Month: July 2019

accountancy hack
BankingFinanceFunds

Hackers set their sights on accountancy firms – 7 steps to minimize risk

Accountancy practices are facing an increase in cyber risks as criminals switch their focus to ‘softer target’ smaller firms. Joe Collinwood, CEO at CySure explains why accountancy firms are targets for hackers and what steps they can take to minimize their exposure.

When it comes to cyber crime, small accountancy practices are not exempt from the disruption that affects large organizations. If anything, their size makes them more vulnerable as they are perceived as a softer target. In the USA for example there has been an explosion in fraudulent W-2 filings and in the UK with more filings now on-line risk is increasing. So why are accountants being targeted?

• They hold large amounts of private data
• They have the information cyber criminals want – corporate financial data, social security numbers, Tax IDs, bank accounts, payroll data, identification data for validation and reporting purposes
• Accounting firms use similar software so if a criminal finds a vulnerability that can be exploited they have lots of potential victims
• Typically there is inadequate technical protection, policies and procedures that leave firms wide open to a cyber attack
• A lack of incident response and business continuity procedures means accountants are more likely to pay a cyber criminal money because they fear they may not be able to recover from an attack and the firm’s reputation will be tarnished.

Many accountancy firms are making it easier for hackers by underestimating the threat they face from cyber attacks. There were 438 (i) separate data security incidents reported to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) in Q2 2018/2019 alone in the finance, insurance and credit sector. The cost to launch cyber attacks is negligible and the most likely method of breach is phishing i.e. human error. It’s time to think again.

Gateway to Information
Self-employed accountants and accountancy practices are on the radar of cyber criminals because of the amount of valuable data they hold. Firms collect and store highly desirable data and information on clients. This information enables hackers to pull off complex frauds at a later date. The more information they have, the better a picture they can build of the small business or person whose bank account they intend to target.
Cyber criminals view accountancy firms as a “gateway” to client information and are perceived as a soft target with few security barriers, limited cyber security tools and little or no in-house expertise. Additionally, as many firms use the same software systems, hackers are motivated to seek vulnerabilities in the software knowing there will be a substantial pay day by exploiting the weakness to attack multiple businesses.

Small but not safe
According to the Cyber Security Breaches Survey 2018 (ii), 42% of small businesses identified at least one breach or attack in the last 12 months. Depending on the severity of the attack, SMEs can suffer more disruption than their larger counterparts as they lack the processes and cyber expertise to deal with the ramifications of an attack. The impact to business operations and the inability for staff to carry out their day to day work can have longer term consequences, not only for an accountancy practice itself but also for its clients.

Minimize Risk – 7 simple steps to cyber resilience
No business is too small to be attacked, however with the right approach to security, no business is too small to protect itself. Accountancy firms can pave the way to cyber resilience by following these top cyber-security tips:
• Invest in effective firewalls, anti-virus and anti-malware solutions and ensure any updates and patches are applied regularly, ensuring that criminals cannot exploit old faults or systems
• Ensure business critical data, such as customer data and financial information, on all company assets is securely backed up and can be restored at speed
• Have simple, clear policies in place to create a cyber-conscious culture in the workplace and ensure it is communicated to all personnel so they are familiar with it
• Have regular awareness training so that employees are constantly reminded of potential scams or tactics that can be used to trick them
• Review contracts and policies with suppliers to ensure they have an accredited standard for cyber-security for themselves and their partners to protect the supply chain
• Have an up-to-date incident response plan that is practiced regularly so that employees know what to do when they suspect there is an attempted breach or if an actual incident occurs
• Consider investing in cyber insurance to cover the exposure of data privacy and security. Accountancy firms should research insurance policies carefully to understand the level of coverage offered and their responsibilities to stay within the conditions of the policy.

Where to start and what to do now
Cyber security need not be complex or prohibitively expensive, in the UK Cyber Essentials (CE) is a government and industry backed scheme specifically designed to help organisations protect themselves against common cyber-attacks. In collaboration with Information Assurance for Small and Medium Enterprises (IAMSE) they have set out basic technical controls for organisations to use which is annually assessed. In the US the National Institute Standards and Technology (NIST) framework guides organizations through complex, emerging safety producers and protocols.

By utilising an online information security management system (ISMS) that incorporates Cyber Essentials and NIST, accountancy firms can undertake a certification route guided by a virtual online security officer (VOSO) as part of their wider cyber security measures. This will help the organization to coordinate all security practices in one place, consistently and cost-effectively. Additionally, firms can take advantage of the expertise of online cyber security consultants at a fraction of the cost of a full-time in-house security specialist.

Demonstrating confidence to the client base
Cyber security certification has many benefits; it ensures standardization and is a good differentiator for accountancy firms as it shows a diligence to information security. By giving cyber security the same priority as other business goals, accountancy firms can proudly display their security credentials and demonstrate trust and confidence to their client base.

Joe Collinwood is CEO of CySure

dubai
FinanceFundsMarkets

Dubai International Financial Centre boosts UAE financial sector development and reports significant growth during first half of 2019

Maktoum bin Mohammed: “Strong performance by DIFC highlights the international financial institutions’ confidence in Dubai”

 

  • Total number of companies currently operating in the DIFC stands at 2,289 – a 14 percent increase year-on-year and a 7 percent increase since end of 2018
  • Over 250 new companies, a 10 percent increase from the same period in 2018
  • More than 660 jobs created, boosting combined workforce to more than 24,000 professionals
  • DIFC’s financial technology ecosystem doubles in size in first half of 2019 – now includes over 200 companies, of which more than 80 are fully-licensed FinTech firms
  • 425 applications received for third cohort of FinTech Hive accelerator programme – three-fold growth since 2017 and 42 percent increase from 2018

 

Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC), the leading international financial hub in the Middle East, Africa and South Asia (MEASA) region, reinforced its contribution to the UAE’s economy and its commitment to driving the future of finance, following strong performance during the first half of 2019.

The Centre saw sustained growth in the first half of 2019, welcoming more than 250 new companies, and bringing the total number of active registered firms to 2,289, demonstrating a 14 percent increase year-on-year. This has fuelled the creation of over 660 jobs, boosting the Centre’s combined workforce to more than 24,000 individuals, and has resulted in the occupancy of 99 percent of DIFC-owned buildings.

The DIFC now boasts more than 671 financial related firms, an 11 percent increase from the same period last year.  The financial services firms that joined in 2019 include Maybank Islamic Berhad from Malaysia, Cantor Fitzgerald from the United States of America, Atlas Wealth Management from Australia and Mauritius Commercial Bank. In addition, leading non-financial firms including Guidepoint MEA, Medtronic Finance Hungary Kft. and Network International, have also joined the Centre in the first six months of 2019.

His Highness Sheikh Maktoum bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Deputy Ruler of Dubai and President of the DIFC, said: “Dubai continues to gain recognition on the global stage as the destination where business meets innovation, and the DIFC has been a significant driver of this.  The strong performance that the Centre has delivered during the first half of 2019 highlights the confidence and trust that international financial institutions have in Dubai.  Aligning with the 50-year charter announced by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, the planned expansion of the DIFC will solidify Dubai’s role as a pivotal hub for companies from around the world to access regional opportunities.”

His Excellency Essa Kazim, Governor of DIFC, commented: “The DIFC has been a pioneer in the financial services sector since its inception in 2004, as the first purpose-built financial centre in the MEASA region. 15 years on, we continue to demonstrate our forward-thinking approach with the enhancement of our legal and regulatory framework, as well as the development of a comprehensive ecosystem. The Centre remains a fundamental driver in leading financial sector transformation, supporting the advancement of the UAE economy, and developing the next generation of financial professionals.”

Driving the Future of Financial Services in MEASA

In response to the strong demand the DIFC continues to witness from financial institutions across the globe, the Centre embarked upon 2019 with the announcement of new expansion plans, supporting the economic future of Dubai and the UAE. The phased growth plan will triple the scale of the leading financial hub and enable the DIFC to help deliver on Dubai’s ambitious growth agenda, whilst diversifying and transforming the financial services sector within the wider region.

The new development will provide an international focal point for FinTech and innovation, enhancing the Centre’s reputation as one of the world’s most advanced financial centres and reinforcing Dubai’s position as one of the world’s top ten FinTech hubs, as listed by FT’s The Banker.

The Centre has already seen a marked increase in the number of firms that make up its dynamic FinTech ecosystem, which more than doubled in size from over 80 to 200 companies in the last six months.  Similarly, the number of licensed FinTech firms operating in the DIFC increased from 35 to more than 80 in the first half of 2019. Key international FinTech firms that have made the Centre their MEASA base include Dublin-based software company Fenergo, InsurTech leaders Charles Taylor and Swedish crowdfunding platform, FundedByMe.

Arif Amiri, Chief Executive Officer of DIFC Authority, commented: ‘We are continuing to cement our global position as a pivotal business and finance hub, while making significant headway towards meeting our 2024 targets.  Our focus on innovation and technology is delivering a blueprint for sustainable growth as we continue our journey towards driving the future of finance. DIFC’s emphasis on transforming its lifestyle offering, alongside strategic investments within technology and FinTech means we are confident about reinforcing our position as a leading global financial centre – a great place to live, work, play and do business.”  

The Centre received 425 applications from start-ups operating in the RegTech, Islamic FinTech, InsurTech and broader FinTech sectors, for the third cohort of its DIFC FinTech Hive accelerator programme, a 42 percent increase from the 2018 programme. This also marked a three-fold increase from its inaugural cycle in 2017, exemplifying the pace of evolution of this fast-growing industry, as well as the preference of Dubai and the DIFC as the home for FinTech firms looking to scale their business across the region.  Approximately half of the applications received for the 2019 programme originated from the Middle East, Africa and South Asia. 

33 start-ups have been selected following a series of interviews, conducted in consultation with DIFC FinTech Hive’s network of 21 participating partners, including Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank (ADIB), Emirates Islamic, Emirates NBD, Finablr, HSBC, National Bank of Fujairah, Noor Bank, Riyad Bank, Standard Chartered, and Visa, as well as the associate financial institution partners Arab Bank and First Abu Dhabi Bank (FAB).

InsurTech start-ups will work closely with leading insurance players, AXA Gulf, Noor Takaful (Ethical Insurance), Zurich Insurance Company Ltd (DIFC), AIG, Insurance House, Cigna Insurance Middle East S.A.L. and MetLife, to help them develop game-changing solutions that address the growing requirements of the industry. In addition, this year’s finalists will be supported by strategic partner Dubai Islamic Economy Development Centre (DIEDC) and digital transformation partner Etisalat.

Furthering the Centre’s commitment to supporting FinTech in the region, DIFC hosted the first Demo Day for the inaugural cycle of the Startupbootcamp programme in April 2019, alongside HSBC and Mashreq.  The event showcased innovative concepts from ten graduates of the programme, consisting of entrepreneurs from the UAE, Singapore, United Kingdom, Greece, France, Thailand, Ghana, Morocco, Ukraine, and the Czech Republic.

The Centre’s thriving FinTech community benefits from the strong relationships the DIFC has continued to build with key international accelerators through ongoing delegations and partnership agreements. The DIFC signed four MoUs during the first half of 2019, one with Dubai SME to help foster entrepreneurship in the UAE and further the National Innovation Agenda, as well as three additional agreements with FinTech Saudi, Milan’s FinTech District and FinTech Istanbul, expanding the Centre’s network of international FinTech hubs to 14.

Furthermore, DIFC has worked to increase access to funding by engaging and building its Venture Capital ecosystem, as well as investing directly into promising FinTech start-ups.  In March 2019, the Centre announced the appointment of Middle East Venture Partners and Wamda Capital to manage USD 10 million of its dedicated USD 100 million FinTech fund.  To date, DIFC has received more than 50 applications from a variety of financial technologies, including payments, roboadvisory, blockchain and KYC platforms.  The applications received have been in equal parts from early and growth stage firms, signifying interest from firms across the start-up business cycle.

Supporting Human Capital Development and Delivering Sustainable Impact

As part of the DIFC’s efforts to support continued professional development and strengthen the regional talent pool, the DIFC Academy offers world class financial and legal education through strategic partnerships with 26 leading educational institutions and government entities. To date, the DIFC has seen more than 5,500 graduates successfully undertake executive education courses and programmes in finance, business and law, as well as two dedicated Masters of Laws (LLM) programmes.

Knowledge sharing and thought leadership remained a core focus for the financial centre in 2019. The third edition of the Dubai World Insurance Congress (DWIC) and the second edition of the Global Financial Forum (GFF) welcomed more than 700 industry leaders to each flagship event. Key speakers at DWIC included James Vickers, Chairman of Willis Re International and David Watson, Chief Executive Officer for Europe, Middle East and Africa and International Casualty at AXA XL, who shared global perspectives on reinsurance growth strategies. Meanwhile, the GFF, which brought together more than double the number of business leaders compared to the inaugural event in 2018, attracted the likes of Sir Gerry Grimstone, Former Chairman of Barclays Bank PLC and emerging markets guru, Mark Mobius.

In recognition of DIFC’s efforts towards building one of the world’s leading financial centres over the last 15 years, the Centre was the only free zone in the UAE to receive the Dubai Quality Award in April 2019. The award is a reflection of the DIFC’s hard work and dedication in building a sustainable and progressive business environment. 

In May 2019, another milestone for sustainable business growth was achieved as Majid Al Futtaim launched the world’s first benchmark corporate Green Sukuk at Nasdaq Dubai, supporting Dubai’s growth as the global capital of Islamic economy. The Green Sukuk investment will be used to finance and refinance Majid Al Futtaim’s existing and future green projects, including green buildings, renewable energy, sustainable water management, and energy efficiency. 

Enhancing the Legal & Regulatory Framework to Fuel Growth

The Centre has been at the forefront of enhancing its legislative infrastructure to provide the DIFC community with access to opportunities within the MEASA region, whilst providing greater stability and certainty when doing business in the DIFC. The Centre’s robust legal and regulatory framework remains the most sophisticated and business-friendly Common Law jurisdiction in the region, aligned with international best practice.

DIFC continues to support the development of the financial services sector and foster the UAE’s economic growth by encouraging the development of the domestic funds market. In May 2019, the DIFC’s independent regulator, the Dubai Financial Services Authority (DFSA), announced the a new regime to facilitate the passporting of funds, in collaboration with the UAE’s other financial regulators. The UAE passporting regime is a regulatory mechanism for the promotion and supervision of investment funds that encourages foreign licensed firms in financial free zones based in other countries to enter the local market.  

With the aim of ensuring businesses and investors can operate across the region with confidence, the DIFC also unveiled the new Insolvency Law in June 2019, enacted by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum. The new law facilitates a more efficient and effective bankruptcy restructuring regime for stakeholders operating in the DIFC.

In addition, the DIFC has continued to create an attractive environment for the 24,000 strong workforce based in the Centre to thrive, whilst protecting and balancing the needs and interests of both employers and employees. To support its vision, the DIFC unveiled its new Employment Law in June 2019 to address key issues such as paternity leave, sick pay, end-of-service settlements and more.

As part of the Centre’s blueprint for the transformation of the financial centre and in line with global retirement savings trends the DIFC launched the Employee Workplace Savings (DEWS) scheme, which will see the evolution of end-of-service benefits from a defined benefit scheme to a defined contribution scheme, while offering a voluntary savings component for employees.

The Centre also unveiled a new unified, simplified and more expansive Prescribed Companies regime that makes structuring and financing in the DIFC faster, flexible and more cost-effective. The new regime encompasses structures previously offered by the Centre, including Intermediate Special Purpose Vehicles (ISPVs) and Special Purpose Companies (SPCs).  This has contributed significantly to a robust pipeline of prospective business from the aviation financing sector, as well as generating substantial interest from family offices looking to utilise these structures in their succession planning.

Creating a Vibrant Retail & Lifestyle Experience

Today, 91 percent of DIFC’s prime retail space is occupied by 432 leading lifestyle, art, fashion and food & beverage brands, an offering that will be significantly boosted once Gate Avenue is fully open.  Upon officially opening its doors to the public, the new development will provide seamless connectivity to the Centre’s comprehensive lifestyle offering, from The Gate building through to Central Park Towers.  The new retail experience will feature over 100 days of unique arts, culture and wellness activations, making DIFC the destination where business meets lifestyle.

During the first half of 2019, Hilton Hotels & Resorts announced the opening of Waldorf Astoria, Dubai International Financial Centre. The 275-key hotel occupies the 18th to 55th floors of the Burj Daman complex, including 46 suites and 28 residential suites offering unobstructed views of the Downtown Dubai skyline.  Combined with the two other world-class hotels based in the Centre, Four Seasons and the Ritz-Carlton DIFC, this brings the total number of hotel rooms available to those visiting the DIFC to 722.

In addition, the Centre welcomed a number of new culinary concepts to the DIFC’s gourmet scene including ‘Marea’, the New York fine dining experience led by multi-Michelin starred chef, Michael White as well as Grecian inspired ‘Avli by Tasha’. In March 2019, it was announced that renowned chef Nusret Gökçe is set to launch casual dining concept ‘Saltbae’ at the Centre this year.

DIFC is also home to one of the UAE’s largest collections of public art with sculptures from internationally renowned artists including Manolo Valdés and is the foundation for initiatives such as the One Mile Gallery in partnership with Brand Dubai which showcases the best of local, regional and international design and promotes art, innovation and entrepreneurship. 

The Centre also welcomed its seventh elite art gallery, Sconci Gallery to the DIFC in the first half of 2019. Established in Rome during 1977, the gallery has collaborated with leading artists and international auction houses to showcase collections from masters of modern and contemporary art, as well as emerging artists. 

During March 2019, the DIFC hosted the most successful edition of the hugely popular Art Nights in the last five years. The event, which marks the beginning of Dubai’s coveted art season, Art Dubai 2019, saw participation from international and local art galleries and artists, as well as installations accompanied by electric musical performances and light installations from interdisciplinary artists.

Finance

Thinking about starting a new business? Female entrepreneurs will face more obstacles than their male counterparts

Thinking about starting a new business? Female entrepreneurs will face more obstacles than their male counterparts

Women face more obstacles when starting a business, meaning they need more support in order to succeed, reveals new research from ESCP Europe.

Females and males experience the support provided by the ecosystem for their start-up activities very differently. Women in contrast to men tend to majorly rely more on social support, which interestingly applies to start-ups in both highly supportive as well as non-supportive environments.

Professor of Management Christian Linder and his co-author Sonja Sperber from the ISM International School of Management in Frankfurt (Germany) explain

“We found that when starting up a new business, women face problems with confidence and obtaining finance, and are more critical about their own capabilities and skills. In order to still be successful, this lack of confidence is compensated by mobilising their network for support. However, in contrast, males are more confident of their capabilities to overcome support constraints on their own.”

In addition, it was found that women face a work-family conflict, and struggle more to counterbalance their different roles when committing to new business ventures.

Professor Linder adds,

“starting a business is always linked to emotional or psychological stress. When facing a lack of resources, social support can serve as a source of information as well as provide assistance.”

As a result, the start-up strategies chosen are a reflection of the individually perceived support from the ecosystem, the current life situation as well as the intended goals (as for example, high level of autonomy, financial success, status). This research shows the highly complex situation of female entrepreneurs, and concludes that there certainly is a need for stronger, sustainable foundations so that females can catch up with their male counterparts.

This research was published in ‘Small Business Economics: An Entrepreneurship Journal’.

Banking

Capital on Tap Announces New Partnership With Marqeta, Pairing Industry-Leading Business Credit Card With Best-In-Class Card Issuing Platform

Capital on Tap will turn to Marqeta’s modern card issuing platform to power its card offering, used by UK small businesses to better access capital.

Capital on Tap, one of the UK’s fastest growing companies, announced today that it is partnering with Marqeta, the leading global modern card issuing platform, to power payment processing for its small business credit card, relied on by over 60,000 UK enterprises.

As part of this new agreement, all of Capital on Tap’s users will be provided with a new, Marqeta-powered card. Since its launch in 2012, Capital on Tap has competed with the offering of major banks, by offering small businesses a faster and more transparent way to fund their business. Capital on Tap has already provided close to £1 billion in funding to more than 60,000 small businesses across the UK.

“Capital on Tap have shown themselves to be true innovators in the UK fintech space, taking an underserved market like credit for small businesses and building a product that can make a real difference for their customers,” said Ian Johnson, Head of European Growth at Marqeta. “They’re the very example of a European fintech innovator that the Marqeta platform was designed to empower, providing an agile and scalable platform that allows them to focus on what they do best, creating a top shelf product with a memorable user experience.”  

Founded in Oakland, California in 2010, the Marqeta platform is used by the world’s leading innovators to drive new modes of commerce through modern card issuing. Marqeta’s European Digital Banking solution supports instantly issued virtual cards and offers advanced spend controls to engage users and grow card use. Marqeta’s platform and its feature-rich APIs are highly configurable and scalable, and allow Marqeta partners to access actionable, real-time transaction data to drive program improvements.

“We’re excited to partner with Marqeta. We loved the transparency and simplicity of their technology and how future focused and innovative their open-API platform is,” said David Luck, co-founder and CEO of Capital on Tap. “We felt a really close DNA fit with them and how they’re looking to constantly evolve and build on their tech. They showed an intuitive understanding in how they could support our mission to help small businesses thrive through better access to working capital.”

Articles

Utilizing Cutting Edge Technology to Achieve Outstanding Results in Asset Management

Founded in August 2015, Catana Capital is a quantitative asset manager based in Frankfurt that offers innovative asset management based on a unique combination of data, experience and modern technology. The company runs a revolutionary new type of strategy which invests according to independent trading signals generated from big data analysis, combined with artificial intelligence algorithms. The company is completely licensed and capitalized according to the German Banking Act. Here the firm’s Founder and CEO, Bastian Lechner, reveals more about Catana’s extraordinary approach to diligent asset management.

Catana Capital is an innovative FinTech company that has already received numerous awards. In 2017 Catana was awarded, inter alia, as best early stage German FinTech company and as best quantitative asset manager in Germany. Since 2013 the Catana’s team has been developing trading strategies that are based on big data and artificial intelligence. Catana is also focused on the automatization of internal processes to accelerate the decision-making process and order execution.
November 8th, Catana has launched the Data Intelligence Fund (DE000A2H9A76) to provide its clients a contemporary investment opportunity that keeps pace with the times by using digital and quantitative methods up to the current state of research. In order to guarantee high investment standards and reach a broad set of potential clients, the fund is packaged as UCITS. 


The basis of the investment decision in the Data Intelligence Fund is a unique database containing millions of individual opinions about single stocks and the stock market in general. Every day an algorithm collects more than 2 million securitiesrelated news, articles, research as well as blogs, tweets and forum entries in the world wide web. The algorithm automatically crawls through more than 22 messages per second around the clock. In order to get a broad variety of opinions the algorithm covers content about more than 45,000 securities from seven different countries written in German, English and Chinese. Currently, more than 90% of the data comes from social media.

Catana Capital is an innovative FinTech company that has already received numerous awards. In 2017 Catana was awarded, inter alia, as best early stage German FinTech company and as best quantitative asset manager in Germany.

In two steps the algorithm creates buy and sell signals just by using the continuously updated database. Firstly, all of the collected data is analyzed using Natural Language Processing (NLP). Through the application of NLP, the machine learns to understand the collected content, and constantly improves on this ability day by day. Continuously, NLP is reflecting on the central question of the Data Intelligence Fund investment idea, namely: “Who says what to which security?” The answer to this question is represented by an aggregated sentiment score of each security which builds the basis of generated trading signals.

Secondly, machine learning methods quantify the relevance of the calculated sentiment scores with respect to future stock price movements. As well as the NLP method, the ‘prediction power’ of the used methods is increasing on average over time, since they learn from historical forecast errors. Finally, the algorithm derives trading signals based on the forecasts of the underlying machine learning approaches and adjusts the trading strategy automatically.

The Data Intelligence Fund consists of multiple sub-trading strategies that can be divided into two components: the first component is the stock selection component which is a long only equity strategy that enters long positions in highly liquid European equities according to the outputs of the machine learning methods. The average holding period in the stock selection component is four weeks, while the investment universe consists of stocks that are listed in DAX, MDAX, TecDAX or EuroStoxx50. The second component exposure management, which is a long and short strategy mix entering long and short positions in highly liquid equity indices such as DAX Future. The exposure in this strategy varies from -100% to +100% and the average holding period is one week, while multiple trades per week are possible. 

The weighting of each component also varies over time. While the stock selection component accounts for 30-50% of the Data Intelligence Fund strategy, the exposure management component is most of the time a bit weightier as it accounts for 50-70% of the Data Intelligence Funds performance.
In conclusion, the Data Intelligence Fund provides professional investors as well as retail investors the opportunity to invest in an UCITS funds that has hedge funds-like strategies. The underlying data draws a broad picture of the sentiment of individual investors providing useful information about future trends and upcoming risks in the markets. 

Accessing a powerful database leads to a competitive advantage compared to traditional investment forms, since traditional investment decisions are based on significantly less information. Furthermore, the investment decisions in the Data Intelligence Fund are only based on the independent buy and sell signals that are generated by the machine learning methods fed with the sentiment scores. As a result, the Data Intelligence Fund is weakly correlated to large indices as well as to large mutual investment funds and is suitable for diversification purposes. 

Based on extraordinary back test and out of sample trading results the Data Intelligence Fund targets a significantly higher risk adjusted return than the DAX on a long-term average, without having negative years and keeping volatility below 10%. Catana Capital was recognized as Quantitative Asset Manager of the Year in Germany, and Most Innovative Equity Fund of 2019 (for the Data Intelligence Fund) in Wealth & Finance International’s 2018 Investment Fund Awards.

Address: Frankfurt, 60311, Germany 

Website: http://www.catanacapital.de/ 

Telephone: +49 69 2561 7004

 

Banking

A Paragon in Commercial Banking in the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan

Azizi Bank has swiftly become one of Afghanistan’s largest commercial banks with a presence across 31 of the country’s 34 provinces. From the outset, the bank has sought to become a stalwart on the global financial market, driving technological innovation in the sphere. On the back of this approach, Azizi Bank was named the ‘Best Commercial Bank’ in Wealth & Finance International’s 2019 Global Business Excellence programme. Following this deserved success, Dr. (Prof) Mohammad Salem Omaid, CEO of Azizi Bank, was interviewed to find out more about the bank’s mission, vision and how it aligned itself with the highest international standards of corporate governance, social responsibility and customer relations.

The global financial landscape is changing dramatically, evolving on the back of technological development, and expansive regulation. On a similar front, working in tandem with this churning paradigm shift, is the effect that changing consumer behaviours are having on an industry that was- for the most part at least – in charge of its own course. As banking turns to more digital fronts, it is having to adapt to the needs of the people that utilise its services. Many long-standing establishments have become defined, as a result, by resistance, as they cling to the practices of yesteryear.

This has led to a rise in so-called ‘Challenger Banks’ who have adopted an innovative outlook to capitalise on the market’s new customer-centric ethos. But what happens when a more traditional brick and mortar bank follows this path? And, more appropriately, how has Azizi Bank in particular become a paragon on the field, reaping the rewards where their peers and competitors have floundered? Dr Omaid explains more. 

“This institution is the outcome of the professional and entrepreneurial commitment of its founder, Mr. Merwais Azizi, and its top management team to establish a high-quality, customer-centric, servicedriven, private Afghan Bank catering entirely to the future businesses of the country. Having formed in 2006, the bank today has more than eighty branches and more than 100 ATMs and, along with its 100% subsidiary bank The Islamic Bank of Afghanistan, has the highest network of branches and ATMs in the country.

“The vision of the bank is to evolve into a professionally managed technologically advanced bank with world-class cost-effective products and services, following the best international practices and contributing to the national economy and adding value to its stakeholders. Its mission is to provide excellent professional services with the usage of the latest technology with an eye on a sustained corporate social responsibility and maintain its commitment towards all its customers, staff, shareholders and stakeholders.”

Ultimately, Azizi Bank has thrived through a dedication to its five founding values: Operational Excellence, Customer Focus, Product Leadership, People and Sustainability. More impressively, the bank has secured sustained growth year on year despite substantial challenges in the country, acting as testament to the strength of their offerings and ethos. “Azizi Bank’s key clients includes retail and corporate bodies, trade finance and remittance businesses. Afghanistan is an import-driven economy with more than 90% of the goods imported into the country. It is also an USD driven economy. Afghanistan is also a challenging economy, with its own political challenges over the last two decades and beyond. 

The country was under the FATF sanctions until June 2017 where it was barred from having any USD inter-bank cooperation with banks around the world. This issue of USD Nostro is still a big challenge in the country with most of the banks.” Dr Omaid continues, moving on to discuss the importance of client service to the bank’s ongoing development and operations. “Azizi Bank ensures prima facie importance on customer service. It believes this important aspect as the most important factor of its sustained growth. The bank ensures regular training of its employees to guarantee exceptional customer service. Classes and training programs on the various aspects of customer service are held regularly in the training room of the bank. Employees are also sent to attend international training programs on customer relations and effective service. Regular monitoring of the same is done by the head office official and specially incorporated customer service cell in the bank.”

To make sure that the bank remains in-line with the needs of their customers, Azizi Bank regularly conducts market research, as Dr Omaid sheds more light on their efforts. “Azizi Bank is dedicated to conducting comprehensive market research to understand customer requirements. Afghanistan is a niche country in terms of new banking indicatives as only 10-11% of the people are banking, as per the Central Bank’s report, and Afghanistan is an Islamic nation. This opens up the opportunity to create products as per the requirement. This is the reason why Azizi Bank converted its 100% subsidiary bank into a full-fledged Islamic bank. Additionally, more than 70% of the population in the country are mobile savvy, and this is the reason why Azizi Bank have developed mobilebased technologies to bring more and more customers into the banking fray.” 

The conversation soon turns to things of a more corporate nature: namely, governance policies and the crucial role that they play in outlining the bank’s goals and future. “Azizi Bank ensures responsible and value-driven management practices are adhered to throughout its system of corporate governance, which is built on key elements of discipline, transparency, independence and fairness. As it strengthens its presence, Azizi Bank continues to review compliance, risk management skills, systems & processes and – where appropriate- it aims to enhance these further. The commitment applies to Azizi Bank’s relationship with its shareholders, customers, employees, suppliers, regulators and the community in which it operates.”

Here Dr Omaid takes a moment to discuss each of Azizi Bank’s core characteristics in more detail. “In relation to discipline, we ensure that all employees and senior management members are committed to adhering to procedures, processes and hierarchies established by the bank. These are recognised and deemed to be correct and proper. Transparency remains critically important and mentioned in almost every policy. All actions implemented and the procedures that led to them are always available for inspection by authorised entities and stakeholders. 

“Similarly, mechanisms and regulations have been put in place to minimise or entirely avoid potential conflicts of interests such as undue dominance by the Chairman, Chief Executive or other shareholders. This mechanism ranges from the composition of the board to committee appointments and involve external parties such as auditors. Azizi Bank remains committed to independence. Moreover, Azizi Bank believes that responsible management would, whenever necessary, take appropriate actions to set and keep the bank on the right path. Whilst the board is accountable to the bank, it must act responsively to and with the responsibility towards all stakeholders. The individuals and committees who make decisions and take actions are truly help accountable for those decision and actions. Lastly, Azizi Bank believes in ‘fairness’, and each of the bank’s systems are balanced and take into account all those who have an interest in the bank and its future. The rights of the various groups involved have to be acknowledge and respected.” 

Dr. Omaid also spoke about their strategic plan, which details the banks goals through 2022. He reiterated that strategic planning is the process of determining the organization’s long term objectives and establishing the goals necessary to achieve them. The process involves in-depth analysis of current and anticipated conditions that may affect the organization’s ability to achieve the mission. 

Finally, it would be remiss to not mention Azizi Bank’s considerable efforts in the area of corporate social responsibility over the last few years. In his closing comments, Dr Omaid details some of the bank’s more recent and significant ventures. “Azizi Bank has taken a strong lead in Corporate Social Responsibility initiatives by providing aid and financial assistance to local educational institutions which include schools, colleges, universities and NGOs. The bank has also engaged itself with relevant ministries in supporting female empowerment, cultural enhancement and environmental sustainability initiatives. Recently the bank involved itself with the municipality to see a Greener Afghanistan and planted trees across the country. 


“Azizi Bank planted more than 10,000 trees in Kabul and other provincial locations as part of this campaign. We provided financial assistance to the Ministry of Women Affairs for the treatment of breast cancer on International Women’s Day. Furthermore, the bank is working in association with the Ministry to sponsor the event, “Empowering Afghan Through Access to Financial Services, alongside financing for the creation of job opportunities for women. In coordination with the National Blood Bank, Kabul organised blood donation campaigns at the head office. More than 100,000 ccs of blood were collected during the campaign. Lastly, Azizi Bank is promoting child education in the country, and encouraging initiatives to stop food wastes and other environmental sustainability initiatives like Save Water, Clean Air, Avoid Pollution etc.”

 

“Azizi Bank continues to review compliance, risk management skills, systems & processes and – where appropriate- it aims to enhance these further. The commitment applies to Azizi Bank’s relationship with its shareholders, customers, employees, suppliers, regulators and the community in which it operates.”
azizi bank design-01
“Empowering Afghan Through Access to Financial Services, alongside financing for the creation of job opportunities for women. In coordination with the National Blood Bank, Kabul organised blood donation campaigns at the head office.”

Company: Azizi Bank

Name: Dr. (Prof) Mohammad Salem Omaid

Designation: President and Chief Executive Officer

Addl. Titles:

(a) Chairman – The Afghanistan Banking Association

(b) Chairman – The International Chamber of Commerce, Banking Commission, Afghanistan

(c) Member- Thames Valley Chamber of Commerce, United Kingdom, Europe Business Assembly

(d) Member – The World Confederation of Businesses (World COB), United States of America

(e) Honorary Professor of the Academic Union, Oxford, United Kingdom

Finance

Best European P2P Loan Platform 2019

Swaper is a P2P loan marketplace offering an easy investing in pre-funded consumer loans from Poland, Spain, and Denmark in cooperation with Wandoo Finance Group.

Launched in 2016, Swaper began life from the idea to build better financial products and to offer many different financial products. When the platform was initially under construction, the firm’s main goal was to make it according to the needs of investors. As part of this focus, the Swaper team collected opinions and feedback of experienced investors. Investors expressed a need for easily accessible mobile platform with clear and understandable overview of their investments, and a possibility to have configurable push notifications, to decide what kind of information they needs and how often. 

As a result of this newfound knowledge, the Swaper team realized that in addition to focusing on the web platform, they should be also building the mobile application. Therefore, they launched the website version of the platform and after a short while Swaper was the first P2P marketplace that was also launched as a mobile application. Today, this innovative company offers investment options into loans driven by a dedicated team who are highly experience in the financial sector, and as such are able to offer clients the benefit of their extensive market knowledge and industry understanding. All investments offered on Swaper’s marketplace start from 12% annual interest with unique loyalty bonus to earn an additional +2%.

The firm makes investment convenient through the Auto-Invest Portfolio, which investors can easily set up with just one click. This innovative approach grants investors the maximum interest income based on their chosen investment amount and period. Seeking to remain ahead of emerging market trends, Swaper has developed a Mobile Application for both Android and iOS, which provides investors with the opportunity to manage their investments easily and conveniently, and have full control over investment thanks to the push notifications.

As part of the Wandoo Finance Group, a professional IT systems developer based in Latvia, Swaper is able to leverage its parent group’s vast technological expertise and infrastructure to ensure it offers clients the most innovative and reliable solutions. In today’s modern financial market where technology is key, Swaper is making waves thanks to its revolutionary online platform. 


Alongside offering cutting-edge support and innovative financial services, Swaper is also deeply committed to providing its users with exceptional client service and support they can rely on. For the Swaper team, the key to good customer service is building good relationships with customers. They believe in thanking the customer and promoting a positive, helpful and friendly environment, which will ensure they leave with a great impression. They also feel that good customer service means helping customers efficiently, in a friendly mannerand that it is essential for the firm to be able to handle issues for customers and to do its best to ensure they are satisfied. 


It is the provision of exceptional customer service and the constant collaboration with the investors, that sets Swaper apart from its competitors. By constantly working with investors to understand their needs and update its offering and processes, the firm is able to drive customer loyalty and ensure that customer expectations are met in all cases. 


“Looking to the future, Swaper will launch a range of exciting new products and features to enhance its already impressive platform. In 2019, the firm’s focus will be on growing both sides of the marketplace by satisfying increasing investor demand, as well as loan supply from current and possibly new locations by expanding the investment opportunities on the marketplace. These developments will drive Swaper to even greater global renown and establish it as the ideal platform for anyone seeking financial services,” said Danija Misus, the Product Owner at Swaper (pictured right).


Ultimately, with the FinTech market showing no signs of slowing down and investment in this growing industry higher than ever before, Swaper has a bright future ahead of it. The firm will continue to collaborate with clients to understand their needs and remain ahead of emerging market developments.


Web Address: www.swaper.com 

 

“Swaper will launch a range of exciting new products and features to enhance its already impressive platform. In 2019, the firm’s focus will be on growing both sides of the marketplace by satisfying increasing investor demand, as well as loan supply from current and possibly new locations by expanding the investment opportunities on the marketplace.”

Swaper picture

“Investors expressed a need for easily accessible mobile platform with clear and understandable overview of their investments, and a possibility to have configurable push notifications, to decide what kind of information they needs and how often.”

Banking

Belize : The ‘Next Big Thing’ in Offshore Banking

When it comes to offshore banking solutions, would-be clients can certainly feel overwhelmed with the plethora of choices available. Yet, over the last couple of years, Belize has become a go-to for many investors looking for security, stability and new investment opportunities. Here, Luigi Wewege, Senior Vice President of Caye International Bank, writes on the unique benefits that Belize has to offer, and how it has become the region of choice for savvy investors from all over the world. Caye International Bank was recently recognised by Wealth & Finance INTL as the ‘Best Offshore Private Bank in Latin America’ in the 2019 Banking Excellence Awards.

Offshore banking has long been a popular option for those that want to secure their financial future, whether that be for the dream retirement or, more simply, to ensure that their liquid savings are safe and secure in the hands of expert financial establishments. 

When you bring up the idea of offshore banking, it’s not unusual to get a dozen different opinions about where the best tax haven is or where banks are most eager to get foreign investors. Look beyond all the noise and you’ll find that Belize is consistently chosen by savvy investors for offshore banking. Clearly, Belize has a lot to offer those interested in the financial side of the equation. 

Ease of Banking in Belize 

Something that can’t be ignored is the ease of managing an offshore bank account in Belize. Some people are worried about offshore banking because they don’t know what to expect, or they are worried about it being difficult or inconvenient. In reality, that misconception couldn’t be further from the truth. 

To start, the official language of Belize is English. Although you might hear Spanish or even Creole spoken on the beach, financial professionals all have a complete and fluent command of English. Whether you’re signing a contract or reading the terms of a new account, it will be in English. You won’t need a translator, nor will you have to pay to have English documents translated. In short, there is no need to be concerned about a language barrier at any point.
Another reason that banking in Belize is so convenient is the time zone. Belize is located in the Central Standard Time Zone (CST). That means it is the same time on Ambergris Caye, Belize, as it is in Chicago. Some people are concerned that offshore banking means getting on the phone in the middle of the night with banking staff, but that’s not the case in Belize. Banks operate during normal office hours, which just so happen to coincide perfectly with most North American hours of business. 

Of course, you may not want to communicate over the phone about your offshore banking needs at all. Fortunately, the convenience of banking in Belize also extends to online banking services. As long as you have access to an internet connection and a smartphone, tablet, or computer, you can transfer money or check your account balances with the click of a button.

CIB staff in from of bank headquarters - San Pedro, Belize (2)

Diversification is Key

People delve into offshore banking for varied reasons. However, one of the most common is to diversify financial holdings. A basic tenet of Economics 101 is that in order to reduce risk, you need to diversify. Many people diversify but continue to maintain their holdings within a single country’s jurisdiction. Ultimately, true diversification also includes geographic diversification. Although Belize offers a chance to invest in a new geographic location, it also offers all the things you expect in a secure financial environment. This allows for diversification without the stress of learning a new banking system or even a new legal system. Belize operates according to common-law systems similar to those you find in Britain, the United States, or Canada. 

Unparalleled Asset Protection and Privacy In decades past, certain nations held a monopoly on banking privacy and anonymity. As those destinations received more and more publicity, however, banking clients actually received more scrutiny, not less. In Belize, banks still operate in a way that grants account holders and businesses financial privacy as well as asset protection. This doesn’t mean that you can open a bank account anonymously or avoid taxation in your home country. What it does mean is that once your assets are placed in a bank account in Belize, those assets are far more secure than they would be elsewhere. If you face lawsuits or the freezing of your assets in the future, your accounts in Belize will remain secure. Plus, those who operate businesses within Belize can protect the identities of board members or shareholders if desired. 

Reputable Banking Systems 

If you choose to bank offshore in Belize, then it makes sense to bank with an institution that is established, financially solvent, and is recognized for its banking excellence. When selecting a bank, ensure it is compliant with necessary regulations and is licensed to provide international banking services to both corporations and individuals. Caye International Bank certainly fits this criteria. 

Discover Banking in Belize 

Clearly, plenty of investors around the world appreciate what Belize has to offer and choose this location to assist in asset diversification. When looking for the best locations for offshore banking and investing, you’ll be hard-pressed to find any more favourable than Belize.

Company: Caye International Bank 

Address: San Pedro Town, Ambergris Caye, Belize, Central America 

Website: www.cayebank.bz 

Telephone: +501-226-2388 or +501-226-3083

Unexpected Tax
Tax

Businesses not ready for contractor tax upheaval

Employers are largely unprepared for changes to off-payroll working in the private sector, which are due to come into effect in April 2020. That is according to new research from recruitment trade body, the Association of Professional Staffing Companies (APSCo).

The new rules mean that changes to IR35 legislation, which were introduced in the public sector in April 2017, will be extended to medium and large private sector companies. From next year, businesses engaging independent workers will become responsible for setting the tax status of these individuals. As part of this reform, the tax liability will also transfer from the contractor to the fee-paying party in the supply chain, which is typically the recruiter or the company that directly engages the individual.

A survey of the trade association’s membership revealed that fewer than half (39%) of the professional recruitment firms polled believe that most of the businesses they work with are aware of the incoming changes. In addition, just 12% said the majority of their clients are actively preparing for the updated legislation.

When asked if the organisations they recruit into are expecting to pay more for contractors after the changes are implemented, just 10% said ‘yes’, 21% said ‘no’ with the remaining 69% ‘not sure’. This suggests that many are unaware of the wider potential consequences of the reform.

Previous research from APSCo following changes to off-payroll working in the public sector found that 45% of professional recruitment companies witnessed the costs of resourcing contractors increasing after the new rules were introduced. Of these, 46% reported that rate rises were in excess of 15%.

On the findings, Samantha Hurley, Operations Director at (APSCo) and Co-Chair of HMRC’s IR35 Forum, commented:

“Businesses now have just months to get ready for incoming changes to IR35 legislation but, as this research suggests, it seems that many may be ill-prepared. Companies which haven’t already must urgently review their existing contingent workforces to determine what employment models individuals are working through to understand the extent of PSC contractor usage. They should then work with trusted recruitment partners to discuss which roles are likely to be in scope across different levels, and if individuals with these skills are thin on the ground or easily replaced, so that plans can be put in place to enable them to sustain and grow future workforces effectively. If we’ve learnt anything from the public sector roll out, it is that we are now entering a period of significant and arduous change. However, by working with expert recruitment partners, private sector organisations can ensure that they navigate the new landscape with ease.”

Women Finances
Finance

Financial Inequality: The Gender Gap

  • There is a financial inequality gap between men and women in developing countries and their economies and there has been no sign of improvements in recent years. There is no discernable gender gap in high-income economies.
  • 69% of adults. Which is a total of 3.8 billion people around the world have a bank account or mobile money provider. This number has increased by 7% in the last 5 years.
  • About 1.2 billion adults have obtained some sort of formal financial account since 2011, when the rate of financial inclusion was just 51%.
    However, 1.7 billion people around the world remain outside of the formal financial system.
 

In developing countries, the gender gap in financial inclusion between men and women has stalled at nine percentage points. FairPlanet researched further into the current situation.

 

When governments deposit social welfare payments directly into women’s digital bank accounts it can  empower their decision-making at home.

 

Research suggests that when women have more financial autonomy, spending in the home tends to be reprioritized. With factors such as the interest of families and children. It can also boost labour force participation among women.

 

The gap is large in the Middle East and North Africa: 35% of women compared with 52% of men, have access to some type of financial account.

 

Beyond labor force participation, women face an array of problems and obstacles to getting financial services, including discriminatory laws and conservative social norms.

 

Simple accounts accessed through mobile phones might help thwart some of these barriers.

 

Mobile money accounts are often easier to open than traditional bank accounts and they have the added benefit of allowing women to transact from the safety and comfort of their homes.

 

Mobile technology and money accounts may help to close the gender gap when it comes to financial equality. However, like anything, further research and data is needed to truly predict what the future holds.


Finance

12 Expenses You Can’t Deduct Against Business Even If You Incurred Them For Business

By Jonathan Amponsah CTA FCCA, The Tax Guys

One of the key ways to reduce your tax bill is to claim all legitimate expenses you incurred for the business. But the general rule that says you can claim all expenses incurred wholly and exclusively for the purpose of your business is not as straight forward as you may think.

 

So here are some surprising things you cannot tax deduct even if you incurred them for your business.

 

  1. Accommodation

Imagine you’re an actor who lives in London. You’ve secured a contract to shoot an exciting film in Edinburgh for three months. You realised hotel costs would be too high. So, you decided to rent an apartment for three months. Surely you can claim for the costs of the rent against your profits right? Well it makes sense but HMRC will deny the claim on the basis that the expenses were not incurred wholly and exclusively for the purposes of your profession as an actor. Why? One of the reasons HMRC will put forward is that there is a dual purpose in incurring the expenditure, namely to meet your ordinary needs for warmth and shelter as well as your stated business purpose.

 

  1. Travel

Here’s another scenario that might surprise you. You operate as a self-employed doctor or sole trader rather than limited company. You have a home-based office. You travel to see different patients or clients on a regular basis. Your journey starts from your office (at home) and includes a few itinerant travels from one client to the other client. Can you claim the full travel expenses? Logic will tell us that yes. However, the rules deem the travel from your home office to patients / clients as ordinary commuting and therefore not tax deductible.

 

  1. Client Entertainment

As part of your sales and marketing, you decide to take clients to a relaxed restaurant to discuss new business. The purpose is to negotiate and generate new business. The income will be taxed so the expenses should be ok to put through the business, right? Unfortunately, the rules specifically disallow these expenses to be claimed against tax. Part of the reason behind this is that you could have had the same conversation over a cup of tea in the office, plus there is an element of personal benefit in the entertainment.

 

  1. Promotional Gifts

It’s true that nothing ever happens in business until a product or a service is promoted and sold. And when it’s sold at a profit, tax gets collected accordingly. However, if you promote your business by spending too much money on promotional gifts to customers and the gifts cost more than £50 per customer, you won’t be able to deduct these costs against your income. Even where the gift cost £50 or less, make sure it carries a conspicuous advert for your business.

 

  1. Clothes for Work

Imagine you’re a barrister and you’ve purchase your gown to be worn in court. You don’t wear this gown in public. Can you go ahead and claim the cost of the gown against your tax? Not according to the famous tax case of Mallalieu v Drummond which established that “no deduction is available from trading profits for the costs of clothing which forms part of an ‘everyday’ wardrobe. This remains so even where the taxpayer can show that they only wear such clothing in the course of their profession.”

However, some protective and work clothing with logos and other business branding are claimable. If in doubt, speak with a tax accountant.

  1. Staff Reward via Trust

Your staff are well engaged within your business and you want to reward them. You decide to make payment into a Trust to demonstrate that the money has been earmarked for them and waiting to be paid when they hit their targets.

 

As the money has been paid out of your bank account to the Trust, can you claim it as a legitimate business or staff expenses? Unfortunately, not. Because of a specific tax avoidance rule, this legitimate expense cannot be claimed. 

 

  1. Parking Fines

Your business is delivering some items to a customer. The driver parks for a few minutes and get a parking ticket. Surely the reason for the fine is because of business activity so it should fall under the wholly and exclusive for the purpose of business rule? Not quite. Fines incurred for breaking the rules are disallowed.

 

  1. Legal Expenses

Legal fees can be expensive right…? And whilst they do add value to your business and may save you from making costly business mistakes, not all legal costs are tax deductible. For example, fees in connection with the purchase of a business premises or investing in shares are disallowed.

 

In addition, fees that have both personal and business elements may fail the wholly and exclusive test. And legal costs associated with breaking the law are also disallowed. For example, where you’ve got a parking fine and you decide to call your lawyer to defend the case and you lose, you won’t be able to claim the legal fees.

 

  1. Wages to Spouse or Kids

A great way to keep more of your cash within the family is to employ your spouse and kids. And there is nothing wrong with this plan. However, where you pay family members over and above the market rate, where they don’t actually perform any task for the business or where you’ve structured this working arrangement incorrectly with no evidence or paperwork to back up your plan, HMRC will not allow their salaries to be put through the business. Do take care with this as it’s currently a hot spot for HMRC enquiries.

 

  1. Sponsorship

Sponsoring an event is another area that might surprise you. HMRC will disallow the cost if they can show that perhaps the sporting field you are sponsoring is a director’s, partner’s or proprietor’s regular hobby or if the party being sponsored is a relative of the business owner, or if there is no proposed or actual return on investment from the sponsorship.

 

So, the trick here is to ensure that the sponsorship deal is structured correctly and there is a clear commercial benefit for your business.

 

  1. Donations

Donations made to political parties and non-registered organisations outside of the Gift Aid regime cannot be claimed against tax. This is to stop businesses offsetting costs through privately owned ‘non-profit’ organisations.

 

  1. HMRC Penalties

Penalties imposed by HMRC and other government departments are not tax deductible. So, avoid those penalties and get your accounts and tax returns done on time.

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Jonathan Amponsah CTA FCCA is an award-winning chartered tax adviser and accountant who has advises business owners on entrepreneurial tax reliefs. Jonathan is the founder and CEO of The Tax Guys.  www.thetaxguys.co.uk

Funds

Xolo secures $6.8m in Series A funding, launches “a virtual company” service for modern freelancers

Xolo (formerly known as LeapIN), the online platform for launching and running one-person businesses anywhere in the world has announced the completion of $6.8m (€6m) Series A funding, and a launch revolutionary form of entrepreneurship. The launch of the “virtual company” service will enable millions of professional freelancers around the world to radically reduce the complexity and cost of engaging with national governments and operate in a borderless world. The service will cut the time needed to launch a freelance business from weeks to minutes. 

 

Xolo’s investment round was led by European venture firms Karma Ventures (Estonia), Vendep Capital (Finland), and Leap Ventures (France). 

 

The company has been offering a full suite of services for global freelancers from 2015, including company formation online, access to banking, and full accounting and compliance service. The new “virtual company” product will bring that concept further by removing the last obstacles to launching their business.

 

Allan Martinson, Chief Executive Officer at Xolo, said: “We are focusing on 40 million professionals globally who have chosen to run their business independently. Estimated one million new freelancers start their professional journeys each year. Our ultimate goal is an absolutely seamless service that brings time spent on administrating a freelance business to zero.”

 

Xolo will now offer two products: Xolo Go and Xolo Leap. Xolo Go will allow launching a freelancing business in mere minutes as “a virtual company”, complete with a dedicated bank account, invoicing, expense management and payouts. Xolo Leap allows launching an EU-registered company with full banking service, accounting and tax compliance based on Estonia’s innovative e-Residency concept. 

 

“Administrating independent professional business in a traditional way may take up to two days a month. Our aim is to cut that down to near zero by offering an incredibly simple online platform that merges company formation, banking, accounting, and other services. We’re taking care of the bureaucracy so that millions of talented professional freelancers can focus on running their businesses,” Martinson continued. 

 

Xolo has thousands of customers around the world who use it as a subscription-based software-powered service, with 93% recommending the service that processes over €10,000,000 in customer revenues every month.

 

“Xolo is the quickest and easiest way to launch and run a one-person freelancing business in Europe. Our largest markets are Germany, Spain, France, the UK, Ukraine and Turkey. Our typical customers are software developers, management consultants or designers. Many of them are describing launching on Xolo as a life-changing event,” said Martinson.

 

“We are fascinated by Xolo’s vision of powering the revolution of free work. This, combined with the company’s proven service and talented team, is a formula for success,” said Margus Uudam, the partner with Karma Ventures. 

 

Sakari Pihlava, a partner at Vendep Capital, said: “Xolo is building something revolutionary – an interface between the micro-businesses and the governments that eliminate the complexity of reporting and compliance”.

 

Karma’s Margus Uudam and Vendep’s Sakari Pihlava will join Xolo’s board.

 

Xolo was founded in May 2015 when its founders had the urge to revolutionize the way microbusinesses are set up and managed. Using this funding, it aims to expand its operations across Europe and globally to allow more entrepreneurs to join the market.

Regulation

How Regulations Are Driving FinTech Growth

By Mark Hepsworth, CEO Asset Control 

As London Fintech Week kicks off, regulation in banking and finance, and the pressure and challenges it places on many traditional financial institutions high on the agenda. Regulation including MiFID II, SFTR and FRTB helps drive fintech growth as banks look to partner with specialist providers who can provide cost-effective ways to help firms remain compliant and make the most of their data in the process. 

 

These reporting requirements place intense demands on banks in terms of the level granularity they need to provide about their data as well as on the processes by which reports and business applications are supplied with data. Banks not only need to report more detail but also track additional contextual information around data including its sources, its quality checks and the lineage, i.e. the data’s origins, what happened to it and where it moves to over time.

 

Given the complex application landscape of many firms, this is challenging to do using only in-house resources. Fintech firms bring technological innovation to the party and have a key role to play as firms look to make the most of their data and look to lower the cost of change. Fintechs have evolved their approach based on cross-industry learning and combine expert knowledge with technological innovation.  They can provide a cost-efficient way for banks to deal with regulation and manage the many changes they need to make. 

Banks automated early and have a history of siloed decision-making and budgeting by business line when it comes to technology infrastructure. This has led to a sometimes bewildering technology landscape consisting of vast amounts of business applications, which in turn has made regulatory compliance and risk management more complex. Risk management is, after all, concerned with gaining an aggregate number that applies to the whole firm. It needs to have an enterprise perspective and that requires data integration which most banks are not specifically set up to deliver today.

 

This history of local department level automation complicates the job of managing regulatory change which is by its very nature typically at an enterprise level.  It is yet another reason why the overall regulatory problem is so large for banks and why there is an urgent need to draw on the help of specialist fintech partners.       

 

Key services that fintechs deliver to banks to streamline the process of regulatory compliance include: packaged integration; delivering a trusted quality management process; access to quality-proofed consistent pricing and reference data and easy onboarding of data feeds.

 

The last-named is especially challenging today given the increasing data-intensity of regulatory reporting and decision making. New content offerings speak to data-hungry business users but need to be integrated into reporting workflows.  Often content providers add new detail and also evolve the delivery format. Many of the traditional content providers have moved from an end-of-day, batch file-based delivery background to more interactive and intraday sourcing using modern application programming interfaces (APIs). 

 

That presents both opportunities and challenges to banks. Rather than waiting for a file to arrive from data vendors, firms simply call the API in real time to get the information they need. However, the challenge is that to truly gain advantage from these sourcing options, they additionally need the data management and integration that supports them, out-of-the-box with no manual intervention. They must also ensure they keep track of these requests and prevent unnecessary duplicate sourcing, which creates additional noise by generating multiple copies of the same data.

 

In line with this, the intensity of new regulation is far from the only problem facing banks today. There are also dealing with a range of other operational challenges including the need for improved efficiency, cost reductions and rationalisation of their technology stacks and the shift to cloud, which are also driving them to seek out the services of fintechs.

 

This requirement is often fuelled by a push to stay ahead of the competition in delivering services to their own banking customers, together with changes in the rules of engagement as business processes become more virtualised. Whatever the precise driver, the upshot is that fintech services are in greater demand.

 

Even going beyond this, however, Fintech Week may be a good time to consider that rather than just drawing on fintechs to help them with their inhouse work, banks might also consider going one step further and opting for a managed services approach. For banks there are a raft of benefits. First it enables them to shift a portion of the delivery risk to the supplier. They no longer have to go through the whole process of buying a service, implementing the solution, taking out a database licence or investing in cloud resources and creating a project team.

 

Second, when it comes to running the operation and changing they can pre-agree service levels and report against business-relevant KPIs. In other words, they buy the technology benefits with a service wrapper around it.  Managed services also allows them to start small and expand rather than necessitating a full-scale in-house implementation from the word go.   

 

That should be an important discussion point during Fintech Week. Banks need to focus on data management and data integration more than ever to meet the latest wave of regulations and drive competitive edge.  Partnering with fintechs and opting for a managed services approach enables them to do this efficiently and well, while reducing implementation and operational risk into the bargain. 

MarkHepsworth, CEO Asset Control
Mark Hepsworth, CEO Asset Control
WeSwap
Cash ManagementFunds

WORLD’S FIRST P2P CURRENCY EXCHANGE PLATFORM WESWAP HITS 500,000 USERS, LAUNCHES £2.3M FUNDRAISE

This morning, WeSwap, the award-winning peer-to-peer currency exchange platform, announces that in tandem with the launch of a £2.3 million funding round on leading investment platform Seedrs, it has hit 500,000 users. This raise will support the Series B investment round led by IW Capital, WeSwap’s lead investor, who has invested an additional £3.7 million in the travel money start-up, including £1.7 million of equity in this round.
 
Today’s news follows the company hitting a staggering £250 million in global currency traded on the platform since its launch in 2015, making the company the first peer-to-peer travel money fintech in the UK to do so. With award wins including Best Travel Money Provider at the 2018 and 2019 British Bank Awards, the fintech front runner has firmly cemented its role as one of the UK’s leading case studies for scale-up growth, fortifying a loyal and ever-expanding user base whilst maintaining the edge on product innovation and user experience.
 
WeSwap continues to hit remarkable milestones since its launch – presently, the currency exchange platform has over 30 travel industry partnerships, as well as booking flow integrations with online travel partners and numerous innovative travel-money products including:
 

  • A WeSwap pre-paid travel card
  • Card payments and withdrawals in over 195 countries and territories
  • Rate tracker
  • Smart Swap (where a user can pre-select an exchange rate at which they would like to execute a currency exchange)
  • Next day Travel Cash delivery
  • Buyback service

 
This is WeSwap’s third raise on Seedrs, having previously attracted over £3.5m from 3,868 investors.
 
Jared Jesner, CEO and Founder of WeSwap commented: “We have an incredibly loyal and engaged user base, something we’re truly proud of and will continue to honour with a great service. We are delighted to open up this latest round of funding, supplementing a series of debt, equity and private investment routes that have aided us in achieving some great milestones that we’re really proud of. This latest round will allow us to launch a range of new WeSwap product innovations and expand into Asia.”
 
For more information, please visit: www.seedrs.com/weswap3

Funds

Pimberly looks to expansion and sets sights on $10 million target

Pimberly looks to expansion and sets sights on $10 million target

SaaS firm helps companies manage all forms of product data

Manchester – Pimberly, the Manchester-based SaaS Product Information Management (PIM) and Digital Asset Management (DAM) platform provider, has moved into scale mode, investing to accelerate growth and achieve an ARR target of $10 million. The tech firm passed its $1 million annual recurring revenue (ARR) milestone earlier this year.

Pimberly’s PIM platform acts as a central hub for all omnichannel product data, including descriptions, specifications, sizing, pricing, availability, imagery and videos for multiple brands, currencies and geographies. Its automation and intuitive “No-Code” UI significantly streamlines ERP/eComm workflows. This helps retailers, distributors and manufacturers to seamlessly expand into new marketplaces and territories, as well as rapidly increasing time to market and the agility of their products and services.

The company has secured contracts with leading UK brands including, JD Sports, Freeman Grattan, Regatta and Card Factory, as well as international clients such as Brightstar in the US, Mconomy in the Netherlands and WhiteAway in Denmark.
Pimberly’s rapid growth follows investment from NorthEdge Capital and the UK Government. This has enabled the company to double its headcount to 40 over the last 12 months. The team is now in the process of expanding its headquarters, taking two floors within St James’s Tower in central Manchester and investing in more staff for product development, go to market and customer success.

Martin Balaam, CEO of Pimberly, said: “As new Enterprise B2B SaaS companies will know, getting your first paying clients is a huge milestone, enabling you to focus on getting to the nirvana of the $1m ARR target – I’m thrilled that Pimberly has been so well received by businesses. To surpass this target and focus on scaling to $10m ARR so quickly is just awesome”.

“It’s also a real indication that companies are increasingly focussing on their eComm/online strategies to fuel growth and can see the value that automated and effective product information management can have on their operational efficiency, their customer service and their bottom lines. This is a hugely exciting time for tech in the North West and we’re delighted to be a part of its success.”

Banking

Fast-tracking the evolution of banking with AI

By Tiffany Carpenter, Head of Customer Intelligence Solutions at SAS UK & Ireland

How intelligent decisioning solutions can help you stay relevant in the era of digital banking

Fierce competition, advances in technology, and consumer expectations for hyperpersonalised services are forcing the financial services sector to evolve. To adapt to rapid market developments, many banks and insurers are launching ambitious digital transformation projects. But do they actually deliver results?

The short answer: not often. In a recent study, McKinsey & Company found that fewer than one-third of organisational transformations succeed at improving a company’s performance, and a staggering 70% of large-scale change programmes don’t reach their stated goals. That’s a lot of effort and upheaval for very little reward. So what can we learn from this unsettling trend?

Common pitfalls

Every business and digital transformation strategy is unique, but there are four avoidable mistakes that financial services companies repeatedly make when approaching digital transformation:

  1. Misunderstanding the challenge

Whilst almost every financial institution has some kind of digital transformation strategy in play, many are focused on the technical aspects of digitisation and adapting to new channels and tools.

For example, many business leaders believe that digital transformation is mainly about replacing manual processes with automated workflows. That’s why there has been a rush to invest in robotic process automation (RPA) across the big banks and insurance players.

However, while automation can play an important role at the implementation stage, digital transformation is much more about reimagining traditional business models to succeed in new, fast-changing digital economies. In a banking context, that means redefining products and services to reflect the realities of a market where the customer is king.

  1. Pursuing disjointed initiatives

When rolling out digital transformation projects, banks often focus on innovation in individual functions or departments without considering how changes on one side of their business will affect other areas.

That’s a problem because banks have traditionally been structured along vertical product lines such as current accounts, savings, mortgages and credit cards, and horizontal business functions such as marketing, technology and finance. As a result, change programmes inevitably get stuck in the interdepartmental crossfire.

Instead, digital transformation initiatives must seek to disrupt the complex legacy operating model of the traditional bank and replace it with a more holistic, customer-focused approach.

  1. Making data unreachable

The letter “d” in digital transformation should stand for data. Without the ability to collect, store and access data, and the tools to refine it into actionable insights, banks won’t be able to leap ahead of their competitors.

For example, in an effort to serve business units with fast access to key information, many banks have established centralised data lakes. While this approach succeeds in eliminating individual data silos, it often ends up replacing them with a single large silo that is equally inaccessible.

Placing all data under the stringent governance of the IT department can make it very difficult for other business units to access and analyse time-sensitive data quickly. This can limit the value of insights and diminish the return on investment for large-scale change initiatives.

  1. Enabling cultures of resistance

The most challenging aspect of transforming any business is inspiring its employees to become advocates for change. Inertia, doubt and cynicism from people within the bank can stop transformation initiatives dead in their tracks.

That’s why setting a clear vision for change and encouraging employees to experiment with new ways of working is essential for banks to achieve a smooth adoption of new technologies and processes.

Shopping for success

In designing successful transformation initiatives, banks and other financial institutions can learn a lot from companies in other sectors that have harnessed analytics to avoid falling foul of these common pitfalls.

Take Shop Direct, which is not only the parent company of retail brands such as Very and Littlewoods, but also one of the UK’s largest nonbank lenders. While the company had thrived for many years on its traditional catalogue-based sales model, it realised that the future was not in paper. To pivot the business and remain relevant, it had to establish an online presence – and fast.

Shop Direct knew that moving its retail and financial services businesses over to an online-focused operating model would not be easy, but it had a secret weapon: vast amounts of data on customer buying habits, sales information and inventory records.

Within 12 months, Shop Direct built a solution based on intelligent decisioning software from SAS that was capable of mining useful insights from more than two years of data of customer interactions. By combining historical data with real-time context such as browsing behaviour, the company can now make instant decisions to tailor the user experience for each customer: personalised sort orders, personalised recommendations and real-time credit risk decisions.

Intelligent decisioning in banking

Similarities between the challenge faced by Shop Direct and the current ambitions of traditional banks are striking. Banks face an urgent need to reinvent their traditional business models for the digital world. Moreover, banks also possess huge volumes of customer data that they can analyse to find valuable insights about how to enhance existing services and develop new products.

AI and machine learning technologies have the potential to help traditional banks transform – but analytics on its own is not enough. Banks need to harness the insights generated by analytics to automate decisions at scale.

This means basing analysis not just on departmental data sets, but on all the information the bank possesses. It needs to include both historical transactional records and live data streams that provide immediate context on customers’ behaviour and actions. Furthermore, the analytics needs to take place in real time and drive automated actions to respond to immediate customer needs in order to truly affect the customer journey.

Corporate GovernanceGlobal ComplianceLegalRegulation

The main steps to follow for opening a business abroad

Before starting a business in a foreign jurisdiction, it is important to follow a number of steps that will ensure a good understanding of the local company formation principles and laws as well as the cultural or business particularities. Opening a company in Dubai will be different from starting a business in Germany and investors should be informed of the general incorporation conditions in the jurisdiction where they decide to base their business.

Know the local company formation rules

Company incorporation is jurisdiction-specific, meaning that each country will have its particular set of rules for the incorporation and the registration of the business, as well as for obtaining permits and licenses for running the company.

Investors who open a business or a foundation in the Netherlands will need to comply with the Company Law in the Netherlands and register the company with the Chamber of Commerce or KVK.

Some countries offer more attractive business conditions, compared to others, especially for startups, in terms of company taxation and the overall ease of doing business. Researching the particularities of a jurisdiction is the key for finding a suitable business location.

Request professional aid

In some situations, reaching out to a local law firm or professional company formation specialist can be a good solution. Investors in the United Kingdom can also request professional defense solicitor services if they have been the victims of criminal business acts while performing an economic activity in that country.

Research the market

Understanding the local needs and preferences, as well as performing a targeted market research, can be a key ingredient for businesses that are successful in foreign markets. Due diligence is important when starting a business abroad. For example, when opening a luxury car rental business in Dubai, investors can start by analyzing the competition, the market particularities and the preferences of the clients in order to determine how their services can meet the needs of the clients.

Researching the conditions for doing business and the general steps for company formation, understanding the business and cultural differences as well as getting to know the market and the clients are all good steps when deciding to open a business abroad.

Banking the Unbanked - Wealth & Finance Interational
BankingCash Management

Banking the Unbanked

Banking the Unbanked

  • About 75% of adults earning less than $2 a day don’t have a bank account
  • More than 2.5 billion people around the world don’t have a bank account
  • The poor face bureaucratic, travel distance and cost barriers

Millions of people around the globe lack power, credit and internet which result in them being unbanked. Being unbanked means not having access to the services of a bank or similar financial organization.The challenges are manifold; from not being able to receive deposits from an employer, to no credit history and being excluded from lending, to lacking the ability to safely save money or transfer money.

In 2014 there were 2 billion unbanked people. Account ownership is almost universal in high-income economies, hence, all unbanked adults live in developing economies. China and India, despite having relatively high account ownership, claim large shares of the global unbanked population because of their size. 225 million adults living there are without an account. China has the world’s largest unbanked population, followed by India (190 million), Pakistan (100 million), and Indonesia (95 million).

 

What are the challenges in banking the poor?

Three quarters of the world’s population, living in poverty, are unbanked. This is not just because of poverty, but also due to the cost, travel distance and amount of paperwork involved in opening an account. Our bank account number is almost as intrinsic to our identity as name and date of birth. Getting a job, renting a house and having an internet connection at home would be nearly impossible without some sort of financial inclusion.

Yet today the unbanked population stands at a staggering 1.7 billion globally, according to data released by the World Bank.

“Providing financial services to the 2.5 billion people who are ‘unbanked’ could boost economic growth and opportunity for the world’s poor,” said World Bank Group President Robert B. Zoellick. “Harnessing the power of financial services can really help people to pay for schooling, save for a home, or start a small business that can provide jobs for others. This new report on the world’s ‘unbanked’ makes the case: the more poor people are banking today, the more they are banking on their future.”

 

What further challenges stop people using a bank?

FairPlanet researched further, and even with access to a bank, evidence suggests people will still not trust the bank, the service is unreliable, and withdrawal fees are prohibitively expensive. People are not inclined to borrow because they do not want to risk losing collateral. While expanding access to various banking services (for instance, by lowering account opening fees) will benefit a minority, broader success may not be obtainable unless the actual service quality is vastly improved. Moreover, there are challenges on the demand side. Increased work needs to be done to understand what savings and credit products are best suited for the majority of the unbanked living in poverty.

 

Problem solving?

Blockchain payments allow for cheaper money transfers and lower account fees while upholding security and transparency. Open banking allows for new players to enter the field and begin assisting the underbanked in ways that have never before been allowed, and blockchain technology is poised as a key component in the entire process. With are a few companies emerging in this field and companies, such as FairPlanet, that host these payment methods, we can see a push for financial inclusivity. Serving adults who live on less than $5 a day is not only possible at scale—to a large degree, it is already happening.

Articles

What are the top ways to save on everyday spending?

We’re always on the lookout for ways to save money, especially after our bank balances have taken a hit over the festive period. Of course, there are the traditional ways of saving such as budgeting and setting aside a certain amount of funds each month. But, without overly restricting your leisure activities, what everyday changes can you make to spend less?

1.      Spend less on your energy bill

Make small everyday changes to lower the cost of your energy bill.

Did you know that 4% of your energy bill is attributed to cooking? Work on lowering this if you can. Your oven stays warm for a long time after you’ve switched it off. Try turning it off 10 minutes before you’re finished cooking to save on energy.

Instead of turning your thermostat up during the colder months, layer up instead to save on pennies! Switching down by just one degree Celsius can save you £85 per year — it all adds up. When it comes to showering, cutting your shower time down to 5 minutes instead of 15 minutes can save you £98 per year — less singing and faster washing!

2.      Storing food properly

When we’re packing food away in the fridge or freezer, we usually don’t think about how it’s stored. But, the way that you put away your goods can have an impact on your energy bill.

If you pack your freezer more tightly, this keeps more of the cold air in when you open the door. This means that the appliance doesn’t have to work as hard to lower the temperature again. The same applies for the refrigerator too — a full fridge requires less energy to stay cool than one that’s empty. If you’re struggling to pack your fridge or freezer full, filling it with newspaper can do the job.

3.      Save money booking holidays

Even when we’re trying to save money, we all deserve a holiday now and then! The good news is that you can save money by following a few top tips the next time you book a vacation.

Try and fly out on a Friday if you can, this can save you 18% on your airfare compared to if you flew out on a Sunday. Taking into consideration the average cost of a flight and the fact that the average Brit goes on holiday three times a year, you could save £85 annually by following this top tip.

Be calculative about when you book your holiday too. You can save £36 per year by booking your trip on a Monday as flights are 5% cheaper.

Consider packing more economically too. You can save £144 per year by only taking hand luggage on your flights. Squeeze more into your suitcase by rolling clothes and packing garments in your shoes.

4.      Meal prepping

Being prepared when it comes to grocery shopping and planning lunches for the week can help save on cash.

Even making a shopping list before you head to the supermarket can help. In fact, 60% of people who take a shopping list to the supermarket said it saves them money. It stops you buying things that you don’t necessarily need and helps you stick to your budget.

Create a meal plan for the week too. This means that you’re only buying what you need and don’t need to spend money on unexpected lunches out. Statistics have shown that you can save an impressive £1,300 per year by preparing lunch at home rather than eating out during the week.

5.      Eco-conscious coffee drinking

There are a few ways that you can be eco-conscious about your coffee drinking while saving money.

First of all, you can start by making your coffee at home when you can. You can save £507 per year by making your coffee at home instead of buying one each day from a retailer. If you prefer coffee from the store, why not take your own cup? This is helping the environment and you can save £150 per year as many high street retailers now offer 50p off coffee when you present your own cup.

 

Make the small changes above and watch your pennies turn into pounds this year! For more saving tips, check out True Potential Investor’s Life Hacks interactive.

PensionsWealth Management

What are the top ways to save on everyday spending?

We’re always on the lookout for ways to save money, especially after our bank balances have taken a hit over the festive period. Of course, there are the traditional ways of saving such as budgeting and setting aside a certain amount of funds each month. But, without overly restricting your leisure activities, what everyday changes can you make to spend less?

1.      Spend less on your energy bill

Make small everyday changes to lower the cost of your energy bill.

Did you know that 4% of your energy bill is attributed to cooking? Work on lowering this if you can. Your oven stays warm for a long time after you’ve switched it off. Try turning it off 10 minutes before you’re finished cooking to save on energy.

Instead of turning your thermostat up during the colder months, layer up instead to save on pennies! Switching down by just one degree Celsius can save you £85 per year — it all adds up. When it comes to showering, cutting your shower time down to 5 minutes instead of 15 minutes can save you £98 per year — less singing and faster washing!

2.      Storing food properly

When we’re packing food away in the fridge or freezer, we usually don’t think about how it’s stored. But, the way that you put away your goods can have an impact on your energy bill.

If you pack your freezer more tightly, this keeps more of the cold air in when you open the door. This means that the appliance doesn’t have to work as hard to lower the temperature again. The same applies for the refrigerator too — a full fridge requires less energy to stay cool than one that’s empty. If you’re struggling to pack your fridge or freezer full, filling it with newspaper can do the job.

3.      Save money booking holidays

Even when we’re trying to save money, we all deserve a holiday now and then! The good news is that you can save money by following a few top tips the next time you book a vacation.

Try and fly out on a Friday if you can, this can save you 18% on your airfare compared to if you flew out on a Sunday. Taking into consideration the average cost of a flight and the fact that the average Brit goes on holiday three times a year, you could save £85 annually by following this top tip.

Be calculative about when you book your holiday too. You can save £36 per year by booking your trip on a Monday as flights are 5% cheaper.

Consider packing more economically too. You can save £144 per year by only taking hand luggage on your flights. Squeeze more into your suitcase by rolling clothes and packing garments in your shoes.

4.      Meal prepping

Being prepared when it comes to grocery shopping and planning lunches for the week can help save on cash.

Even making a shopping list before you head to the supermarket can help. In fact, 60% of people who take a shopping list to the supermarket said it saves them money. It stops you buying things that you don’t necessarily need and helps you stick to your budget.

Create a meal plan for the week too. This means that you’re only buying what you need and don’t need to spend money on unexpected lunches out. Statistics have shown that you can save an impressive £1,300 per year by preparing lunch at home rather than eating out during the week.

5.      Eco-conscious coffee drinking

There are a few ways that you can be eco-conscious about your coffee drinking while saving money.

First of all, you can start by making your coffee at home when you can. You can save £507 per year by making your coffee at home instead of buying one each day from a retailer. If you prefer coffee from the store, why not take your own cup? This is helping the environment and you can save £150 per year as many high street retailers now offer 50p off coffee when you present your own cup.

 

Make the small changes above and watch your pennies turn into pounds this year! For more saving tips, check out True Potential Investor’s Life Hacks interactive.

Legal

The facts behind PCP

Being realistic, we all have a bit of Hyacinth Bucket instilled in us — in that rivalry with our neighbours is something that is preconditioned within us. When the hypothetical family from number 28 parade the street in their new Mercedes GLE, doing somewhat of a victory lap, Google is just seconds away as we scout our next big purchase.

Getting the opportunity to drive the car of your dreams, for many of us, will either be completely financially unviable, or be the root cause of a serious marital dispute. But, as John Paul Getty once remarked, “if it appreciates, buy it. If it depreciates, lease it.” Many throughout the UK have taken the once-oil tycoon’s advice and done just that.

AA research suggests that after three years, a car will have depreciated by 60% from its original showroom price tag, and that is if the car is averaging 10,000 miles per year. The biggest losses come in the first year however, with a deduction of around 40% being made by the end of the first 365 days. Obviously, there are different ways of putting the brakes on depreciation. Keeping the car clean, regular servicing in accordance with manufacturer’s guidelines, and one eye on the mileage gauge, will all go a long way in reducing potential losses.

But is there another option to consider?

PCP

A personal contract purchase (PCP) is proving itself to be a popular option amongst those who pick finance, with 78% of those choosing the agreement. Admittedly, it goes against everything our parents have told us to do, in regard to owning our own car, but if you can battle those initial demons, then we’re here to show you why this might be for you.

Cost

Fronting the cash for a brand-new car is not something we can all do with apparent ease, as in reality not everyone has tens of thousands of pounds kicking about in their spare bedroom. With PCP, the payment is broken down into three major chunks. Firstly, you’ve got the initial deposit which is usually 10% of the car’s showroom value. Secondly, the monthly payments which will include enough to cover the depreciation costs incurred throughout the contract. Finally — and this is where things change  once the final payment of the contract has been made, you get the option to either return the car or take a new one on a new contract. Or, you can pay a balloon payment and then the car is yours.

By taking out a PCP lease, the monthly repayments are significantly lower than they would be with a finance deal. The option then presents itself is to drive a car that you would initially have deemed to be significantly out of your price range. Therefore, if you don’t have a big deposit and want lower monthly repayments, then this might be exactly what you’re after.

Mileage

Congestion charges, heavy traffic, and the cherry on the top of the cake — parking. Three reasons many drivers in the UK have steered away from the daily commute in the car and opted for public transport. A decade ago, our decision when purchasing a car will have depended hugely on our day-to-day usage — but when that isn’t the same, why should the choice be?

The average annual mileage of a car in the UK is 7,900. One drawback of renting your car through PCP is that is that when initially taking out the contract, you are given a mileage restriction and if you exceed this, you will be penalised. If, however, you would consider yourself to be one of those average UK drivers, then PCP offers no qualms. The opportunity to purchase a new contract once your current one is up means you aren’t going to have spent your days driving around in an old car with high mileage.

The beauty of PCP, particularly if you don’t use your car for your daily commute, is you can effectively buy a weekend car. When purchasing a new car outright, you are restricted by the constant reminder that you will have this car for the foreseeable future. With PCP, you can buy the car that caters exactly to the needs of your evenings and weekends. For example, an SUV if you go camping with the kids most weekends throughout the summer, or a two-door roadster, if your Sundays are filled by coastal runs. And, if your circumstances do change, you can simply exchange the car.

Not only has PCP offered motorists a car they would never have been able to otherwise afford, it has in some sense saved the British car market. For the past three years, the number of new car sales in the UK has stayed above 2.5million units per year, in comparison to 2011 when it was only 1.9million.

Premium brands such as Audi, Mercedes, BMW and Jaguar Land Rover have all performed outstandingly through the system. This is due to the fact these cars hold their value better, and therefore depreciation is less, ultimately benefiting both dealer and driver. Mercedes reported a 100% upturn in UK sales since 2010.

The statistics makes sense, with more and more dealerships offering customers the opportunity to own a new car for £99 a month, when their total gym membership and mobile phone contract equates to more — well, it’s a no brainer.

Corporate GovernanceRegulation

What does ULEZ have in store for us?

The world is constantly changing – and the world of driving is no different! The concept of the electric car is gradually growing as the UK government plans to eliminate diesel and petrol-powered cars by 2040.

However, before that is the introduction of the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) in central London. Here, alongside Lookers who offer Ford Motability Cars, we look at what ULEZ is and what it means to motorists.

Just what is ULEZ and when can we expect it to come into play?

To travel in the ULEZ, your vehicle will need to meet a new, tighter exhaust emission standard. Failure to do so will see you needing to pay a daily charge if you want to travel inside the area of the ULEZ.

The introduction of an Ultra Low Emission Zone is intended to help improve the air quality in central London. Currently, air pollution is one of the biggest challenges London is facing. As road transport is the biggest source of the health-damaging emissions in London, the government is tightening its rules regarding traffic.

ULEZ is set to come into play from 8th April this year, with the area to be expanded from 25th October 2021. This expansion will see the zone include the inner London area. 

How will ULEZ affect your vehicle?

If your car doesn’t meet the criteria, you’ll face a £12.50 charge each day. This charge runs every day of the year too.  Generally, if you own a petrol car that was registered after 2005, it will meet the ULEZ standards. If you own a diesel car, it’s normally those registered after September 2015 that will be exempt from the charge.

If you own a van, minibus or specialist vehicle, you’ll face slightly different regulations than those in a car. Minimum emission standards are:

  • Petrol: Euro 4
  • Diesel: Euro 6

Petrol models sold from January 2006 should meet these standards, as too should diesel vans which were sold from September 2016. Like cars, the daily fee for those which don’t meet the standards is £12.50.

Motorbikes and mopeds also carry the same cost for failing to have a model that meets the standards. Generally, motorbikes, or similar vehicles, will reach the required Euro 3 standards if they were registered with the DVLA after July 2007.

The cost rises considerably for lorries, coaches and large vehicles that aren’t up to the required standard. Any that don’t meet the Euro VI standards (usually those registered before 2014) must pay a daily charge of £100.

It’s important to note that these costs are in addition to any applicable Congestion Charge.

Are there any exemptions?

If you live within the boundaries of the ULEZ, you’ll receive a ‘sunset period’. This entitles you to a full discount of the charges, so you have more time to have a vehicle that meets the required standards. This discount will run until 24th October 2021. After this time, residents must pay the full charge.

Also benefitting from a sunset period are drivers with a disabled or disabled passenger vehicles tax class. Their exemption runs until 26th October 2025, unless their vehicle changes its tax class. Blue Badge holders, however, must pay the charge from its introduction date.

If you own a historic vehicle and it has historic vehicle tax, you’ll be exempt. This is the case unless the vehicle is used commercially. Agricultural and military vehicles are also exempt, as are certain types of mobile cranes.

While the ULEZ may be an issue for drivers of older cars, it’s important to remember that it has been designed to help us in our everyday life and is just another step on the government’s drive for a cleaner UK. It’s clear that the government is aware of the issue that pollution is causing and is trying to eradicate further damage to our planet.

Insurance

What finance options are there available for your engagement ring?

Often, covering the cost is also a vital element of any proposal, and the options available aren’t always obvious. There are a few important things to consider before you get down on one knee however. Things like ring insurance might come as a surprise, but it is necessary for guaranteeing peace of mind on these single high value items.

In this article we’ll take a look through some of the necessities to think about when it comes to planning the perfect proposal.

1.      Insurance

Possessions can be added to an existing contents policy, or specific jewellery cover can be taken out. For peace of mind on the off chance of theft or damages, jewellery insurance is an excellent option.

The latter is more commonly applicable when the cost of your item(s) is less than £1,000-£1,500, as this is usually covered by standard contents policies. For example, the policy holder will choose an amount to which cover is provided, so a £50,000 policy would insure your home contents as well as your special pieces of jewellery.

Furthermore, a single item limit will usually apply to each item and if the cost of the item itself exceeds the single item limit amount (around £1,000 to £1,500), then these valuables should be listed separately in a quotation. The expensive, sentimental nature of jewellery makes it a common item to want to insure. By adding your engagement ring to your home insurance policy, you are essentially futureproofing it for years to come.

2.      Finance plans

While many people choose to save up for wedding rings, some will opt for finance to spread the cost of their jewellery.

As with any finance item, it can be crucial to ensure that you read the small print and you pay on time. Some jewellers will offer a zero per cent finance rate, but clarity on the exact nature of these agreements is key to ensuring that you get a good deal. Finance can be a useful option depending on your situation, or maybe you have found the perfect ring, but you’ll require a bit of extra help to secure it for your special someone. There are various online calculators which can help you to calculate a sufficient loan amount, but it’s important to be realistic if you are looking into this option. Most retailers will have a price threshold before finance options are available, and typical time frames are six, 12, 24 and, 36 months. Often, customers can apply for finance quickly and easily at online checkouts, which takes the stress out of waiting for a decision to be made.

If taking out a finance agreement would best suit your needs, then looking into the terms and conditions is certainly advised, to cover the cost for your treasured piece.

3.      Finding the perfect ring: important questions

It’s important to have a solid idea of what you’re looking for, and you should find a trusted retailer for making the big purchase. Consider using an online retailer. Often they are more competitively priced as they don’t have the same overheads as high street retailers.

Online reviews are widely available nowadays, making it easier than ever before to evaluate your choice based on the experiences of others. On receipt of your ring, ensure that you review the supporting paperwork, including any diamond certifications and keep these safe in case you need them in the future.

You can ensure that by taking all of the above into the account, you make a purchase that your loved one will treasure for years to come.

Banking

allpay.cards Instrumental in Launch of New Amaiz Business Banking Service for Solopreneurs

Leading UK card manufacturer and bureau, allpay.cards has announced it is the card provider for the new Amaiz mobile business banking service for solopreneurs. Amaiz aims to help people free-up time by supplying an app to give sole traders and small business owners access to fast, mobile banking services backed up with accounting and back office smart tools.

The account is quick to set up, enables fast UK bank transfers, plus Direct Debit management and a contactless business card with 3-D Secure protection, in-app card freeze and instant PIN reminders. As part of the service, an expert accountancy team are also available to help sole traders with general bookkeeping and accounting questions.

Steve Taklalsingh, managing director & CFO, Amaiz explains: “Featuring bespoke tools to support agile, ‘always-on’ small businesses, the Amaiz banking service makes life easier for solopreneurs by removing the headache of admin and accounting. Filing tax returns is more straightforward and invoices can be prepared from the app. Categorised transactions quickly assess where a business owner may be overspending and help to prepare for tax self-assessment in advance with all the details in one place releasing solopreneurs’ time to focus on the day job!

“We worked with allpay.cards for the design, manufacture and supply the bank cards for our new service,” confirms Taklalsingh. “allpay.cards provides services to a number of challenger banks and having been impressed with positive feedback from their customers we made our choice. In addition, the allpay.cards team are committed and proved supportive, quick and responsive to work with. For example, once we’d agreed the card design, they were able to manufacture a full run in just 10 working days (other manufactures can typically take around 6-12 weeks).

“allpay.cards also manages the secure personalisation of the cards at its state-of-the-art PCI compliant UK manufacturing facility which includes encoding the chip, adding the name and expiry and security code onto the cards. The bespoke fulfilment team then follow a secure process to hand match and attach the cards before they are shipped to the new card holder. If a card is ordered at 6am on a Monday it is dispatched by 5pm on the same day and this rapid turnaround is just one way the account can make life easier for small business owners.”

Emily Lovelock, head of sales at allpay.cards explains: “We provide the full end-to-end physical card service for Amaiz. From the guidance of the technical setup and creation of the card designs right through to manufacture and dispatch. We have full quality control and flexibility of the process at our UK accredited site, which we can be a more flexible provider than some of our competitors who manufacture their cards overseas.”

For more information please visit: https://allpay.cards/ or www.amaiz.com

Press releases

The 2019 FinTech Awards Press Release

Wealth & Finance Magazine Announces the 2019 FinTech Awards Winners

United Kingdom, 2019- Wealth & Finance magazine have announced the winners of the 2019 FinTech Awards.

With FinTech companies and start-ups continuing to steal the show by creating outstanding digital innovations and technology-enabled business models, now is the perfect time to reflect on the successes of your endeavours over the past year with the Wealth & Finance 2019 FinTech Awards.

The FinTech market has evolved at a rapid pace and continues transforming and innovating the financial services sector in areas such as payments, lending, personal finance and banking to name but a few. Providing safer and more reliable solutions to a myriad of economic institutions and individuals, there is a great deal of work worthy of praise and admiration.

Discussing the outcome of the programme, Steve Simpson, Awards Coordinator commented: “The 2019 Fintech Awards, hosted by Wealth & Finance for the third consecutive year, are dedicated to rewarding and recognising the hard work, excellence and creativity of FinTech companies, start-ups, technologies and products. It is with great pride that I present these outstanding winners to my readers. I would like to offer my winners congratulations and my best wishes for the future.”

To learn more about our deserving award winners and to gain insight into the working practices of the “best of the best”, please visit the Wealth & Finance website (http://www.wealthandfinance-news.com/) where you can access the winners supplement.

ENDS

Notes to editors.

About Wealth & Finance International

Wealth & Finance International is a monthly publication dedicated to delivering high quality informative and up-to-the-minute global business content. It is published by AI Global Media Ltd, a publishing house that has reinvigorated corporate finance news and reporting.

Developed by a highly skilled team of writers, editors, business insiders and regional industry experts, Wealth & Finance International reports from every corner of the globe to give readers the inside track on the need-to-know news and issues affecting banking, finance, regulation, risk and wealth management in their region.

Transactional and Investment BankingWealth Management

Promising Regional Start-up Gets Funding from Hungarian Companies

  • Enter Tomorrow Europe, a venture capital fund operated by Lead Ventures has gained share in Czech start-up Neuron Soundware, utilizing investments from MOL and Eximbank.
  • The Czech start-up analyses sounds and vibrations to detect when industrial machines need maintenance.
  • Apart from the Hungarian companies, the EUR 5,7 million investment is also supported by two Czech capital funds, Inven Capital and J&T Ventures.

Lead Ventures continues to expand its portfolio with the help of MOL, Eximbank, together with Czech capital funds. Together, the business partners invested EUR 5,75 million in Czech company Neuron Soundware. The start-up is one of the first companies in the region to implement sound-based diagnostics of industrial machinery, which greatly helps factories using such equipment.

Enter Tomorrow Europe, a capital fund operated by Lead Ventures, supported by MOL and Eximbank used funds from Hungary for its latest /5000 venture capital investment. Together with Inven Capital, a member of ČEZ Group, Lead Ventures gained share in the Czech Neuron Soundware company.

Neuron Soundware was founded as a start-up in Prague in February, 2016. Currently, they employ 20 experts and last year, they had revenue of almost half a million Euros. The company provides AI-based solutions for several industries, including the energy industry. Their software analyses the sounds made by industrial machines, and can detect even the smallest of changes or unusual noises, indicating that the equipment is faulty or in need of maintenance. Their technology is already used by several global corporations, including Daimler, BMW, Innogy, E.ON, Airbus and LG.

“We know exactly how pumps, gearboxes, cylinders, electromotors, or compressors should sound. The sounds of all regular components of a machine are stored in a database. But that is not enough, our artificial intelligence software is able to distinguish problem noises from regular process hum and surrounding sounds, giving the customer the certainty that the machine will not pull off any unpleasant surprises,” says Pavel Konečný, founder and CEO of Neuron soundware.

“Predictive maintenance is a part of Industry 4.0. Neuron’s exciting technology has the potential to create a real break-through in this area. We trust that, with our newest regional investment, this innovative solution can improve the efficiency of several industries,” added Ábel Galácz, CEO of Lead Ventures.

“Start-ups from Central Europe, which have already been tested, have great potential to break through in global markets. As part of our strategy, we are looking for innovative solutions that can increase effectivity of technical processes in industrial services. Like our recent entry into Slovak GA Drilling, our entry into Czech Neuron Soundware is an example of a successful connection of small start-ups with a strong international company for further growth,” said Oszkár Világi, MOL Group Chief Innovation Officer.

The full value of the investment is EUR 5.75. Almost half of that sum is provided by Lead Ventures ETE, using funds from MOL and Eximbank. The rest of the price is covert by Inven Capital and Neuron’s previous investor, J&T Ventures.

Managing over EUR 100 million, Lead Ventures aims to support start-ups with innovative ideas all over the CEE region, assisting them to take their products or services to the global market. MOL has been supportive of the goals of the investment fund before. In March, for example, Lead Ventures signed a EUR 4,2 financing deal with the Slovakian GA Drilling company. GA Drilling focuses on developing a revolutionary electronic plasma technology, creating plasma drills capable of penetrating deeper layers of the ground at a reduced energy cost, making geothermic energy more accessible. As part of the deal, experimental drill heads are now being tested at MOL’s own hydrocarbon facilities.

Transactional and Investment Banking

Mike Bagguley, Former Barclays International COO & Financial Trading Industry Leader, Backs Inforalgo with Investment & Board Role

Inforalgo, the Capital Markets data automation specialist, has announced that Mike Bagguley, formerly COO at Barclays International and a respected financial investment industry leader, has invested in the firm and joins as a board advisor.

Mike, who brings a wealth of experience gained in senior trading and leadership positions across Barclays Investment Bank, approached Inforalgo during a search for firms that offer the opportunity to significantly reduce risk and costs in the market’s businesses.

“Inforalgo’s approach is enormously appealing, because it rationalises the technology and operating platform that firms need to manage,” he said. “Its portfolio of powerful data integration solutions allow transactions to be recorded, processed and reported in a single action, reflected end to end, electronically aided by smart automation. These independent, smart data automation solutions remove considerable pain for financial institutions and broker-dealers, allowing them to get on with doing optimal deals without worrying about how everything will be input, processed and reported.

“In this volatile market where new opportunities come and go quickly, and international regulators are continuously updating and adding to transparency and reporting requirements, Inforalgo has identified a sweet spot with a series of high-impact solutions that are unmatched,” he added.

“Inforalgo has an unrivalled track record as platform-independent data connectivity and compliance automation specialists, and its expansion into automated cross-jurisdictional regulatory reporting is further confirmation that it is ahead of the industry curve.”

Commenting on Mike’s appointment and his injection of funds to support the company’s next growth phase, Jordan Ambrose, Inforalgo’s CEO, said, “We are delighted and honoured to have Mike’s involvement and investment, and excited to be building out our senior management team at this pivotal point in our company’s development and expansion. Mike brings with him a wealth of industry experience and insight, and we look forward to his invaluable input.”

Mike Bagguley
Corporate Finance and M&A/DealsRegulation

Financial Services Employees Put Their Employers at Risk through Unsecure Communication

Symphony “Workplace Confidential survey highlights a worryingly casual attitude to workplace communications within the Financial Services Industries

Symphony Communication Services, LLC, the leading secure team collaboration platform, reveals that financial services employees are inadvertently putting company and customer data at risk through their communication channels.

These findings form part of the Symphony Workplace Confidential survey, which looked into the growth of new collaboration tools and platforms entering the workplace. FS workers are increasingly putting their trust in these platforms to conduct business, for both internal and external communications. For instance, the survey revealed that 34% have used these platforms to share strategic plans regarding their company, 40% have shared information regarding a customer, and 30% have shared financial information regarding their own employer.

However, many collaboration platforms are not protected with end-to-end encryption, and employees using them to share sensitive data points towards a worrying gap in security knowledge. Despite the fact that 94% of survey respondents have confidence that information shared via these platforms is safe from external eyes, a shocking 28% of financial services professional surveyed were not even aware of their employer’s own IT security guidelines. Interestingly this 28% figure is actually above the survey average of 22%; a cause for concern given the highly regulated sector of financial services.

“Financial services is about transactions and efficiency. And market workers have always been innovators when it comes to communication and speed. Fifteen years ago they ‘hacked’ AOL Instant Messaging and IRC into their workflows to help them get more work done faster,” states Jonathan Christensen, Chief Experience Officer at Symphony. “They adopted these tools for the ease and speed they offered but without regard to privacy, security, or compliance. The same thing is happening today with mobile device proliferation and cloud applications moving into the workplace.”

The use of these tools helps to accommodate a new way of working, allowing employees to work remotely from any location. While this is a positive move in powering the modern workforce, this also presents its own security and compliance challenges:


● 38% admit to accessing these tools from their personal computer
● 48% use their personal phone (higher than the 38% who use a work issued phone)
● 12% even admitted to using a publicly available computer

“Taking core capabilities away with draconian IT policies is not the way forward.” noted Christensen. “Workers need responsive, flexible collaboration platforms that are also safe to get their jobs done.”

Additional findings from the survey include:


• Only 31% of survey respondents said they were very confident they always stuck to company security guidelines
• 24% had shared information for HR including personal salary information, contracts, reviews etc.
• 25% admit they have used these tools to talk badly about a customer
• 33% have connected to unsecured internet to conduct work

Press releases

The 2019 Alternative Investment Awards Press Release

Wealth & Finance Magazine Announces the 2019 Alternative Investment Awards Winners

United Kingdom, 2019- Wealth & Finance magazine have announced the winners of the 2019 Alternative Investment Awards.

Now in its sixth year, the 2019 Alternative Investment Awards returns to cast a light on the individuals, firms and departments from across all sectors which have played a part in shaping this dynamic and inimitable industry.

Historically considered an undervalued industry, the alternative investment has grown over the past few years. Behind this prominent growth and success, are the leading lights whose innovation, dedication and inventive ways has delivered some award-worthy results.

Discussing the outcome of the programme, Steve Simpson, Awards Coordinator commented: “This latest year has been exceptionally challenging for the alternative investment space around the world, and as such my deserving winners have shown pluck, dedication and ingenuity in succeeding as well as they have. I would like to offer them all my congratulations and wish them the best of luck for the future.”

To learn more about our deserving award winners and to gain insight into the working practices of the “best of the best”, please visit the Wealth & Finance website (https://www.wealthandfinance-news.com/) where you can access the winners supplement.

ENDS

Notes to editors.

About Wealth & Finance International

Wealth & Finance International is a monthly publication dedicated to delivering high quality informative and up-to-the-minute global business content. It is published by AI Global Media Ltd, a publishing house that has reinvigorated corporate finance news and reporting.

Developed by a highly skilled team of writers, editors, business insiders and regional industry experts, Wealth & Finance International reports from every corner of the globe to give readers the inside track on the need-to-know news and issues affecting banking, finance, regulation, risk and wealth management in their region.

Articles

Craig Butterworth Joins Symphony: The Secure Collaboration Platform

Symphony Communications LLC, the secure collaboration platform, has appointed Craig Butterworth as Head of Global Account Management. 

Butterworth joins Symphony from Nomura, where he served as Managing Director and Global Head of Client Ecosystem – a business led front-to-back digital transformation program. With over 18 years’ experience in capital markets, he previously held Head of Sales roles at Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS), State Street and Royal Bank of Canada (RBC).

 

Passionate about mentoring, career guidance and talent development, Butterworth served as Chair of Nomura’s Global Markets EMEA Graduate Steering Committee, a role he also fulfilled during his time at RBS.

 

On his appointment, Butterworth commented: “I am looking forward to helping Symphony’s biggest clients and shareholders get the most from the platform, as a core foundational pillar of their digital transformation initiatives.”

 

Butterworth started his career at Goldman Sachs after receiving a BSc (Hons) in Economics from the University of Warwick. He is an accomplished race car driver, having won a number of championships in karts and cars since he began racing at 10 years old. He is married with two children and lives in the Essex countryside.

 

Symphony recently raised $165 million in a fresh funding round. It will use the new capital to evolve its newly launched Market Solutions business, to accelerate growth and deliver a new wave of innovation to enterprises as they replace traditional collaboration tools.

Corporate Finance and M&A/DealsForeign Direct InvestmentStock Markets

US and Asian brands dominate rankings of world’s most valuable technology brands

  • US tech giants take top 5 spots, Amazon is world’s most valuable technology brand with monumental US$187.9billion brand value
  • Apple, Google and Microsoft defend spots as brand values continue to surge
  • China’s WeChat breaks into top 10 as world’s strongest tech brand, more Chinese brands rising through ranks
  • New entrants from digital space: Twitter and Instagram gaining traction, as online shopping portal Taobao is most valuable new entrant
  • Baidu owned iQiyi fastest-growing, rising 326% to impressive brand value of US$4.3 billion
  • Facebook losing brand strength, recording Brand Strength Index (BSI) score of 82.9 out of 100 and AAA rating
  • IT Services brands log growth: TCS, Accenture, Capgemini, Wipro and IBM all see growth in brand value

Amazon leads tech titans

Amazon strengthens and maintains its position as the world’s most valuable technology brand. Brand value surges 25% to a record US$187.9 billion, over US$30 billion more than 2nd place Apple. Notoriously strong for service, last year, Amazon recorded its most successful Prime Day to date, with consumers purchasing more than 100 million products. This was shortly followed by the brand crossing the US$1 trillion threshold on Wall Street for the first time in its history. And due to an ever-diversifying portfolio, it seems no industry is safe from the threat and power of Amazon.

The Amazon brand is well-positioned for further growth but the presence of Chinese brands this year is most impressive and certainly not to be ignored.

David Haigh, CEO of Brand Finance, commented:

“Amazon is leaving no stone unturned as it relentlessly extends into new sectors, however its technological might still overshadows rivals to retain the status of the world’s most valuable tech brand.

The Amazon brand is well-positioned for further growth but the presence of Chinese brands this year is most impressive and certainly not to be ignored.”

Chinese brands flex muscle

While the top 5 most valuable tech brands are dominated by brands from the USA, the remaining 5 within the top 10 are from China and South Korea, asserting the dominance and competitiveness of the Asian players.

New entrant Taobao (brand value US$46.6 billion) is the most valuable, breaking into the top 10 for the first time. The Chinese online shopping website is headquartered in Hangzhou and owned by Alibaba. It is one of the world’s biggest e-commerce websites, offering its almost 620 million monthly active users a marketplace to facilitate consumer-to-consumer (C2C) retail by providing a platform for small businesses and individual entrepreneurs to open online stores

At US$50.7 billion, China’s WeChat is a rising star, having lifted its brand value 126% over the previous year. Its influence is reflected in the impressive way in which the brand has successfully created a digital ecosystem for its 1 billion Chinese users who use the platform every day to instant message, read, shop, hire cabs, and more

WeChat has broken into the top 10 for the first time, making it worthy of its strongest brand accolade, improving on last year with an upgrade to the elite AAA+ brand strength rating and a corresponding 90.4 out of 100 Brand Strength Index (BSI) score. Whilst China’s burgeoning middle class makes it attractive to continue strengthening the brand domestically, the massive growth experienced by brands as they pursue international business is also appealing

Another tech brand relying on the domestic customer base has made the most of the immense growth in demand for streaming content within the country. iQiyi is not just China’s but the world’s fastest-growing brand this year, up 326% to US$4.3 billion. The Baidu-owned online video platform is China’s answer to Netflix and hosts over 500 million monthly active users.

More likes for digital and social media brands

Netflix is rising through the ranks, with its brand value growing by a whopping 105% over the past year to $21.2 billion, Netflix is set to play the lead role in home entertainment, building a disruptive business as a universally accessible narrowcaster and in this way effectively challenging traditional broadcasting brands.

YouTube (brand value up 46% to $37.8 billion), another rapidly growing digital media brand, retains its spot in 11th place. Like Netflix, YouTube is building a broad platform for video content, in an effort to leverage its brand from merely peer-to-peer video creation and sharing to also include a growing premium and professional video library.

Similarly, Twitter (brand value up 66% to $3.2 billion) jumps almost 100 ranks to become the 258th most valuable brand in America. Another successful social media platform, Instagram is the most valuable new entrant to the ranking this year, claiming 47th spot with a brand value of $16.7 billion.

New entrant Instagram, the photo and video sharing social networking platform owned by Facebook, recorded a brand value of US$16.8 billion. The service has over 1 billion active monthly users and with the rising popularity of Instagram influencers, is also becoming the most attractive portal for digital marketing spends and bringing in impressive advertising engagement revenue.

Although rising up from sixth to fifth place, social networking site Facebook (brand value up 8.7% to US$83.2 billion) has recorded a drop in its brand strength, its AAA+ status from last year slipping down to AAA in 2019. Facebook’s corresponding Brand Strength Index (BSI) score has decreased to 82.9 out of 100.

IT Services brands log growth

Not to be ignored are the notable performances in the technology rankings clocked in by IT Services brands TCS, Accenture, Capgemini, Wipro and IBM who have all seen growth in brand value since last year.

Valued at US$26.3 billion, Accenture has grown rapidly by 56.5% since last year, a testament to its continued innovation across AI, advanced analytics and growing cybersecurity practice. The professional services and IT Services brand has made waves in the industry for its pioneering work on how companies can best achieve a smooth blockchain transformation.

Growing in brand value by 23% to US$12.8billion is India’s largest IT services conglomerate, Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), bolstered by a disciplined focus on the market’s increased demand for digital services. TCS has positioned itself as a leader in providing a superior all-round customer experience, leveraging artificial intelligence and robotic automation across its transformation programs. TCS is also to be commended as the first Indian IT services brand to achieve success in the Japanese market; the Mumbai-based brand has expanded its operations in Japan and overseen a merger of three brands to create Tata Consultancy Services Japan. 

Wipro (up 25% to US$4.0 billion) is to be commended for its significant investments in digital transformation capabilities, niche acquisitions, and a recent brand refresh, which have propelled it up the rankings to 81st most valuable technology brand this year.