Now that 2014 is coming to a close, it's a good time to look back on all of the things that happened throughout the year. Here are three things that happened in the financial sector during the past year that our analysts find particularly memorable.
Patrick Morris: News has continued to flow out the financial sector, but for me, the most memorable moment of 2014 is actually a collection of moments, all of which have to do with the evolution of the way people pay for goods and services.
Perhaps Apple Pay will be the tipping point, but firms everywhere have been pushing for ways to allow mobile payments to become commonplace.
In addition there has been the assurance EMV chip technology will be here in less than a year to ensure Americans are better protected from data breaches. There was also the introduction of Visa Checkout, Visa's effort to make online payments simpler and easier.
And EMV may be just the start to a more secure payments platform because Visa, American Express, and MasterCard have continued their efforts to push for tokenization, which is an even safer and more secure way to for consumers to pay using their credit cards.
While mobile payments, a quick online checkout tool, and more secure payment efforts have been in the works (and in some instances available) for years, 2014 has been a year in which there hasn't been mere talk, but action as well. And hopefully it may be the last full year we all remember carrying wallets and being concerned our credit card information is vulnerable.
Matt Frankel: For me, the most memorable, or significant development in the financial sector this year was the tremendous progress made toward putting the legal fallout from the financial crisis in the past.
The biggest headline was Bank of America's nearly $17 billion settlement, which was reached in August, but there were also significant mortgage-related settlements reached by Goldman Sachs for $1.2 billion and Citigroup for $7 billion. And don't forget about JPMorgan Chase's $13 billion settlement, which was technically reached in 2013, but was a major development in this saga.
The reason this was such a memorable moment for me is that it means the big banks can finally get some closure from the financial crisis and move on. It eliminates a lot of uncertainty for shareholders who had been wondering for some time, "How much will we have to pay?"
Getting these legal settlements behind them was one of the biggest remaining hurdles preventing the stench of the financial crisis from clearing. And, now that it has finally started to clear, maybe the banks can finally start looking to the future.
Dan Dzombak: The most memorable financial moment of 2014 was Friday, Sept. 26, when "Bond King" Bill Gross left PIMCO, the $2 trillion asset management goliath that he had built up over a 40-year career, to join Janus Capital Group (NYSE:JNS).
Bill Gross had managed the PIMCO Total Return Fund since 1987, building it up to nearly $300 billion in assets with a performance that crushed rival funds. As the firm grew, Gross penned a must-read monthly letter at PIMCO and was a regular feature in the media to explain economic events and movements in the bond market.
Things hadn't been going well the past few years though after Gross' fund's performance suffered in 2011. This led to Gross spending the past few years publicly fighting with management of the firm, which started to boil over in January when his co-CIO Mohamed El-Erian announced his resignation. Things worsened and a power struggle ensued within PIMCO. Memorably during this time, to prove he could do whatever he wanted, Gross penned an opus to his cat Bob as one of his monthly letters to investors. Things continued to deteriorate and Gross resigned in September.
Gross' departure and move to Janus was big enough news that that day the Federal Reserve coordinated with brokers and banks to make sure his departure wouldn't disrupt the $100 trillion bond market, and Janus Capital Group's stock jumped 40%. Since then, investors have taken $60 billion out of the Total Return Bond Fund but only invested $1 billion so far in Gross' new fund, the Janus Global Unconstrained Bond Fund. Gross' new investors do include George Soros, who committed $500 million to the strategy.