consideration of these comments, the US Treasury and the IRS intend to amend the Chapter 4 regulations to allow a withholding agent or FFI to treat an obligation held by an entity that is issued, opened, or executed on or after 1 July 2014, and before 1 January 2015, as a pre-existing obligation for purposes of implementing the applicable due diligence, withholding, and reporting requirements under Chapter 4. The proposed amendments to the Chapter 4 regulations will only be available to obligations held by entities. )

http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/p5124.pdf This user guide FATCA XML V1.1 sets out the xml schema and the information required in each data element.

Once FFIs register with the IRS through the agency’s website, they will receive a notice that the registration has been accepted and will be issued a Global Intermediary Identification Number (GIIN), to be used for reporting purposes. Approximately 77,000 banks and financial institutions from 70 countries have already registered, according to news reports. Reuters reported that more than 500 U.S. businesses have also registered, including Citibank and JPMorgan Chase. As of June 13, 2014, 36 nations had signed agreements with the IRS, including Australia, France, Germany, Japan, Mexico, South Africa, the United Arab Emirates and the United Kingdom. Many places where Americans have traditionally hidden assets, including Switzerland, the Cayman Islands and the Bahamas, have signed agreements as well. Forty-two other nations have reached “agreements in substance.”

The IRS issued a notice in May 2014 announcing that calendar years 2014 and 2015 will be regarded as a “transition period” for FATCA enforcement. The transition period is “intended to facilitate an orderly transition” for financial institutions struggling to achieve FATCA compliance, according to the IRS.

Take note that the July 1, 2014, effective date is not postponed and the legal obligations imposed by FATCA have not changed. “An entity that has not made good-faith efforts to comply with the new requirements will not be given any relief from IRS enforcement during the transition period,” the notice states.

The IRS is just letting the international financial community know that a good-faith attempt at compliance will be acceptable until January 2016. Instead of aggressive policing of reporting accuracy, the IRS may check on the status of FFIs’ filing of W-8 and W-9 forms and take into account whether a withholding agent has made reasonable efforts to modify its account opening practices and procedures.