The global economic situation continues to dominate the environment for financial services. In the US, there are a few encouraging signs in the retail and housing sectors, but uncertainty leading up to the presidential election cast a long and lingering shadow. In China, there are fresh concerns about the slowdown in growth despite continuing strong exports. Strung between these two rather shaky pillars, in Europe, the sovereign debt crisis still seems no nearer resolution, the political impetus for change looks likely to slow down as we approach the German elections in 2013 and in the long term, the sustainability of the post war social democratic consensus looks ever more fragile. In this issue of frontiers, we return to the themes of cost optimization, transforming business and operating models and the challenge of liquidity, among others.