All posts by Akeela Zahair

Travel Finance
ArticlesFinance

5 Ways to Finance Your Travel in 2022

Travel Finance

Since vaccines are becoming more widespread, the pandemic seems to be winding down, making it safe to travel again for many people. 2022 might see a spike in trips because of the quarantine that seems to have lasted nearly two years.

As you gear up for the final quarter of 2021, you may be planning out your travels for the following year. If anything seems too overwhelming for your budget, but your heart is set on the trip you had planned, consider these five options to help you afford the vacation of your dreams.

 

1. Point Rewards

By using a specific airline, hotel chain or car company, you may acquire points with these companies. If you like a certain business, sign up to be a rewards or loyalty member so you don’t let your travels go to waste. Every time you hop in a plane or drive a rental car, you could be earning cents and dollars for your next travel destination.

If you’re flying a long way, these points can add up quickly. While points won’t cover every aspect of your trip, they may reward you with discounts that can take a chunk off of your bill.

 

2. Make a Budget

Without a stable plan, you might have to dip into your savings more than you would like. While many people use their savings to travel the world, you could choose to save up money to use for your travels instead.

Whatever the case, budgeting always saves you money. You can expect to spend less by planning out your adventure. Simply winging your journey may eat into your savings. An excellent way to help you plan your budget is to exchange the money you want for the currency of your desired destination before you get there. That way, you have a limited amount of money to work with and won’t be tempted to overspend.

 

3. Become a Travel Writer

Why not get paid to see the world? Travel writers are often freelancers or have their own blogs, so plenty of the responsibility to work is still on your shoulders. The average travel writer makes around $59,000 a year, so if you want to make money out of your travels and don’t mind working when you’re not out seeing the sights, it’s an excellent field to go into.

 

4. Opt for Housesitting Jobs

In exchange for watching someone’s belongings or taking care of their animals, you could potentially stay in someone’s home for free while they’re away on vacation. While you can’t count on housesitting as a surefire way to eliminate all of your expenses — after all, you still need to buy groceries — you can think of it as a way to lower your costs, particularly on housing. Pairing housesitting with the following suggestion is a great way to earn money while abroad.

 

5. Stay for the Long Term

If you don’t mind staying in one place for months at a time, think of taking on contract jobs around the world. Contract positions typically last months rather than years, so you won’t be rooted in the same place forever, but you’ll still have time to explore your chosen destination fully.

While contracting gives you the freedom to jump between jobs and receive more pay upfront, you have to remember to set some money aside for taxes and realize that you won’t receive the traditional healthcare benefits that a full-time job would offer you.

 

Make Your Trip Work for You

Everyone expects something different out of their travels. Whether you explore the big cities or get lost in the wilderness, you want to have a fun time. You can’t say that you’re having a great time when financial worries bog you down. Doing whatever you can to remain within budget and potentially take a chunk out of your expenses can help you enjoy your travels abroad for longer.

Property Wealth
ArticlesWealth Management

Building Generational Wealth Through Home Ownership

Property Wealth

The concepts of generational wealth and property ownership have long been a bit complicated, especially when it comes to their relationship to one another. Regardless of your experience with real estate and generational wealth prior, it’s completely possible to start from the ground up — or wherever you are in your journey — and build the generational wealth you’re looking to get started through home ownership. Whether you’re curious about the specifics, you already own a home or you’re in the buying process, here are a few things to know when building generational wealth through homeownership.

 

What Is Generational Wealth?

One of the most important parts of this conversation is defining what it means to have — and care for — generational wealth. Although many people have a picture in their heads about what generational wealth is, there is a much broader definition than you might expect. You don’t need to be wealthy to pass down generational wealth, as the term refers to any assets, property, money or investments that you can pass down to your children or other family members. Therefore, owning a home of any kind can be considered generational wealth if you keep it within the family.

 

Saving Long-Term

One of the ways that owning property can help you accrue generational wealth is through saving money on the expenses of living long term. Even though owning a home comes with its own expenses, such as upkeep and maintenance in order to keep it in shape, owning property is an investment, as opposed to renting, which is an equation in which you never see your money again. Although renting is right for some people, owning a property ensures that you maintain at least some capital on your investment.

 

Passive Income

Not all property ownership comes with the opportunity for passive income, but if you’re looking specifically for an opportunity to grow generational wealth, finding a property that allows for passive income is the ultimate way to go, especially if you have a plan for that income to grow and develop over time. By renting out a unit on your property or even having a designated rental property, you can use it to accumulate generational wealth in addition to the generational wealth of owning the property itself.

 

Tax Advantages

One thing you may hear discussed frequently when it comes to the financial side of property ownership is property taxes. Even with property taxes, there are plenty of tax advantages to owning property, from tax credits to tax breaks, that can come as a result of owning different forms of property. Of course, those guidelines will differ between states and even counties, but it’s always a good idea to look into the way your taxes can work for you.

 

Building Generational Wealth

Although generational wealth might seem out of reach for many people, there are plenty of ways to build generational wealth for your family, and property ownership is one of the most practical options. Whether you have a rental space or a family home where you spend time together, generational wealth is about planning and thoughtfulness.

Mortgage
ArticlesFinance

How to Boost Your Mortgage Borrowing Power

Mortgage

Home prices have been rising and will unfortunately keep rising for the foreseeable future. With this in mind it’s possible you might want – or need – a bigger mortgage. If you’re thinking about it, there are ways you can convince the bank that you deserve more borrowing power. Take a look at these strategies to get a bigger mortgage.

 

1. Show more income

Proof of more income can land you a bigger loan, but that doesn’t mean you need to storm into your boss’s office demanding a raise or get a higher paying job. If you can, sure it can help, but it’s not necessary if you can’t. There are other ways to show addition to your salary or wages with other sources of reliable income.

Show proof of interest or dividends from investments, income from rental properties, alimony or child support, social security income, and money earned from a part-time job or side business. The latter comes with the stipulation that you have to have earned from this job or business for over the last two years.

 

2. Pay off other debt

A lender will look at your debt-to-income (DTI) ratio when you apply for a mortgage. This is the percentage of your monthly income you are dedicating to your minimum monthly debt payments. A GTI ratio of less than 36 per cent is generally considered ideal but some lenders are comfortable with going higher.

Paying off credit card debt or an installment loan can make a big difference in this figure. It’s a quick and easy way to increase how much you qualify for.

You don’t have to pay it all off in one fell swoop. You can reduce it with a balance-transfer card or refinancing an auto loan to lower your payment. You can also consolidate your debt into an installment loan.

 

3. Raise your credit score

A lower interest rate and therefore a slightly larger loan can be obtained with a higher credit score, but only to a certain extent.

You can raise your credit score a number of ways. Check your credit reports, stay on top of payments, and avoid applying for new accounts too often, can all help you in raising your credit score. Take advantage of self-reporting apps like Experian Boost and UltraFICO and add accounts with positive payment history, boosting your score.

 

4. Put at least 20 per cent down

You can get a bigger loan if you don’t have to pay for private mortgage insurance (PMI). So, if you’re applying for a home loan like a Hong Leong Finance home loan and your down payment is at least 20 per cent of the house’s price, you won’t need to pay for PMI which protects the lender if you stop paying your loan.

Without the 20 per cent down payment, PMI becomes part of your monthly costs and can decrease the size of the loan you’re eligible for.

If you have the cash available after paying your 20 per cent, you can pay your lender a little more upfront to lower the rate of your interest.

 

5. Add a co-borrower

A co-borrower, especially one with strong credit and a steady income, can go a long way to convincing a lender that you deserve a larger loan. You and your co-borrower’s income coupled will increase the total income the lender can use to qualify you for a loan.

Co-borrowers can be spouses, domestic partners, friends, or relatives. But it isn’t just a name on a piece of paper. It’s for if people in both parties want their name on a property and agree to share the responsibilities of paying back the loan.

 

6. Build cash reserves

Having additional assets in the bank, or elsewhere, will help you qualify for a bigger loan, even if you don’t necessarily need cash reserves to qualify for a mortgage. If you have been putting away funds, you can prove you will be able to handle unexpected expenses and continue to make your mortgage payments. Without this, a lender would be concerned that one emergency could cause you to fall behind and will be less comfortable to offer you more.

 

7. Shop around

Keep an eye on comparison websites and visit various banks to get multiple rate quotes and loan offers. Comparison shopping will pay off over the course of a loan and if you get multiple preapprovals, you will get various offers and chances are they will have different amounts, allowing you to choose a lender that will offer the largest preapproved loan.

Plus, you can use your lower offers as leverage with a lender that preapproved you for a smaller amount. It’s possible they may reconsider and increase the amount they can offer you, allowing you to get the biggest mortgage at the lowest price.

Whisky
ArticlesCommoditiesMarkets

Success Never Tasted So Sweet – Expand Your MIND and Your ASSETS

Whisky

Scotch whisky is a symbol of British craftsmanship and tradition, of durability and reliability. And though it hasn’t been around for ever, it has been recognised throughout history. Its documented story begins in 1494, and tax records of the day show that a friar acquired eight bolls – about 2,500lbs – of malted barley, “wherewith to make aqua vitae”.

Although distillation processes may have changed over time, the value of this commodity has been driven by demand and maturation. As global appreciation of whisky has flourished, people are gradually discovering that limited edition and maturing casks from the most globally renowned distilleries could bring in top returns for those willing to hold their investment.

 

Why Whisky and Why Now?

The global landscape of investments has changed dramatically in recent years, with the general public now having a greater ability to take trading in to their own hands and invest and trade in a range of commodities through online platforms and investment advisors. Technology has led the way in a virtual environment to allow people to discover new and interesting markets which have previously not been explored. This being said, 2020 has also demonstrated the global volatility of stock markets and poor returns on extremely low interest rates, driving them to discover ways to diversify their asset portfolios.

A way of mitigating the risk of investments is to purchase luxury commodities which appreciate in price over the years. It has become increasingly common for people to invest in classic cars, coins, watches and artwork whilst other commodities have not been considered as viable investment opportunities. However, it is now becoming more apparent than ever that assets which have previously been considered as merely a consumer goods, have great potential for long term investors. One such luxury commodity is whisky, which has previously been washed away for our own satisfaction, is now showing great potential as an investment asset. Additionally, whisky is a tax-free asset which other traditional financial assets fail to offer investors.

Firstly, like fine wine, demand outstrips supply. Whisky that is collectible is also in demand for consumers, so a substantial proportion of any limited edition bottling will swiftly become much more limited as much of it is consumed by dedicated whisky lovers. Whisky is bottled after a period of maturation in oak barrels. Legally, this is a minimum of 3 years, but in practice, most whiskies are matured for a minimum of 8 years in order for them to develop their character.

Distilleries will usually have a ‘house style’ represented by a mass-produced bottling of a relatively young malt (such as Glenmorangie’s popular 10 year old). But they will also have older whiskies maturing at the distillery, and they can also bottle older whiskies such as a 15 or 21 year old. They might also bottle the product of a particular cask of vintage whisky, or they might offer different expressions of the whisky such as a ‘port wood finish’ or ‘sherry wood finish’ which means that in addition to being aged in traditional Bourbon barrels, the whisky has been ‘finished’ with a period of additional ageing in a port or sherry barrel which can impart different flavours. These different expressions of the whisky and older malts are the ones that are of interest to investors – production is limited, they are highly prized by collectors and consumers alike. Whiskies from some distilleries are much more collectible than others, so it is important to do due diligence on what will be desirable in the marketplace in a few years’ time when you seek to sell your whiskies on.

As with any investment, it is extremely important to make sure you’re in the best hands and have access to the best platforms in order for your investment to flourish. It is therefore imperative that investors have access to well-known distilleries which already have a reputation for investable whisky. This includes famous Scottish whiskies such as Macallan, Dalmore and Springbank, all of which Elite Wine& Whisky has strong relationships with. The collectability and rarity of whiskies is extremely important when considering investing in whisky and hence choosing the right distillery and age of cask or bottle is important when investing.

 

Whisky Market in 2020

In the last year, there was an extraordinary increase of between 15-20% on rare whisky bottle values, ensuring that it outperformed the established alternative asset investments such as watches, art and cars. In the last couple of years, we have witnessed some incredible whisky sales, including the following: An individual bottle of Macallan 1926 broke records at auction, selling for £1.5 million. In 2018, over £40.7m of rare whisky was sold at auction houses in the UK alone. A cask of Macallan distilled in 1989 sold for $572,000 last year – a record price for a maturing cask of whisky.

The Whisky Cask Index, a study generated by Cask 88, Braeburn Whisky and WhiskyStats.net, has shown steady growth across the previous year, as well as the rate at which casks appreciate annually being on the rise. This appreciating rate can be attributed to the positive impact of both the maturity of the whisky, as well as a response to the increasing demand as whisky supply is sold in to a more diverse range of global markets.

 

Comparison with Other Investments

Comparisons are made between the whisky cask market and other luxury commodities; however there are many features of whisky which make it unique. It is therefore challenging to analyse the market without considering variable factors, such as the characteristics of the cask that make it one of a kind. The complexity is also enhanced by the fact that, unlike a piece of art, or a collectible bottle of already-bottled whisky, the value of casks is not only dependent on demand, but also the maturation of the cask. Therefore a cask purchased this year will effectively become a new product as the years pass.

The Whisky Cask Index demonstrates the projected values of a sample of twenty casks from a variation of distilleries across the globe with varying age profiles. It is worth noting that in spite of the global pandemic which impacted the economy during early 2020, the Whisky Cask Index has remained optimistic, and even shown growth. In this data analysis not a single distillery index showed negative returns over the past 5 years, which is able to confirm that the market is relatively robust to negative impacts on the global economy.

 

Top 10 Distilleries

Overall Annual Capital Growth in this study across all distilleries and regions as of June 2020 demonstrated a 13% increase in value. This has further been broken down by distillery in order to understand the highest achieving distilleries by capital growth. The top 10 distilleries by capital growth are as follows; Laphroaig, Bunnahabhain, Staoisha, Macallan, Highland Park, Caol ILA, Springbank, Benriach, Bowmore and Jura.

It is extremely positive that no single Scottish distillery demonstrated a negative index in capital growth. Projections ranged from a predicted annual capital growth of 5.13% for a small Scottish distillery, Ardmore, to larger scale popular distilleries such as Laphroaig and Macallan, which both show projected returns approaching 20% per annum.

The top distillery by predicted annual growth is Laphroaig, in which demand is continually increasing past supply. The following two distilleries in the league table are both located in Islay, with both Bunnahabhain and Staoisha showcasing the popularity of this region. In terms of distillery territories, it is worth noting that whisky produced on Scottish islands dominate the top ten in the capital growth league table with only Macallan, Springbank and BenRiach representing mainland distilleries in this comparative list.

 

2021 Trends

As the whisky market grows and expands into new and established markets, it has been predicted that demand will therefore align with this growth and therefore will require supply to also increase. With increased worldwide demand of whisky, the value of whisky in casks will only increase, in particular more aged whisky, along with the value of whisky produced in 2020 and 2021 during the global pandemic due to the closures of distilleries which meant that there was reduced supply. It is therefore no surprise that name brand whiskies distilled in 2020 or 2021 will see an acceleration in growth due to the lack of availability over this time frame and increased demand making it highly investible whisky.

Recent data collated this year has been reflective of the trends which have been witnessed in the whisky market over the past few years, with extremely reassuring outcomes. This is particularly noticeable in the fact that the aforementioned whisky index did not record any negative returns throughout the period of the study. The projected annual capital growth across the distilleries is expected to continue in to 2021.

If growth continues at a comparable rate, the data suggests that investments made in to casks from one of the top ten distilleries, which Elite Wine & Whisky has access to, could see their investment double in value over the next 5 years. In times of great uncertainty, these findings provide great prospects for future days ahead.

 

How to invest in whisky

Whether or not you’re a passionate whisky drinker, taking the plunge in to whisky investment is extremely simple with the help of a financial expert who can educate investors in their investment. Once you have all the tools to make a well informed choice, the returns can be just as fruitful as the drinking.

Pension
ArticlesFundsPensions

Pension Awareness Day: Expert Advice for Tradespeople On How to Prepare for Retirement

Pension
  • One in eight (13%) older tradespeople (55-64s) have no financial plan for retirement 

 

Preparing for retirement can be challenging, and it can be difficult to know where to start. In fact, recent research by IronmongeryDirect found that one in eight (13%) tradespeople approaching retirement age (55-64s) don’t have any financial preparations for retirement. 

So, what do you need to know about saving for retirement? 

IronmongeryDirect has partnered with Fabian Taylor, senior associate and chartered financial planner in Nelsons’ wealth management team, and George Stainton, senior wealth manager at Hoxton Capital Management, to reveal helpful tips for tradespeople on how to prepare for retirement.

 

1. It’s never too late to start

While it’s recommended to begin planning for retirement as soon as possible, IronmongeryDirect’s research found that more than one in ten (13%) tradespeople approaching retirement age don’t have a financial plan in place. Thankfully, it’s never too late to make a start.

Fabian said: “Contributions to a pension attract tax relief from the Government. So, for every £80 you contribute, tax relief of £20 is added, making the total contribution £100. 

“As a general rule of thumb, you should try to save half the age at which you started as a percentage of your salary. For example, if you start saving at age 20, then you should contribute ten percent, but if you start at age 30, you should aim to save 15%.”

 

2. Saving early makes things easier 

While it’s true that you can start saving at any point during your career, it’s sensible to begin putting aside money for retirement as early as possible.

Many young people have the advantage of being able to use workplace pension schemes, but for those who opt out, are ineligible, or are planning on saving additional funds, starting early has major benefits.

George said: “If younger people are not contributing to a pension scheme, then they should make sure they have some sort of structured savings in place. Getting into the habit of saving for retirement earlier in your career will make life much more comfortable as you get closer to retirement. Let us look at a simple calculation to prove this.

“If someone needs to have a retirement pot of £500,000 at the age of 55, they will need to save £441 per month if they start at the age of 25 and see a 7% return on their investment each year. If they start saving at 35, this figure increases to £1,016 per month and dramatically increases to £2,783 per month if they start at 45 years old.”

 

3. Take advantage of workplace schemes

For tradespeople who work on an employed basis, they should look to enrol in their workplace pension scheme, if they have not already.

This means that they will be saving throughout their career, with additional top-ups from their employer, and while tradies should still aim to set up a private pension, a workplace scheme provides a safety net in the meantime. 

Fabian said: “If you are 22-years-old or older, earning over £10,000 and employed by a company, you will be automatically enrolled into your company’s workplace scheme. Through this, a minimum of 8% of your earnings, split between yourself and your employer, between £6,240 and £50,000, will be invested into your pension. If it is affordable, you should consider increasing contributions. If you opt out of this workplace pension, you are missing out on money from your employer.”

George said: “Thankfully, with the help of auto-enrolment, younger people are better equipped than ever to start saving for their retirement early. As the majority of the young working population will be contributing to some kind of workplace pension, they are able to benefit from the effect of long-term saving and compounded growth.”

 

4. Remember to plan ahead and save if you’re self-employed

Those working on a self-employed basis, unfortunately, do not have the same auto-enrolment to a workplace pension scheme that employed people do, so therefore it’s important that you make your own preparations and plan ahead for your retirement.

Fabian said: “Draw up a budget to see what you can afford to contribute each month, and do some research into the best place for you to put it that allows for investment growth and tax relief. Even if it is a small amount, every little helps.”

“Assuming a growth rate of five percent, if you were to contribute £50 per month to a pension at age 25, the pension could be worth £76,301 by age 65. However, if you don’t start saving until age 35, the pension could be worth £41,612 by age 65. The longer you wait to save in a pension, the more you may have to pay in later in life to save enough to meet your needs in retirement.”

Regardless of your age, it’s always best to prepare for retirement in advance. By ensuring that you’re making the most of workplace pensions where available, as well as saving privately, you can place yourself in the best position to enjoy retirement in comfort.

For more information and advice, visit: https://www.ironmongerydirect.co.uk/blog/tradey-retirements 

Fraud
ArticlesFinance

£32 Million of Fraud Stopped By Finance Industry and Police In First Half of 2021

Fraud
  • Banking Protocol scheme alerts local police to suspected scams.
  • Over 4,700 emergency calls were made between January and June 2021, protecting customers from losing an average of £6,672 each to criminals.
  • Use of the scheme has led to 934 arrests since its launch in 2016.


Branch staff at banks, building societies and Post Offices worked with the police to stop £32 million of fraud through the Banking Protocol rapid scam response in the first half of this year, according to the latest figures from UK Finance. This is up 65 per cent compared to the same period last year and brings the total amount of fraud prevented to £174 million since the scheme was introduced in 2016. 

The Banking Protocol is a UK-wide scheme, launched by UK Finance, National Trading Standards and local police forces. Branch staff are trained to spot the warning signs that suggest a customer may be falling victim to a scam, before alerting their local police force to intervene and investigate. 

The latest figures reveal that branch staff invoked the Banking Protocol 4,782 times between January and June 2021, saving potential victims an average of £6,672 each. Real life case studies from the first half of the year are included at the bottom of this release. Ultimately the scheme led to the arrest of over 90 suspected criminals, bringing the total number of arrests to 934 since the protocol began. 

It is often used to prevent impersonation scams, in which criminals imitate police or bank staff and convince people to visit their bank and withdraw or transfer large sums of money. It is also used to prevent romance fraud, in which fraudsters use fake online dating profiles to trick victims into transferring money, and to catch rogue traders who demand cash for unnecessary work on properties.  

Customers assisted by the scheme are offered ongoing support to help prevent them from falling victim to scams in the future, including referrals to social services, expert fraud prevention advice and additional checks on future transactions.  

Katy Worobec, Managing Director of Economic Crime, UK Finance, commented:   

“Fraud has a devastating impact on victims so partnerships like the Banking Protocol are not only crucial in helping vulnerable people, but it also stops stolen money from going on to fund other illicit activities including drug smuggling, human-trafficking and terrorism.  

“Criminals have continued to capitalise on the pandemic to commit fraud, callously targeting victims through impersonation, romance, courier and rogue trader scams. Branch staff and the police are working on the frontline to protect people from fraud and these figures highlight the importance of their work in stopping these cruel scams and bringing the criminals to justice.  

“It’s important that people always follow the advice of the Take Five to Stop Fraud campaign, and remember that a bank or the police will never ask you to transfer funds to another account or to withdraw cash to hand over to them for safe-keeping.” 

To build on the success of the scheme, banks and building societies are continuing to work with local police forces on expanding the process to cover attempted bank transfers made by customers through telephone and online banking. So far, 36 out of 45 police forces across the UK are signed up to the enhanced scheme. Staff working in call centres and in online banking teams notify the police when attempted bank transfers are being made which they believe may be the result of a scam.  

Temporary Commander Clinton Blackburn, from the City of London Police, said: 

“Criminals have continued to use the pandemic to prey on people’s fear and anxieties in order to steal their money, which is evident through the increase in how much the Banking Protocol has prevented being lost to heartless fraudsters so far this year. 

“The Banking Protocol continues to be one of the most vital ways of protecting vulnerable victims and preventing criminals from taking advantage of them, as banks are often the first point of contact when someone is about to fall victim to fraud. It’s also essential the public remain vigilant and follow the Take Five advice before parting with any money or personal details.” 

UK Finance is urging customers to follow the advice of the Take Five to Stop Fraud campaign, and remember a bank or the police will never ask you to transfer funds to another account or to withdraw cash to hand over to them for safe-keeping.  

Case studies 

Romance scam 

A woman tried to send an online payment of £2500 to the USA to a friend she had previously worked with in the UK. When the payment was blocked, she visited her local bank branch. She said she had been exchanging messages with this friend on a social media platform and that they had asked for the money to pay their hospital fees. Staff invoked the Banking Protocol, and the local police attended the branch. No money was lost to this scam. 

 

Courier scam 

A woman in her 80s received a telephone call from a male claiming to be from her bank. The male claimed there was an issue with the victim’s account and in order to help her with this he needed her to withdraw money (£2000) from her account. The victim was told to attend the bank to do so and call back when home for further instructions.  

The victim attended the branch and staff confirmed to the victim that this man had not been in contact with them, and it was in fact a scam. The staff refused the withdrawal and invoked the Banking Protocol, alerting local police. Officers attended and offered fraud advice to the victim. The bank also put measures in place to further safeguard the victim from any future frauds.   

 

Investment scam 

A man in his 90s visited his local bank branch as an international payment he had attempted to make online had been stopped. He had been contacted by a company who wanted to sell shares that he held in America, saying he could get a return of £60,000 but had to send $7000 dollars which he would get back. Bank branch staff invoked the Banking Protocol and the police visited him at home. No money was lost and the police are investigating this company further. 

 

Rogue trader scam 

A woman in her 80s had builders explaining that they had been working on her neighbour’s roof and noticed that her roof also needed repairing. The victim offered to show the builders her property and they told the victim it was an urgent issue which needed to be fixed.  

The builders quoted the work (£1500) and told the victim that they needed to take the payment in cash only. The victim explained that she would need to attend the bank to withdraw this.  

At her local bank, the victim explained to bank staff what the money was for which made staff concerned it was a scam. Bank staff invoked the Banking Protocol, alerting the local police force and refused the transaction.  

Officers attended and were able to offer the victim advice and ensured no suspects were still on the scene. Officers were also able to enquire with neighbours and ensure they were supporting the victim in future. A fraud caseworker has offered her ongoing support. 

Forex
ArticlesMarkets

Why the Best Lessons in Forex Trading Tend to be Self-taught

Forex

Learning to trade forex can be a daunting prospect for new investors and there is often an inclination to buy into expensive training courses to prepare for the world of finance. While some sort of education will stand you in good stead for your forex journey, there is no substitute for real life, self-taught experiences.

To get started, you need to select a forex broker that offers an MT5 Trading Platform with a range of features that will make trading easier for you. This is crucial if you are planning to rely on self-teaching as you will need high-quality tools, charts, technical indicators and order types to enter and exit the market at the right time.

 

Getting to grips with leverage

Another factor to consider at this point is leverage. You will be able to trade “on margin” in forex, which will make your initial deposit go further. Brokers generally offer higher leverage for forex, enabling you to trade large positions and potentially increase your returns. However, it can also magnify losses, so you should wield this carefully when you start out.

Using leverage effectively is something that you can only learn when you start trading with real money. While training accounts can help you to learn these concepts, it is much more difficult to put them into practice in a “live” environment. Learning the right lessons about leverage as you start out will make you a better investor in the long term.

 

Understanding the psychological pressure

Many lessons that are self-taught are also related to the emotional side of trading forex. Again, in practice, it is easier to swallow losses and not get carried away with a hot streak of gains, but when you start trading properly, working on your “soft” skills will help you buy and sell currencies in the right frame of mind. Correct decision making can be linked to your character and disposition as much as having the best information.

This also extends to the psychological pressure of making trades on a daily basis. This is something that you will only realize when you begin trading. Even the best courses cannot prepare you for what it is really like to make fast, hard decisions that could affect your finances. That’s why it is also important to implement some degree of bankroll management, so your positions don’t consume all of your money. Experienced traders typically follow a 1%-2% rule for investing.

 

Finding the right information

Promises about quick profits from “trading gurus” and experts can be enticing for new traders but rarely is there ever a get rich strategy that works quickly. Rather than spending money on vendors that over-exaggerate quick return on investments, you should instead focus on finding good information that you can make use of to complete judicious trades.

Partnering with the right broker is vital as you will need access to interactive charts, technical indicators and analysis charts to identify currencies for investment. By practicing and putting these features into use, you can learn more from them and prepare to trade forex with steady, long-term returns in mind.

 

Learning for free

It is important to remember that it is relatively easy for investors to trade forex. All you need to do is open an account and make a minimum deposit. The low barrier to entry means anyone with a small investment can learn to trade currencies for “free” without having to spend money on an education. Arguably, this is a great place to start as you will have a blank canvas to work from.

It is crucial that you read free articles, tutorials and guides to educate yourself about key forex concepts to build a specific strategy or style of trading that can eventually deliver consistent profits. Without this hands-on, self-taught process, you will struggle to make sense of the fast-paced forex environment.

 

Closing trades

Finally, traders are focused on making profits, but central to that is knowing when to close a trade and exit the market. This is something that only experience can teach. Even traders who have trained for months or even years can fall into a trap of waiting for the market to turn back in their favor. Financial markets are inherently volatile and irrational, so you need to act decisively when both entering and exiting trades. All of these self-taught lessons are invaluable and will give you a better chance of succeeding when trading forex.

Recession
ArticlesFinanceMarkets

The Next Great Depression — Is Your Business Ready?

Recession

By Wisteria

We are living through extremely uncertain times regarding both public safety and the global economy. Even before the Covid-19 pandemic swept the world, we were teetering on the brink of a recession. Economists such as David Blanchflower compared the pre-Covid financial landscape to that of pre-banking crash 2008. If nothing else, this is a major red flag which should give you the motivation you need to take every possible measure to protect your business.

 

Is an international recession on the horizon?

At the very beginning of the year, the UN warned that we could be facing a global recession in 2021. That was before taking the impact of Covid-19 into account. Factors including trade wars, currency fluctuations, and Brexit were all amounting to an uncertain global economy and the Unctad report, “global growth will fall from 3% in 2018 to 2.3% this year — its weakest since the 1.7% contraction in 2009”.

Add the impact of Covid-19 to the already precarious situation, and we are now expecting to be hit with a recession rivalling even the magnitude of the Great Depression (and far worse than the 2008 financial crash). As of June this year, the global growth projection for 2020 has fallen to -4.9 per cent (1.9 per cent below the forecast made by the World Economic Outlook (WEO) in April). In addition, the road to recovery doesn’t look like it will be as fast as the WEO initially predicted, and they are now only forecasting a 5.4 per cent global growth for 2021, 6.5 per cent lower than the predictions before Covid-19. Low income households are expected to feel a particular acute financial impact, and global poverty, which has been significantly reduced since the 1990s, is likely to reach another crisis point.

Because of strain on the global economy, we are expected to encounter rising levels of debt in both developing and advanced countries, as well as a “global downturn that could increase unemployment and inequality”, as stated by Kristalina Georgieva of the International Monetary Fund. Redundancies and a decline in job vacancies on an international basis are expected to follow such a crash, with unemployment rates increasing at an alarming rate.

 

How hard will the UK be hit?

The OECD’s (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) most recent reports do not look promising. Experts have predicted that the UK will likely be the worst hit country in Europe and the economy is forecasted to contract by 11.5 per cent after the first wave of the pandemic. If we end up seeing a second of Covid-19 later in the year, this contraction is predicted to increase to 14 per cent.

One of the major reasons why the UK is likely to feel such a stark economic impact is our country’s reliance on the service industry for our economic growth, a sector which has been particularly damaged by the repercussions of Covid-19.

In addition to the economic factors surrounding Covid-19, the US trade war with China has caused a larger drag on global growth than anticipated, and the UK will be on the receiving end of the economic repercussions. What’s more, the looming prospect of Brexit poses different threats to the UK’s economy. At best, the uncertainty caused by both Brexit and the Covid-19 pandemic has created a hesitant consumer base in the UK. Customers are spending less and are more cautious of businesses than ever. It is a difficult time to maintain customer loyalty, as would-be consumers are tightening their purses in the fear of a looming financial disaster.

 

Learn how to protect your business

Times may be challenging, but if you think ahead, you’ll be able to safeguard your business against a recession. Businesses that prepare for every eventuality are the ones that not only survive but thrive in the face of adversity. Leaving it too late to implement a recession strategy could be your undoing, so get ahead of the game and prepare for a period of great financial difficulty. Here are some key strategies that will help your business face economic uncertainty:

  • Focus on existing customers — as we have discussed, consumers aren’t spending as much due to lack of trust and growing apprehension. Because of this, it is essential that you focus on your existing customer base during testing financial times. This will increase brand loyalty and grow customer confidence. Offer them benefits and reasons to stay true to your brand.

  • Put some adjacency and extension strategies in motion — a recession is not the time to start looking into completely new avenues of profit. However, you can’t let your services become stagnant. Adjacency strategy is the optimum solution to this — find an area adjacent to your core product or services to expand into. Extension strategy is similar: take your current service a little further and offer new and exciting opportunities or products to existing customers. Ensure that you have a flexed forecast so that the business is fully prepared for all possible outcomes of this new strategy.

  • Forge some powerful alliances — mergers, acquisitions, and alliances are all key strategies during a recession. Alliances offer a great way to expand your business without investing in anything completely new during times of uncertainty.

  • Don’t be afraid to outsource — outsourcing key elements of your business can save you time, money, and financial anxiety during a recession. Outsourcing your accounts department may allow you create scale and flexibility within your organisation.

  • Reduce inventory costs — look to see if your business has the leeway to reduce costs without sacrificing the quality of the services or products it provides. This will help to take the pressure off your finances.

  • Don’t sacrifice your marketing budget — often, brands make cuts to their marketing budgets in response to financial anxiety. However, this will spell disaster for your company. There is no time more crucial to maintain your marketing efforts and show customers that your brand is tackling the recession and winning.

  • Tighten up on your corporate governance — companies that see a downturn in performance are more likely to survive if they have good corporate governance embedded into their culture. Part of this is ensuring that the company has had a financial audit. If in doubt, contact an accountancy from that specialises in audits, tax advice, and small business VAT.

No one knows quite what to expect over the coming months and years, but now is the time to start safeguarding your business against an imminent recession. The road ahead does not look easy, but if you put certain measures in place and react in a timely manner, there’s still time to recession-proof your business and come out on top.

Cloud Finance
ArticlesFinance

Mitigating Financial Institutions’ Shift to Cloud

Cloud Finance


Accelerated by COVID-19, financial institutions are shifting to cloud to increase their infrastructure capacity and accommodate the growing demands of consumers. However, heavy reliance on cloud providers is raising new risks regarding the stability of the financial systems.

The need to be better equipped to compete in the present-day economy accelerated by COVID-19 nudged many financial institutions to migrate their operations onto the cloud. However, storing critical data in the hands of cloud providers is likely to create new challenges for finance market players. Marius Galdikas, CEO at ConnectPay, has shared his insights on mitigating related risks and maintaining the necessary levels of fraud resilience.

 

Legacy vs cloud — what is better for the financial sector?

Big Tech cloud providers, such as Amazon or Google, have played a major role in developing innovative cloud solutions and services. However, there has been rising chatter about the unbalanced concentration of power as a result of this ever-increasing data migration to the cloud. Recently, the Bank of England issued a report singling out opaque practices of major cloud providers, calling into question whether the current regulatory oversight is enough to ensure the security of cloud systems and sensitive financial data.

While security warnings might lead some companies to deploy a private cloud, Galdikas notes that, in terms of risk, setting up infrastructure, that matches the standards of Big Tech, from scratch is a difficult and expensive undertaking and, at the end of the day, probably will prove to be a riskier choice than choosing a public cloud service.

“Public cloud providers, Big Tech included, have significantly contributed to innovation in the finance sector, whereas IaaS and SaaS solutions are now the usual building blocks of every new company. Moreover, public cloud streamlines scaling, enabling to bypass capacity issues or sinking millions into underutilized infrastructure upfront,” Galdikas said.

 

Same goal, different approach

Fintechs and traditional financial institutions have been noted to take a different approach to cloud adoption.

While Fintechs at scale choose to migrate some of the operations to the private cloud, according to the Bank of England, established banks are doing quite the opposite—moving critical infrastructure onto the public cloud.

According to Mr. Galdikas, the two approaches vary for historical reasons. Fresh fintechs tend to use public clouds because it is an affordable solution to streamline processes and manage operations from afar. As they grow in terms of size and resources, some shift to private cloud to have a firmer grip on the security of their data. Switching to the latter diversifies the risks, considering that moving all of the critical services onto the infrastructure of a single provider might place the company in a vulnerable position. Banks, on the other hand, started with a long-standing legacy infrastructure set up and are moving to the public cloud as part of their digital transformation efforts. Even though their approach might differ, banks and fintechs share the same goal—to provide faster and safer services.

 

Distribution over different platforms to reduce risks

Overall, the increasing amount of critical data is hinting at a need for a more robust security framework. While setting up more regulatory safeguards should be left to the authorities, Galdikas emphasized what can be done from the financial institution’s (FI’s) point of view to mitigate the transition risks.

“The ecosystem that FIs operate in needs to be distributed between different platforms and providers both in the form of SaaS, public cloud, private cloud, and local Infrastructure service providers,” he noted. “New data protection laws are continuously being put in place worldwide, which makes operating a digital ecosystem an even more cumbersome task. For example, some countries, regions require customer data to be captured and stored, first and foremost, on infrastructure physically present in the country or dictate specific encryption algorithms to be used for such data stored,” Galdikas explained, outlining why distribution over different service providers might be more efficient in reducing risks than opting for more regulation.

He concluded by emphasizing that FIs should be leading the efforts in ensuring that systems meet the levels of fraud resilience necessary for the financial services sector.

“It is up to financial institutions to ensure that the operations they run and data they process is always secure, as they are the ones bearing the trust of their customers. Yet there are specific areas for cloud providers to maintain standards in, for instance, monitoring that safeguards are kept up to date with the current technology. Ultimately, in order to maintain the stability of the financial sector and mitigate risks, both sides will need to stay on top of technological challenges.”

Wealth Growth
ArticlesWealth Management

How You Can Build Wealth Throughout Your Life

Wealth Growth

You don’t have to be born with a silver spoon to build wealth throughout your life. You don’t even have to be a financial expert. A few simple principles can help you acquire and build wealth over a lifetime.

 

Go to College

The key to accumulating wealth is to make more than you spend. Going to college is one way to increase the likelihood of making a high salary. Do your research to find out what industries are growing and which ones are the most highly paid, and choose one that interests you. You can take out loans to finance your tuition costs, including student loans from private lenders. The process of checking your eligibility for private loans is usually quick and easy.

 

Avoid Debt

With the exception of your student loans and the mortgage on your home, you should avoid going into debt. This means only using credit cards if you can pay off the balance monthly and postponing the purchase of things you want until you have saved up enough money. You should avoid common mistakes like mishandling your credit, at all costs. One of the main benefits of avoiding debt is that you won’t find yourself paying interest rates that can eat up a significant amount of your income.

 

Save Money

Always having an emergency fund is the key to avoiding debt. Even the most fiscally responsible people may find themselves falling into debt when something unexpected happens, from a sick pet to a car accident to job loss. An emergency fund that initially has a few hundred dollars in it, then a few months’ worth of expenses and finally a year or more of expenses in it can carry you through these events. You won’t have to turn to credit cards or other types of loans if an emergency does happen. Be sure that you keep these savings in an account that is easily liquidated.

 

Max Out Your Retirement Account

If your employer offers a retirement account, you should put the maximum amount allowable in it. If your employer doesn’t offer one, you should save for retirement yourself via an account that you put the maximum amount into. You might think that because you are young you don’t have to worry about this, but that is actually all the more reason to do so. Money that you put away in your 20s can grow exponentially, leaving you in a great financial position when it comes time to retire.

 

Invest

On top of your emergency savings and your retirement account, you need to be investing. In order to really build up wealth, you’ll have to take some risk, so it’s important that you can afford to lose this money. You might want to work with a financial adviser to help you determine what the best investments will be for you based on your age, your goals, your income and other factors. However, teaching yourself about investing and doing it on your own is also easier than ever before thanks to apps and online brokers. Diversification should be your watchword so that you have your money spread across various investment vehicles.

Online Payments
ArticlesBanking

Limited Access to Baltics’ E-commerce Market Addressed with New Tailored Payment Option—banklinq

Online Payments

The continuing global e-commerce boom highlights old issues of Local Payment Methods (LPMs) some regions, like the Baltics, still face. Offering a region-tailored solution, Nikulipe, a Fintech company, is launching a new LPM to tackle the problem.

E-commerce in 2020 has seen an impressive surge as worldwide retail online sales saw a 27.6% growth rate with sales reaching over $4 trillion. This upward trajectory is expected to continue—by 2023 global e-commerce is predicted to be worth a sound $6.5 trillion, up by 22% from 2022 estimates. The Baltics are no exception in this—Lithuania’s e-commerce revenue is projected to reach $889 million in 2021, while Latvia and Estonia are expected to reach $345 million and $405 million respectively.

The continuing e-commerce boom, however, brings back one of the key problems some regions still face—current LPM (local payment method) options do not reflect the needs of global merchants, this way limiting the access for them and potential consumers.

The Baltics region is experiencing this issue as well. More than 65% of Baltic shoppers have a preference of paying through online banking, which has become the dominant payment method in the region. However, only around 20% of them have a credit card—roughly 17% of Lithuanians and Latvians, and 29% of Estonians—bringing limitations to consumers in terms of shopping on international e-commerce platforms, as well as restricting market access for international merchants; well over 60% of Europeans tend to abandon their shopping cart, if they cannot pay with their favourite payment method. In addition, global payment providers which service the Baltic states, are often unaware of the market needs, offering access only to a small traditional and challenger bank network.

One way to address this issue is by offering an innovative payment method, specifically tailored for the region, that would be able to connect global merchants to the Baltics market in an easy and hassle-free way. Nikulipe, a Fintech company creating and connecting Local Payment Methods to access Emerging and Fast-Growing Markets, is the first one to undertake the issue that the Baltics are facing, by launching a new product for the region—banklinq.

Banklinq will be the first Local Payment Method to address regional complexities by combining the local know-how and global experience, helping international merchants become more familiar with and trusted by local shoppers, paving the way to access new user markets.

“By connecting the largest number of leading local financial institutions in Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, including major traditional and challenger banks, we are easing the access for international merchants that are looking to expand their businesses and reach new customers, but are limited by regional intricacies, like regulatory processes,” explains Frank Breuss, CEO and co-founder of Nikulipe. “Incorporating region-specific payment solutions puts businesses one step ahead in the game as the local knowledge goes a long way with customers, who are used to certain ways of paying for goods and services.”

Built upon open banking and adhering to EU regulations, banklinq will offer a payment option that covers all relevant banks in the region, bringing the Baltic consumers to global merchants. One convenient API ensures an efficient market entry without being caught up in technicalities, as the local regulatory landscape, processing, collection, reconciliation, settlement, remittance and other processes will be navigated by banklinq experts.

“The Baltics is one of the fastest-growing e-commerce markets in Europe, contributing to the worldwide e-commerce growth rate of 26% last year,” observes Breuss. “This growth is attracting a number of new businesses to the region, but the current Local Payment Methods are, unfortunately, not fit for international merchants and make it more difficult for them to access the market. We want to change that.”

The growth that the global e-commerce continues to experience is, in turn, bringing back some of the rooted issues in Local Payment Methods which have not been addressed yet. The Baltics being one of the regions facing these problems as well, the region-specific solution like banklinq could be the answer to the limited access international merchants and consumers experience in Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia.

Real Estate Investment Purchase
ArticlesFinance

4 Tips for Purchasing Real Estate When You’re Self-Employed

Real Estate Investment Purchase

Statistics show that many people in America are taking early resignation from their jobs to start their businesses. This is because self-employment brings in some sense of flexibility and time to tap one’s inner abilities. The only challenge at times comes when one wants to acquire a property through a mortgage.

At this point, one may lack the W-2 forms as before or the documentation to show monthly income flow. However, does it mean that it is impossible to find a lender to offer you the credit you want? The answer is no, as several approaches can guide you to securing financial support for purchasing real estate.

 

1. Smooth the Wavering Income periods

Generally, a bank will provide you with financial support depending on your financial strength. The aim is to reduce challenges when recovering their finances, say after a delay in payment. It is, therefore, necessary as a self-employed person to think around this. It is where you focus on your income generation patterns.

Try to find a method of stabilizing your income for every financial year. It may be challenging to make this happen, especially since a startup can experience some teething problems in the infancy level. However, for the sake of creating an appealing image to the lenders, consider smoothing any irregular income periods.

 

2. Proof of Income: Pay Stubs Online

These days, workplaces are highly using pay stubs due to the endless benefits. These documents act as evidence for a specific payment or payments to workers. The other significant thing is that they are easy to create. All one needs is to find a check stub maker online. As a worker of a previous company, you may have used such e-files a lot, and they still hold your previous payment information.

While taking a mortgage, the financial service provider will want to see your financial history as a way of determining your credit score. Besides the stubs showing the payments, they also capture the taxes you owe or paid and other commissions. This is crucial during the mortgage application as it shows how responsible and capable you are with the finances.

Even for your current business, consider having the same approach-ensuring your staff has pay stubs as this will assist you when managing the payrolls. It sounds unnecessary for a startup with few workers. However, as you grow, the benefits will become more apparent.

 

3. Understand the Net Income

From your income, there is a lot of analysis which the lenders will do before making a decision on giving you financial assistance or not. One of them is to check your gross income but, most importantly, the net profits. They do this by deducting all the expenses and taxes from which they see what you have made.

They base their decision on these final figures. Sometimes, a business can receive a substantial gross income after the sales or service delivery. Many business owners fail to consider the impact of write-offs on taxable income. To be specific, all the running expenses such as meals, transportation, warehouse charges will all reduce your taxable income.

 

4. Prepare Sufficient Paperwork

Any mortgage lender intends to give you support after being sure of your current and future stability. This makes them need a lot of data from you. A full-time worker can have an easier time due to the W-2 form which they have. For your case, you may need to provide documents that show that you have been self-employed since you began business.

Additionally, they may want profit and loss statements and tax return files alongside your business license. Some even need your bank statements, assets, or any other source of income you may have.

Purchasing a property through mortgage support can be challenging when self-employed. This is because you lack documents such as W-2 forms. Even so, you have options in securing your loan. One way is through stabilization of your income and having the proper documents with you.

Open Banking
ArticlesBanking

Finastra and Salt Edge Collaborate to Provide a More Personalized Banking Experience

Open Banking


Combined offering provides instant PSD2 and global Open Banking compliance for an open, secure and personalized banking experience

Finastra today announced its collaboration with Salt Edge to improve the speed of compliance with the Payments Service Directive 2 (PSD2) and other global Open Banking standards, for banks and Electronic Money Institutions (EMIs) worldwide. The integration of the Salt Edge Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) solution, Open Banking Compliance, with Finastra’s core banking solutions, Fusion Essence and Fusion Equation, enables institutions to build the necessary architecture to support end-to-end banking requirements and compliance through one Application Programming Interface (API). The integration is carried out via Finastra’s open development platform, FusionFabric.cloud.

In an increasingly competitive global marketplace, banks and EMIs are under pressure to optimize their core processes, increase profitability, reduce the time to market for new products, and continue to innovate and personalize their offerings. The opening up of data has provided a good foundation for achieving this. In fact, Finastra’s State of the Nation research found that, globally, 94% of professionals at financial institutions agree that Open Banking is important to their organization, with 63% reporting that it has enabled them to improve customer experience and 59% stating that it has helped attract new types of customers. However, complying with PSD2 and regional Open Banking standards can be a time-consuming, expensive and complicated task.

Dmitrii Barbasura, Co-Founder & CEO at Salt Edge said, “Finastra’s commitment to unlocking the power of finance for everyone supports our goal to simplify all components of Open Banking and PSD2 compliance for both financial providers and end customers. The partnership extends our network coverage from our existing      customers to Finastra’s wide customer base, while the pre-integration of our combined best-in-class solutions allows end customers to benefit from more inclusive financial services thanks to Open Banking.”

Open Banking Compliance provides full coverage of regulated markets with cross-bank and pan-European API standards, such as Open Banking UK and The Berlin Group in the EU, as well as newly regulated markets such as AustraliaBrazil and the GCC. The comprehensive set of APIs gives Third-Party Providers (TPPs) access to instant and secure account information, payment initiation and a full-stack developer portal. Additionally, the integration provides added security, with a TPP verification system and mobile-first application to comply with strong customer authentication (SCA) and dynamic linking requirements.

Anand Subbaraman, General Manager, Banking at Finastra said, “Salt Edge has a proven track record of success with more than 100 API implementations for financial institutions globally. Bringing Open Banking Compliance into our suite of core banking solutions makes compliance quick and seamless for both Finastra and Salt Edge customers, while giving them the tools to create better and more personalized products and services. For the end user, the benefit is a much quicker, more secure and relevant banking experience that truly accommodates their needs. We are excited to partner with Salt Edge and welcome them into our ecosystem.”

Stocks
ArticlesCapital Markets (stocks and bonds)MarketsStock Markets

Quick Tips to Help You Start Buying and Selling Stocks on a Busy Schedule

Stocks

Very few of us are blessed with a lot of spare time at the moment. The pandemic has hit us all extremely hard, and if we’re not worrying about our health or our jobs, we’re looking for ways that we can shore up our finances with some good investments in case there are more rainy days to come. Now, you might think that the only way to make any real money on the stock market is to treat it essentially as a full-time job. But buying and selling stocks and shares has never been easier, and if you know what you’re doing, it is a great way to improve your investment portfolio.

If you want to get started trading quickly, then there are a few simple steps that you need to take. Some are about making you more confident and capable to make the kinds of moves that you need to be making to actually see a return on your investment. Some are about keeping you safe in both in terms of potential losses and from cybersecurity threats. Let’s break down the most important things that you need to know before you dive in.

 

Research Which Trading Platform You Want to Be Using

The easiest way to get trading quickly and to make sure that you’re comfortable doing so is by finding the right trading platform. There are many different platforms out there and most of them are aimed at different kinds of traders with different kinds of needs. For example, people in high finance who have been trading for years would not be using the kind of platform aimed at a nervous first timer who wants to keep things as low-stakes as possible.

One of the most common things that both veterans and rookies look for is an ETF platform. ETF stands for exchange-traded funds, which means that you can make one investment which translates into investing in hundreds of different funds. You can create a diversified portfolio with a single click. There are several different platforms that provide this, but you will need to be keeping an eye out for fees, the range of assets, markets and economies you can invest in, customer support and the regulation it is subject to. Instead of scrolling results for best ETF trading platform UK, read this guide to the pros and cons of each of the major platforms. BuyShares offers detailed breakdowns to trading and investing for every experience level.

 

Know How Much You Have to Spend

If you want to get started trading as soon as possible, then you need to make sure that you have the funds to do so. Most platforms will offer you a few different payment options, whether that’s through your credit or debit card, PayPal and so on, but the important thing is that you absolutely must know how much you have to work with.

Having a crystal-clear idea will allow you to sell and buy with confidence, and it will also help you to avoid spending more than you can afford. It is important to remember that there are no guarantees on the stock market, and that even a “sure thing” is vulnerable to fluctuations. Do your budgeting before you get started so you don’t make any mistakes you can’t fix.

 

Keep Your Finger on the Pulse

Some investors are what’s known as “passive.” That means that they are perfectly happy to buy their shares and leave them to (hopefully) appreciate in value with as little involvement from them as possible. Everyone else is described as “active”, meaning that they are constantly checking on their stock performance to see if now is the time to check out or double down on their investment.

If you’re going to be the latter and you want to get started right away, then you should make sure that you have the tools and the time. Choosing the right trading platform will give you a great head start, and many will have a mobile app to help you keep tabs on your investments wherever you are. Online trading has seen a real boom during the pandemic so you won’t be short on options.

 

Get Your Security In Place Now

It probably won’t have escaped your notice that online scams and cybercrime rose to deeply worrying levels over the course of the pandemic. These scams aren’t just about people getting text messages about missed deliveries, vaccine appointments or people lying about their COVID status. We’ve seen everyone from major corporations to small businesses face issues with their finances and data. If you’re looking at getting into trading, then security is not a step that you can afford to miss, no matter how much of a hurry you’re in. Check out your platform’s security measures and don’t be afraid to ask questions if you have any particular causes for concern. Set up a different email address for trading, take greater care with your passwords and be as careful as you can.

ESG Digital
ArticlesFunds

New Paper Predicts the Rise of Custom Equity Portfolios for Institutional Investors

ESG Digital

Managing customised equity portfolios in-house is one of the biggest trends to develop over the next few years among institutional investors, according to a new report from quant technologies provider SigTech.

In his whitepaper ‘How custom equity portfolios are disrupting pension funds’ ESG and index investing,’ Daniel Leveau, who manages SigTech’s strategic initiatives for institutional investors, argues that the combination of digitising the value chain of the investment management industry, ESG taking centre stage in the investment process and investors’ need to customise their equity investments, has created new opportunities for the industry. 

“Five years ago, the idea of creating and executing your own index strategies in-house would have been a daunting task. Today, it is 100% achievable. Custom equity portfolios allow institutional investors to define the investable universe and tailor their investment strategy to incorporate specific ESG policies and to directly hold individual securities”, comments Leveau. 

“By applying the concept of alternative indexing methods, investors can gain exposure to various risk factors that are optimal for them. One might want global equity exposure with larger downside risk, another a larger bias to small caps, whereas a third investor might desire a stable income from dividend payments. The same goes for ESG. No two ESG policies are alike. By owning the securities directly, investors can decide to what degree they want to be an active owner through voting and direct engagement.

“Investing is not about searching for an existing product that offers the best possible fit to the investor’s needs. It is about creating a product that 100% fulfils the investor’s requirements.”

Below we look in more detail at how ESG and indexing can be combined effectively and how the digitisation of the investment management sector now enables transparent, customised solutions that are created in direct alignment with the asset owner’s requirements.

 

ESG and indexing in combination

How does combining ESG and indexing work in practice? Today, investment products are mostly offered in “one size fits all” versions in the form of mutual funds or ETFs. An increasing number of index products that implement ESG policies have entered the market recently, but it is unlikely that these are fully aligned with an individual investor’s specific ESG policy. Aside from a lack of alignment, investors struggle with ESG rating agencies which often assign wildly divergent ESG scores to companies. 

The divergence is attributed to how the rating agencies define and measure ESG performance. Many of the criteria are hard to measure and assigning a rating for a specific criterion is often not as precise as using input from a firm’s financial statement. This ambiguity around ESG performance makes it hard to form a universal standard for ESG ratings.

Apart from this suboptimal situation, investing in a pooled investment vehicle – as opposed to owning the individual securities directly – such as an index fund or an ETF, makes it even more difficult for an investor to become an active owner. A pooled investment vehicle only gives the investor indirect ownership of a security. Investors don’t have the right to vote at a company’s annual meeting and it is more difficult to actively engage with these companies to constitute change. Lately, large institutional investors have increasingly come under fire for being anonymous owners and not taking full responsibility over their investments. 

Instead, Investors would be better off tailoring equity investments according to their desired risk factor exposure and incorporating their unique ESG policy. “One-size-fits-all” products are not the solution, investors need to embrace customisation and direct ownership of securities.

 

Digitisation

The commoditisation of investment strategies (e.g., through rules-based products such as index and smart beta products) is driven by technological advancements and has resulted in fee pressure for asset management products. Gradually it is also impacting the distribution process. Instead of offering pre-packaged products, fully transparent customised solutions are created in direct alignment with client’s requirements. To enable investors to profit not only from efficiency gains, but also from customisation, scalable turnkey solutions are now offered by service providers.

 

Rethinking equity portfolios

The investment management industry is undergoing tremendous change. Indexing and ESG are reshaping investor portfolios, whereas digitisation is impacting the industry’s entire value chain. Investors no longer need to look for an existing investment vehicle that is most closely aligned to their needs. They can now create a bespoke product that meets their requirements fully.  Custom equity portfolios are expected to become one of the biggest growth areas in asset management and are one of the industry’s most exciting new developments.

Trading Chart
ArticlesMarkets

3 Things to Remember Before You Start Trading

Trading Chart


Trading is not something you can engage with on blind optimism alone. To succeed, you require a specific frame of mind.

Professional traders buy and sell financial instruments, such as stocks and bonds, and time their exchanges with precision for optimum returns. They don’t invest long-term either, but rather make a succession of deals so that they can turn themselves a faster profit.

Still, the trading challenges are plentiful, and you can expect to face some degree of hardship on your journey. Instead of learning through trial and error, we’ve compiled some advice to help you get started below.

 

Know Yourself

Traders know who they are at their core and don’t buckle under pressure. They aren’t overly ambitious, nor do they rush their decision-making processes.

You need to be a headstrong individual if you’re to succeed in trading, eager to follow your instincts and chart your own path to success. However, it’s vital to undergo a measured approach and to know your limits from the start.

Small-time investors often use online investment platforms, but the pressures can be insurmountable if they’re inexperienced in the world of trading. Unless you have a sizable amount of trading capital you can freely squander without consequence, this isn’t something you can throw yourself into with vague hopes. Craft is required first.

Traders also bring much of themselves to their pursuit. You’ll need to power through stress, make sacrifices in your timekeeping, and continuously research trading strategies to polish your skills. If you feel you possess that level of commitment, you’re ready to proceed to the next step.

 

Adopt a Learner’s Mentality

Traders’ instincts are sharp, and they refine them over the sum of years. They also pair their intuition with learned knowledge.

If possible, find a mentor figure whose wisdom you can tap into. Regularly consult them for guidance throughout your trading career. Be sure to temper your expectations with the perspective afforded by your experiences.

Traders are smart enough to know that the learning process never stops. They’ll embark on trading courses to embolden their prospects and learn about algorithmic trading. These programmes will help you unearth market efficiencies, recognise profitable market patterns and make trades at higher frequencies. Algorithmic trading courses are aimed at professional traders and newcomers alike, so keep them in mind as you advance your career.

 

Anticipate Changes

Traders are often mischaracterised as deceptive individuals, but they operate firmly within the bounds of many laws.

These laws vary from country to country. For instance, Thailand has their own trading rules and regulations that must be adhered to. Foreigners are banned from operating in specific sectors, while business there is generally conducted in an intensely personal and formal fashion. Certain jokes are unwelcome, and you can expect any associates to want to know you deeply before lifting a finger in trading with you.

It’s essential to be sensitive to any cultural differences when you’re trading internationally. Otherwise, you’ll encounter numerous roadblocks, and time is money for traders. Conduct all your research of what is required in each country and then commence with your plans. 

Trader’s must be confident, intuitive, and educated if they hope to succeed in their endeavours.

Grow Wealth
ArticlesWealth Management

Try This Quicker and Better Plan to Grow Your Wealth

Grow Wealth

At some point in your life, you will face the decision of growing your income. If you decide to commit to this idea, you might have made plans to rise up the corporate ladder, put a small down payment on a new house, and build an excellent credit score. You may even have decided to set aside a certain amount of money each month for unexpected expenses. 

While these are all good ideas, you are more likely to grow your wealth at a faster rate by leveraging wealth-building strategies such as increasing your credit limits, starting your own business, and getting serious about investing. 

Let’s take a closer look at how these strategies can help you build more wealth than merely becoming a better corporate citizen. 

 

Increase Your Credit Limit 

When you apply for a credit line to increase your credit limit, you will be able to get the help you need to get your finances in order. The additional funds can help pay down debt and put food on the table. Being able to use your card will give you a confidence boost and make you feel more secure about making future purchases. Utilizing a credit line app to facilitate this process can be a more streamlined approach.   

Extending your credit limit helps you increase your overall financial security by reducing the risk of over-drafting or failing to make payments on time. In addition, by giving lenders more information about your credit history, they may be more willing to approve loan requests — especially given that they may not have access to information about your overall financial health.  

 

Start Your Own Business 

Starting a small business can provide many benefits to its owner beyond getting rich. These include increased income, better working conditions, freedom from debt, and the satisfaction of owning your own business. 

Being a business owner can be exciting and empowering. But you don’t need to sacrifice your lifestyle or give up all the things that make you happy. Successful entrepreneurs have made their business of choice work without sacrificing their standards of living. Independent business owners have found that being self-employed is more rewarding than working for someone else. 

As you build your business, keep your exit strategy in mind. Constantly look for ways to add to the value of your company. The more value you can create, the higher you will be able to ask for it when you’re ready to sell it. 

 

Get Serious About Investing 

When it comes to investments, the stock market is a great place to start. 

Becoming a great investor requires a combination of skill, luck, and discipline. With a little money and some time, most people can buy and sell stocks successfully. But if you want to succeed at investing, you need to go beyond simply following trends. You need to identify which stocks are likely to provide good results for you over the long term, even if they don’t pay as much as you’d like right now.  

Focus on stocks with a high multiple and provide solid evidence that they’re undervalued. When you’ve identified good stocks to buy, don’t sell them cheap just because they’re depressed. Instead, use your knowledge of the market to drive your price up while ensuring that the underlying business is healthy. 

Most investors will lose money when they try to time the market or pick profits. But a few dedicated people actually make money by choosing the right companies and time periods and then playing the stock rise and fall guessing game just right. They understand that stocks go up because corporations are spending more on advertising and selling products and that both factors affect a company’s earnings per share (EPS). They also recognize that EPS is the most reliable way to measure economic growth in any market. 

Growing your wealth is a big decision that carries significant consequences. But the benefits of making that decision far outweigh any drawbacks. To grow your wealth at a faster rate, try one or more of these suggestions. 

Smart Investments
ArticlesBankingFinance

4 Smart Investments You Can Make in College

Smart Investments

Early investing is an opportunity to set yourself up for greater wealth over the long-term. And you don’t need to wait until you get a career to do it. There are ways that college students can invest now, and some of them require very little input. People think of investing for things like retirement, but investments can fund other things as well. You could leverage investment income to travel, pay off debts, send your kids to college, and so much more. While some investments should be set aside for retirement, others can be used to enjoy life with.

 

Real Estate

Imagine living rent-free in college. If you can purchase a home, this is possible. You get roommates, and they foot the bill for the mortgage. After college, you can expand your real estate portfolio, sell it, or even continue living in it rent-free. Real estate is always considered a good investment because it’s an asset that appreciates in value if it is well-taken care of. If you purchase a multi-family home, there is even greater opportunity. Investing in duplexes and four-plexes can give you a place to live while also bringing in an income from renting out the other units.

 

Retirement Fund

Even an extra $100 a month into a Roth IRA can be a great way to store up for the future. You can start one of these as soon as you turn 18 as long as you meet the income requirements. It’s one of the easiest ways to invest for the future before you start your career. Once you get into the working world, you may be eligible for things like a 401K and company matching. These investment accounts can increase your wealth and give you a comfortable nest-egg to retire with. Some people retire earlier than others because they invested earlier.

 

Cryptocurrency (Maybe)

Right now, cryptocurrency is gaining in popularity, but is it a wise investment? Let’s look at what it is. In essence, cryptocurrencies are units that are backed by a technology company, a technology process, or a technology product. There are also meme coins like Dogecoin that are popular, but don’t have anything tangible to back it. Cryptocurrencies run on the Blockchain and in many ways are similar to stocks in that they rise and fall in value, can be sold, and traded to get something different.

Cryptocurrencies leave many people feeling like it’s just gambling. While others see the value in the technologies and what they can do for people. If you plan to invest in some cryptocurrencies, it’s best to think about it like the stock market. Don’t put anything in that you can’t afford to lose. Do your research to find crypto coins with good use cases. And don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Just like a stock portfolio, cryptocurrency investments should be diversified.

These are a great investment for college age students because the barrier to entry is low. You can put in amounts as low as a few dollars to start. There are apps and videos explaining how it all works, and some apps even give you free coins to learn more about cryptocurrencies.

 

Education

The last thing that college students want to think about is more education, but it’s a very wise investment for many students. In education for instance, teachers with a Master’s degree can command up to $3,000 more in salary in their first year of teaching. This rate increases significantly as the years of experience go up. It also qualifies them for positions in education that are not available to those with only a Bachelor’s degree. Nurses who complete a BSN to DNP program for instance are able to practice medicine under a Physician. They have an immense opportunity to diagnose and treat sickness.

Why is education such a good investment? It’s because once you get it, it cannot be taken away and you will always have it. College students should consider education in fields that are in high demand with a good outlook on income potential if they want to maximize their investment.

 

Conclusion

The keys with investing in college is to never invest money you can’t afford to lose and to diversify your investments. This means investing in different kinds of things. A diverse investment portfolio will be an asset during college and beyond. 

Saas Technology
ArticlesFinance

Zeelo Raises $12M for Expansion After 600% Growth

Saas Technology
ZeeloEurope’s leading smart commuter mobility platform for organizations, has raised $12M to accelerate its expansion in the US, Europe and Africa, investment in its SaaS technology offering and continued rollout of fully electric bus shuttle programs. Zeelo has recorded 600% revenue growth over the past 18-months, reaching regional profitability, by supporting companies in logistics and manufacturing industries, as well as post-pandemic hybrid workplaces and schools; enabling access for people in car-dependent areas to reach work and education by sustainable transportation.
The company works with employers, schools and fleet operators to deliver affordable and convenient bus programmes that provide a viable alternative to driving a car, in order to support staff recruitment and to reduce CO2 emissions from commuting. Through the use of Zeelo’s mobile apps, client workplace planning tools, route-optimisation software and asset-light vehicle model, costs are reduced by up to 42% versus using a traditional bus operator and CO2 emissions are reduced by 78%, with 30 cars being taken off the road for every trip. Zeelo offers both turnkey and SaaS solutions to multinational customers such as Ocado, Amazon and Wincanton.
“Outside urban centres, the vast majority of people need a car to access work and education. Amongst our shift-worker customers, 30% of candidates don’t turn up to the job interview in the first place because they can’t get there. Zeelo is playing an important role in improving social mobility and decarbonising transportation. In the past 18 months, employers have realised the importance of it too. Now it’s time to bring this to the masses,” said Sam Ryan, Co-Founder & CEO.
Zeelo will use the capital to accelerate US and European expansion, as well as rolling out its technology platform as a SaaS solution to fleet operator partners and encouraging the transition to zero-emission buses and coaches. The round was led by ETF Partners, with participation from InMotion Ventures and various angel investors including Neil Smith, Founder of Transit Systems.
“Zeelo’s focus on public transport deserts directly tackles the issues of car-dependency, transport emissions and social mobility. The growth of the business during the pandemic has been extraordinary and we are delighted to continue to support the business. The world needs more affordable and sustainable mass transit – Zeelo is defining the category,” added Patrick Sheehan, Managing Partner at ETF Partners.
Tax Help
ArticlesTax

The Most Common Tax Problems You Can Avoid By Being Aware

Tax Help

It is the responsibility of businesses and individuals to file their tax returns and ensure all taxes are paid on time. Typically, tax returns are filed with no issues, although occasionally the Inland Revenue Service (IRS) and local tax authorities may notice problems with a tax return that they wish to investigate by carrying out an audit. 

Tax audits can be done by mail or office visits and IRS agents usually only focus on certain items in a tax return, which they will likely request supporting documents for to confirm their accuracy. 

Sometimes, tax audits can become complicated, time-consuming, and even costly if fines are imposed, this is especially the case when a taxpayer is unprepared for an audit. 

Even though there is always a risk of being given notice of an audit, there are several tax problems and ways to solve them that every taxpayer should be aware of, which you can read more about in this article. 

 

Poor Record Keeping

One of the most common causes of receiving an audit notice is inaccurate, missing, or suspicious items either in the recorded income or deductible items sections of a tax return. Therefore, to ensure all their records are accurate and honest, a taxpayer should ask themselves questions like ‘How Long Should You Keep Tax Records in Case of an Audit?’, ‘Which records are the most important?’ and ‘What should you do when records are missing?’. According to federal law, taxpayers are required to keep copies of tax returns for three years, however, some audits where the IRS suspects someone has underreported their income by more than 25 percent, may request records from as far back as 6 years.   

Messy record-keeping can make it difficult to find documents that support the accuracy of a tax return and increase the chance of being audited.  On the other hand, well-organized financial records can make an audit a small affair, the documents and records a taxpayer should carefully collect and store include bills, canceled checks, employment records, ledgers and logs, legal papers, loan agreements, receipts, and shareholding income. 

 

Overestimation of Donations

Charitable donations are encouraged by the IRS as they offer a deduction in return for donating cash, clothes, food, and other essentials. One problem that arises from this is that the value of the donated goods is determined by the taxpayer when filing a tax return, and as a result, the value may end up being excessively inflated leading to a larger deduction that someone may not be entitled to. Ideally, the IRS prefers to see taxpayers value donated items at between 1% and 30% of the price they were purchased for. 

 

Mathematical Errors

Another common mistake found in tax returns that will gain the attention of the IRS is math errors due to columns not adding up or calculations for items such as capital gains not being completed correctly. Therefore, it is vital that taxpayers carefully check over their tax forms to ensure all the calculations and total figures are correct. 

 

Failing to Report Income

Reducing the amount of declared income may be tempting for some taxpayers when filing time comes around as it would decrease their tax liability. However, this is not recommended by accountants and tax experts, and if someone gets caught by the IRS for failing to report income they will have to pay back taxes, a fine, and interest on the money owed. 

 

Filing a Tax Return Late

It is important to complete and file a tax return before a deadline set by the IRS expires, typically the filing deadline is in April, May, or June with the 2020 deadline being May 17, for example. 

Taxpayers that fail to file their returns and pay any owed taxes by deadline day will be liable to pay interest and penalties. The penalty for late filing is 5% of the unpaid taxes for each month of lateness. 

Taxpayers can apply for an extension, usually until the autumn, to provide them with more time to complete and file their returns, although they will be charged a penalty of 0.5% of unpaid taxes and interest. 

 

Overdoing Expenses

Businesses and individuals alike can claim for deductible costs and expenses which can reduce the amount of tax owed, examples of deductibles are expenses related to clothing, a home office, education, donations, and travel. 

Whilst it is fair to list work-related expenses in a tax return, people must also be careful not to list items that could be deemed as personal expenses as these cannot be legitimately claimed and will be highlighted by the IRS for an audit. 

Filing a tax return is something that everyone must do on an annual basis and most of the time things go smoothly, tax is paid on time and the IRS is satisfied. Unfortunately, occasional errors are made when filing tax returns which can cause problems and potentially an IRS audit, however, this can be avoided if taxpayers remain aware of the possible mistakes when completing returns so they can learn to avoid them.  

Financial Health
ArticlesFinance

5 Tips to Boost Financial Health

Financial Health

Words by Donna Torres, General Manager of SMB Sales & Operations UK & EMEA,  Xero

Most people would agree that things like nutrition and exercise lead to a healthier and happier individual. This same principle applies to the financial health of your business. In order to maintain a successful and thriving business, it’s important to stay healthy when it comes to your finances. Here are five ways to boost your financial wellbeing as we come out of lockdown this summer:

 

1. Take Control Of Your Financial Situation

Establishing a comprehensive bookkeeping system is essential to monitoring your financial situation. Cloud accounting software, like Xero, can be used from any device – all you need is an internet connection. It gives you an up-to-date snapshot of how your business is performing,  giving you the insights you need to make the right decisions for your company. The time consuming accounting tasks are automated, and anyone from your team can access information and collaborate on activity.

 

2. Find Ways To Save Smartly

In addition to paying yourself, it’s important to set aside money and look into growth opportunities. Saving doesn’t have to feel drastic. There are opportunities to save smartly in all areas of your business, from project management to hiring. Making sure that you have the best deals from suppliers, negotiate better deals with long-term product merchants, and look at saving small amounts on a monthly basis that can be used for future projects are three ways to start saving. 

 

3. Check Your Insurance Regularly

From professional liability and property to product liability and vehicle insurance, there are many different types of insurance. Take the time to decide which ones are most suitable for your business. This will not only save you from unnecessary stress in the long term, but will also save you from hefty costs if things go wrong. 

 

4. Keep On Top Of Invoices 

Dealing with invoices can be a hassle. Monitoring them closely and keeping them clear, neat and timely will ensure clarity and will catch any errors as soon as possible  – avoiding unwanted mistakes that could impact the financial health of your business. 

 

5. Build A Cash Flow Forecast

Even if you aren’t immediately concerned about running out of cash, a cash-flow forecast is essential for any business. With the help of a cash flow forecast, you can map what has been going out and coming in, while getting an up-to-date view of your business’ cash flow. The first step when drawing up a cash flow forecast is to consider your revenue. Making realistic revenue projections based on customer buying habits in the last year is important at this stage. Then you should consider how much of this will actually go into your business’ pocket by examining your expenses. 

 

As we come out of the lockdown this summer, we all want our businesses to bounce back better. By following these five simple steps, you can ensure the financial health of your business easily and efficiently – and do just that. After all, healthier businesses are more successful businesses – and have happier owners. 

Insurance
ArticlesInsuranceRisk Management

A Closer Look at the Real Benefits of Getting Insured

Insurance

A lot of people often overlook the importance of getting insurance, especially if they still feel fine. After all, what could possibly go wrong, right?

But, it turns out, that’s one of the reasons why you should, as no one knows what exactly will happen. Maybe you feel alive and well today, but what about tomorrow or the next day?

Insurance is beneficial. And you don’t have to wait until something happens to you to experience its perks. And what are these advantages, you say? Let’s take a close look at them, shall we?

 

Protection for Loved Ones

Many people often don’t purchase insurance for themselves as they don’t think they will need it in the future. But, apparently, even if you’ve passed on, it will still benefit your loved ones.

One of the well-known benefits of insurance is the provision of financial protection for your loved ones. Since everyone doesn’t have any idea about what’s going to happen in the future, in case you pass, you won’t have to worry about your loved ones as your insurance can help give assistance to them.

In case something happens to you, your insurance will be the one that will take care of your loved ones’ finances, depending on your plan. It’s a safety net for them, even if you’re already gone.

So, in case you still have a sibling or a child that needs financial support for their studies, you won’t have to worry as your insurance will take care of it. The same thing goes for your parents or spouse who are financially dependent on you.

 

Protection from Expenses

Nothing is certain, especially these days. You can get caught in a car accident, get injured at work, or your fire can catch fire. When this happens, it’s not always easy to finance yourself and your family, especially if the incident has stopped you from working.

The good news is that insurance can help you with such expenses. Car and home insurance, for instance, can help cover property and injury liabilities in case of expensive claims should an accident happens.

At first, some may think it’s not worth it, but over time, it can help you a lot financially. While the coverage of your insurance depends on several factors such as your insurance provider’s policy, deductibles, and your chosen plan, to name a few, you will still be able to enjoy a huge deduction for the damages and liabilities in case something happens.

 

Safe Keeping for Future

Life is full of memorable moments. And most of them require financial security for you to enjoy without worrying too much about your finances, especially the unforeseen ones. To ensure that you’re always financially prepared for whatever circumstances come, your insurance will help you.

Insurance isn’t just about the claims your family can have in case unfortunate things happen to you. Insurance can also help you secure your future, as well as your loved ones’. It can help you safe-keep your savings.

Depending on the policy of your chosen insurance, you can save up for your own future education goals, your child’s education, your health, marriage, post-retirement plans, and other milestones in your life, as well as your loved ones’.

 

Peace of Mind

Life is full of uncertainties, especially today. You wouldn’t know when you’ll get caught in an accident, contract diseases, or whatnot, which may require you to break the bank. And because of that, thinking of them even just for a bit can be a bit stressful, especially if you’re not financially secure.

It’s hard to enjoy and live life to the fullest when you’re worried about your finances and your future. Purchasing insurance, though, can help keep headaches at bay.

If you have insurance for your properties and for your health, you won’t need to worry about your finances. In case you get caught in an accident, your insurance has you covered.

If something happens to your property, your insurance can help you with the finances. And if something happens to you, and you’re the breadwinner of your family, your insurance can secure your family’s future for you.

For that reason, you won’t have to spend so much of your time thinking about what will happen to your future or to your family in case something happens to you.

Nothing is certain in the world. And if you’re unprepared, you’ll not only suffer from stress, but your loved ones may experience difficulties too if you’re not financially prepared. So, as early as now, purchasing insurance is always worth considering.

HR
ArticlesFinance

Improve HR Effectiveness With These 7 Tips

HR

Your HR team plays a huge role in the growth of your company, regardless of how big or small it is. It can either improve or downgrade your company’s performance.

For that reason, aside from paying attention to your products or services, you should also keep an eye on your human resource management. If it needs some improvement, here are some things you can do to boost its efficacy.

 

Automate Payroll

Your HR team already has a lot of things in their hands. One of them is managing the payroll. But, unlike other tasks, this one can take up so much of their time if done manually. No matter how much they love numbers, it can still take a toll on them. Filling up the necessary forms can already be exhausting alone.

Manual tasks like managing the payroll not only eat up a lot of time. It can also negatively impact your HR team’s energy as it also consumes effort. Plus, it can affect their tasks as it can be time-consuming.

To help your HR team manage your payroll better and be able to attend to other tasks at the same time, one of the things you can do is automate your payroll.

Through this, your HR team won’t have to manually manage your payroll. With features like a payroll record keeper, calculator, and more, everything will be easier. You can also stay updated with the tax laws.

With this, your HR team won’t need to spend so much time calculating, filling up forms, scheduling, recording, etc. Because with a few clicks here and there, everything will be done right away, helping you pay your employees and your taxes on the dot.

 

Use Onboarding Tools

Aside from payroll management, onboarding is also one of the many tasks of the HR department that can take up so much of their time. Scanning hundreds or even thousands of resumes alone can be time-consuming.

Even welcoming new hires requires some of their time. You need to introduce new hires to your company, show them around, provide training, and more.

Onboarding can be a bit demanding for your HR, but it’s easier to manage if you utilize onboarding tools. With this, finding the right talent for the position will be faster.

You also won’t have to spend too much time guiding your new hire in person, as onboarding tools come with features where you can easily allow your new hires to see the directories of your company.

 

Communicate

Communication is key to a good relationship. And yes, it’s also applicable in your work environment. If you communicate better with everyone in your company, you will understand better. As a result, you can avoid conflicts between your employees. This will strengthen the bond of everyone in your company.

Additionally, this will help your employees to perform better. Because with better communication, it’s easier to pass the specifics to everyone in your team. As a result, your employees will know what to do and what else needs to be done to keep up with your client’s demands.

With communication, you can also improve your company as a whole. Because through this, you will know where you need to improve and which areas need better strategizing.

Hence, always communicate with your team. Also, don’t forget to be open with their opinions and concerns too, as this will help you and your company grow.

 

Train

Change is constant. – and yes, even in the business world. Therefore, you should also never stop learning and always ensure to provide pieces of training to your employees, even to your HR team.

Identify your weaknesses. Then, strategize how you can overcome it. Seminars and training will help you a lot as you can get a better view of the field from experts. You can also get tips and tricks on how to do better for your business’ growth.

Sure, it may take some time and might require you to spend some costs. But, eventually, it will pay off.

 

Build a Vision

Having a vision is important for a company and for teams to succeed. This will give you, as well as your employees, a sense of purpose and direction. This will define both of your short and long-term goals. Plus, it will guide the decisions you make throughout the journey. So, think of what and how you want to see your company sometime in the future from now. 

 

Your human resource team is important. Yet, some companies tend to overlook it. Pay attention to your HR department too as they can greatly affect your company’s performance.

Finance technology
ArticlesFinance

The History of Finance and What the Digital Future Holds

Finance technology


To understand how the financial world has got to where it is, it’s important to look at the history, in order to gain context. Whilst finance has changed a lot over the years, the broad definition of it has stayed the same.

 

Where Currency First Began

The term of currency is broad, but its roots can be tracked down to the caveman, who could have given someone something they held valuable, such as a shiny rock, for some meat that another had hunted.

In truth, the definition of a transaction has largely stayed the same but has just become more open in what it defines. Eventually, as communities started to form together into bigger groups, such as towns and cities, simple trades wouldn’t really work.

In ancient times it was the Sumerians, one of the oldest civilisations in the world, who realised that they needed another method. This was because of the rise of farming, which meant most people had access to food and had it in abundance, making it pointless to trade. The leaders at the time recognised this need, and invented money to help control how society traded.

 

How the Industrial Revolution Changed Finance

Fast forward a few thousand years, and there was suddenly an abundance of new technologies that were designed to make human life easier. One of the major ones, was steam.

Steam powered technology led to steam trains, which also led to railways and transport that was capable of travelling to different countries much quicker than ever. As you can imagine, this made communication and business more organised, as they could meet quicker and make transactions quicker than ever.

It was around this time that banks started to open their doors for the first time, and with different nations trading more and more, the governments of the world started to mandate and license trading.

 

How Assets Were Important

Physical assets have been important to the financial world for a number of years. When thinking of assets, you can think of gold bars, which are often held by banks and governments in vaults to accrue interest and hold something of value to strengthen their financial capital.

Most people will hold some sort of asset, whether that be something trivial such as vintage memorabilia, or something more concrete, such as property. Property is considered a major asset, as it very rarely declines in value, usually becoming more valuable as work is done and the housing market changes.

One of the worst assets you could hold, is a new car. New cars will lose almost 30% of their value as soon as they drive away from the shop, and after a few years, could lose almost 60% of its initial value. The market of second-hand cars is flooded with stock, meaning new cars offer little value in the financial world.

 

How Digital Assets Have Become Important

Digital assets have become more important to the business world, as it can help them with influencing buying behaviour. These assets can represent a visual product or service, or just be something that you as an individual or corporation hold.

A digital asset can be defined as anything that stores content digitally. Most of the time, it will be something that holds some sort of monetary value, but it doesn’t always have to. For companies, it could be something that is only valuable to them, or it could be something that has nothing to do with them that is used to turn a profit.

Banks often hold many digital assets as of recent years. Previously, they only had vaults of physical cash, but these days they’ve turned their attention towards digital outlets such as cryptocurrencies as they see it as a one-day valuable piece of stock.

You can also get images, photos, videos or any sort of online file or document that would count as a digital asset. Throughout recent history, there have been an emergence of new digital assets. For example, MP3s almost came out of nowhere in the early 1990s, and it didn’t take them long to start dominating the digital space and be shared amongst people.

You can identify a digital asset in three main ways. The first being, it needs to be purely digital, in terms of how you use it and share it. It also needs to be uniquely identifiable in its nature, and not something confusing. Lastly, it needs to hold some sort of value to whoever holds it.

There are many ways you can grow your digital asset portfolio with Unagii and their access to yields across many digital blockchains. Unagii is an automated service, so the hard work is taken off your plate as your organization’s rewards and monetary value is unlocked.

 

Fintech Explained

Fintech stands for financial technology, which as you can imagine, covers a wide range of topics. You could even explain the introduction of Fintech to thousands of years ago, when scales were used to weight money.

Of course, the technology has evolved quite a bit since then, but the core element of it has stayed the same. Aside from other ancient monetary techniques of collecting and counting money, the term became more broadly used in society in the last few hundred years, especially in the 19th century.

This was when money started to be able to move differently around the world, through telegrams or even morse code. This changed the world as it was known back in the day, as it opened up a range of different investment opportunities, and awoke people to the idea of financial technology.

It wouldn’t be long until new financial technologies started to appear in society, through something known as an ATM. Of course, these are very common now, but the first only appeared in 1967, after a switch from analogue to more digital finance.

During the 1970s, the world’s first digital stock exchange opened up known as NASDAW, as well as the society for worldwide interbank financial telecommunications, to help regulate the communication between financial institutions making international transactions.

Digital banking started to appear more commonly from the 1990s onwards, where PayPal was introduced amongst other payment systems. It wasn’t until the financial crisis of 2008, that fintech had to evolve once more.

This is where cryptocurrency was born, and smartphones started to dominate everyone’s life. This meant apps had to be built to help users navigate the financial world, this led to banks creating their own digital banking products and allowed third-party companies to have access to financial data.

The rest, as they say, is history. Contactless payments were introduced and have become a preferred method of payment, through cards, phones and even watches. 

 

What Banking Will Look Like in the Future

With many banks now looking to purchase crypto such as Bitcoin to hold as an asset, you can be sure that banking will look more digital in the future. Of course, global economies were devasted during the recent COVID-19 pandemic, which lost billions across the world due to business closures and lack of cashflow.

This has led to blockchain financial institutions becoming more popular, and this will only continue to expand. Financial technologies are predicted to become smarter, where the ways in which money is collected and managed will change and become more universally accepted across multiple platforms.

Finance
ArticlesFinance

Many UK Financial Organisations are Unprepared to Adapt to Unforeseen Challenges

Finance


Industry research commissioned by nCino surveyed 200 senior executives in financial services on their digital transformation efforts

nCino, Inc. a pioneer in cloud banking and digital transformation solutions for the global financial services industry, today revealed new research on the views of senior executives within financial institutions on their ongoing digital transformation journeys. All surveyed executives plan to increase spend or volume of digital transformation projects over the next 12 months, highlighting the importance for the sector.

“As the banking industry continues to evolve, this research highlights several emerging themes that are accelerating or playing a role in the transformation of both new and traditional financial services,” said Jennifer Geary, General Manager – EMEA at nCino. “We’re excited to see how technology is providing a foundation for change, and that investments are being planned to improve processes that can benefit both consumers and financial institutions.”

 

Transformation to meet customer demands

More than three quarters (78%) of respondents believe their organisation is unprepared to react and adapt to unforeseen challenges. Covid-19 is one such example which the executives surveyed argue negatively affected their ability to service customers. As a result, over one in three (35%) executives are focused on improving their organisation’s resilience to future disruption through implementing new agile technology.

Over half (52%) of consumers now demand a more personalised experience from their bank and, as a result, financial institutions have had to re-evaluate how they tailor the customer journey. However, almost half (47%) of executives say they do not have access to the right information to deliver an exceptional customer experience, with almost two in five (39%) struggling to unify their customer data across platforms and channels.

It is therefore unsurprising that a third (33%) of senior executives expect to increase spend on digital transformation projects that focus on improving customer retention rates. In addition, 31% of executives say establishing a strong customer experience is a significant reason for implementing artificial intelligence and machine learning tools.

 

Investment in transformation set to rise

Transforming their organisation through new agile technology is of paramount importance to all executives surveyed, whereby all state they are increasing investment over the next year.  Investment levels, however, vary. Over a fifth (22%) are looking to increase spending between £1 million and £5 million over the next 12 months. A slightly larger number of respondents (28%) are expecting a £500k-£1m increase. Despite spend increasing across the industry, cost pressures are the main barrier organisations face when looking to implement new technology.

 

Speed at the heart of transformation projects

Improving the speed of delivery of products is the main factor (40%) driving increased spend in digital transformation projects. With customer satisfaction now a top priority and the demand for loans rising during the pandemic, it is paramount that organisations overcome delays in updating their product offerings. For example, when making lending decisions for customers, over a quarter (26%) of senior executives struggle to make timely decisions. The CIBLS loan scheme, which supported U.K. businesses to stay afloat throughout the pandemic, highlighted why it is so important for the loan approval process to be fast to benefit both the economy and customer satisfaction.

 

Transformation benefits are not clear

There is a lack of understanding of the benefits new technology can bring to financial institutions; in fact, 31% of respondents state this is the main barrier for implementing it within their organisation. It is therefore unsurprising that over a quarter (28%) of senior executives feel there is a lack of internal knowledge or expertise around the benefits of new technology and therefore, limited internal desire for new projects.

 

Transform for good

Nearly half (44%) of financial organisations are adopting technology to respond to environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) trends. In fact, a third of executives (33%) are looking to increase spend on digital transformation to improve their organisations’ ESG efforts. Other areas organisations are focusing on include the reduction of paper consumption (42%), travel (36%), and branches (27%). Over the last year, it has become evident that some financial institutions can easily continue the service provided to customers through replacing paper and regular branch visits with digital channels. This has had a positive impact on the environment and therefore, is being implemented into ESG initiatives. While only 37% of organisations are establishing carbon neutral goals, less than 1% noted they were doing nothing in response to the pressures of ESG.

“Financial institutions need to prioritise between short-term and long-term objectives and work to align their products and services with their clients’ expectations and needs. Having the right strategy is important, but so is having the right partner and technology that can offer the flexibility and agility needed to react, adapt and continue to delight clients through any unforeseen challenges or opportunities,” concludes Geary.

Crypto Bitcoin
BankingMarkets

More than Half the Nation View Cryptocurrency Trading as Form of Gambling

Crypto Bitcoin

More than half (56%) of Brits deem cryptocurrency trading as a form of gambling, according to a new study from Gamban, a software company that blocks access to online gambling sites and apps across all of a person’s devices.
After speaking with 1,007 gamblers throughout the country, the research also found that nearly half (48%) would consider stock trading a form of gambling too.
Previous research has identified that excessive trading can be linked to a gambling disorder. Grall-Bronnec et al (2017) found that addictive-like trading behaviour can be a subset of gambling disorders. Similarly, a study by Mills et al (2019) revealed more than 50% of regular gamblers have traded cryptocurrencies in the previous year and that this was associated with an increased risk for problem gambling, depression and anxiety. 
Jack Symons, CEO of Gamban, said: “The aim of this research was to help us understand whether different types of trading are considered gambling. In a world where the lure of immediate gratification through digital platforms is increasingly tempting, it’s important that we take appropriate steps to ensure our users are protected from any activities that closely resemble gambling.
“Understanding whether the content we block should expand beyond the traditional forms of gambling will allow us to better protect our users. As well as this, we can then begin to provide recommendations on reducing gambling harm.”
In the last few years – and especially during the coronavirus pandemic – online trading, including cryptocurrency trading, has grown significantly (Nefedova et al., 2020) The increase in online trading activity has resulted in the birth of new online trading platforms, larger budgets dedicated to advertising on various social media channels and an increased overall awareness of online trading. Additionally, cryptocurrency trading has seen a significant rise over the last year with many day traders “shifting their attention to more speculative assets” (Financial Times, 2021).
Jack Symons added: “The results of our research, paired with current available literature, indicates that trading and gambling share similar characteristics and that some forms of trading may be closely linked with gambling harm. 
“Problem gamblers may be at risk when exposed to different forms of online trading. More volatile forms of trading, like cryptocurrency and stock trading, are more akin to betting than investing. So as of next month we intend to restrict access to platforms that offer these more volatile forms of trading to benefit the recovery journey of Gamban users.”
Gamban works with the the self-exclusion scheme GAMSTOP, and the leading treatment provider GamCare, giving those experiencing harm from gambling access to their software for free through TalkBanStop.com
Gamban also struck a partnership with Norway’s government-owned national lottery and gaming operator, Norsk Tipping, to provide its software for free to those who self-exclude.
Trading
ArticlesMarkets

Answering the Nation’s Top 10 Trading Questions

Trading

By Annie Charalambous, Head of Communications at ETX Capital

The past year has been challenging on all fronts, the least of which being the nation’s finances. With many furloughed or having lost their jobs altogether, financial stresses are mounting, and getting the most out of our money is more important than ever.

As interest rates sit at historic lows, people are starting to rethink just how and where they invest their savings, and trading is one such avenue that’s seen a rise in activity over the pandemic.

Over at ETX Capital, we know that making an educated decision is imperative to success, and so we’ve looked at Google search data to reveal the most common questions budding UK traders are asking, and answered them.

 

What is stock trading? (9,900 monthly searches)

Stocks, or shares, are fractions of ownership in a publicly traded company, that anybody can buy (or sell) depending on the perceived value of that business. Traditionally, you’d want to get in (buy) at a lower price and hold onto that stock until it appreciates in value for you to make a profit.

 

What is options trading? (8,100 monthly searches)

Options are financial contracts that give their holders the ability – but not the obligation (hence option) – to buy or sell a security for an agreed-upon price on a set date, thus hedging against the risk of fluctuating market prices.

 

What is a CFD? (6,600 monthly searches)

A CFD, or Contract for Difference, is another type of trading contract, whereby you are speculating on the direction an instrument may move in, without owning the underlying asset.

You are therefore trading on the price fluctuation – “buying” if you believe its value will increase over time, or “selling” if you anticipate a decline.

 

What is forex trading? (5,400 monthly searches)

Forex, coming from foreign exchange, refers to the buying and selling of different currencies to profit from the difference in their values. The forex market is the largest in the world, seeing over $6 trillion a day in volume – everyone from holidaymakers to big banks partake in the FX market.

 

What is leveraged trading? (5,400 monthly searches)

Leveraged trading works in such a way that a retail trader can open a larger trade with less capital, with the broker putting up the rest of the balance (i.e., the leverage).

Having larger position sizes means your exposure is higher, resulting in bigger returns and conversely, bigger losses.

 

What is futures trading? (2,900 monthly searches)

Futures contracts work in such a way that two parties – a buyer and a seller – agree to exchange an asset on a fixed future date, with the profit (or loss) realized at the time of exchange.

Your profit or loss is realised at the time of the exchange, depending on how the price has fluctuated since the order was placed.

 

What is scalping? (2,900 monthly searches)

Scalping is the act of placing trades you intend to keep open for a very short amount of time, ranging from a few seconds to several minutes, to capitalize on high volatility or sharp spikes in the market.

While there are brokers that may allow scalping in some capacity, it is a form of market abuse if done frequently.

 

How to trade stocks (2,400 monthly searches)

As with any investment, research is the first step.

From choosing the right broker (you’ll want to consider fees, liquidity, selection of stocks, and of course, reputation) to finding the right markets to invest in, you should always know why you’re investing in a particular stock.

Some factors worth looking at may include analysts’ projections for stock performance, the company’s financial results (or earnings), published quarterly, as well as the dividends it pays out.

 

How are commodities traded? (2,400 monthly searches)

Commodities are, typically finite, physical products that have a fluctuating value. There are both hard and soft commodities, ranging from gold, silver, oil, and other natural resources to the likes of coffee, wheat, corn, and even orange juice.

Their value is dependent on supply and demand and can be influenced by anything from weather to politics.

 

How to trade cryptocurrencies (1,900 monthly searches)

Like forex and stocks, cryptocurrencies can be traded as either CFD products or bought and held in a virtual wallet. While more volatile than other traditional assets, cryptocurrencies can be a profitable investment if, like any instrument, you get in at the right time.

When trading crypto CFDs, you can short or sell, meaning you can profit from the drops and not just a rise in value.

Investment Portfolio
ArticlesFinance

Different Types of Investment Portfolio

Investment Portfolio

Whether you are new to the world of investing or just looking to diversify your holdings, there are a number of key decisions that must be made. One of the first being which type of portfolio is most likely to suit you during your investment journey. Continue reading to familiarise yourself with the different types of investment portfolio and how to choose the right one for you.

 

Aggressive

Aggressive is one of the most common types of investment portfolio. It seeks out large returns and the high risks associated with investing in them and tends to favour capital appreciation over safety. The type of strategies associated with an aggressive investment portfolio will usually allocate a large number of assets to stocks and little to none in bonds or cash-based investments. They are suited to young adults with small portfolios. This is due to the fact that young investors can sustain market fluctuations and losses much more easily than experienced investors with a lot to lose. Most investment advisors only recommend this strategy if it is applied to a small percentage of your entire investments. If you are looking for a high risk portfolio with an equally high return on your investment, it may benefit you to check out the Golden Butterfly Portfolio.

 

Retirement-blended

With interest rates continuing to decline, the traditional retirement portfolio is almost obsolete. Retirees must lay the groundwork and take the appropriate steps towards building a substantial retirement fund decades in advance. With life expectancy rates surging across the globe, this is now more important than ever. If you are an investor nearing retirement age, you may benefit from a blend of both income-oriented and growth-oriented investments. A common example is stocks and bonds. By taking a step back from alternative investments and sharpening your focus, you can generate long-term growth that is much more likely to grow in line with inflation. This increases your chances of receiving a relatively constant return on investment and softens the blow of equity deteriorations over time.

 

Income

When you invest, your returns can be relayed to you through dividend pay-outs or stock price appreciation. An income investment portfolio is the name given to a portfolio that consists primarily of stocks that pay dividends. Income portfolios tend to generate positive cash flow. Examples of investments that produce income include real estate investment trusts, or REITs, and master limited partnerships, or MLPs. A real estate investment trust, in particular, is a great way to invest in real estate without the commitment of actually owning a property outright. A master limited partnership, on the other hand, is a limited partnership that is traded publicly on an exchange. These companies will pass on a large percentage of their profits to shareholders in exchange for positive tax status. Income investment portfolios can be a handy way of diversifying your current income sources and supplementing your existing retirement fund.

 

 

Speculative

If you are looking for a high risk investment portfolio with high returns, a speculative portfolio may be the best option for you. It is commonly compared to gambling and involves a much greater degree of risk than most types of investment portfolio. Speculative investments focus on market fluctuations and movements. Most speculative investors are uninterested in the fundamental value of an asset or the annual income it may generate. They tend to focus on how much they can sell it on for at a later date. Examples of speculative investments include real estate, stocks, currencies, fine art, currencies, commodities, and collectables. They may also include Initial Public Offerings, or IPOs, and healthcare or digital technology firms in the process of developing a cutting-edge product or service. Most investment advisors tend to recommend that no more than 10% of an investor’s assets are used to fund a speculative investment portfolio.

 

Hybrid

As the name suggests, a hybrid investment portfolio involves a combination of a number of different investments. It offers the greatest level of flexibility and versatility compared to other types of investment portfolio and typically includes bonds, commodities, real estate, and perhaps even fine art. As with income investment portfolios, a hybrid investment portfolio may also include real estate investment trusts and master limited partnerships. Typically, hybrid investment portfolios contain both stocks and bonds and are diversified across multiple assets. This allows investors to balance both risk and return and establish an investment portfolio that suits their own individual needs and requirements. It is also a great option for first-time investors as it exposes them to equity and tends to be relatively low risk.  

 

When it comes to investing, there is a lot to learn. One of the first factors to consider is which type of investment portfolio to opt for. From aggressive and retirement-blended to income, speculative, and hybrid, there is guaranteed to be one out there to suit your knowledge and experience of the investment market.

Recovery
ArticlesBankingMarkets

New Global Data on Bank Customer Behavior Shows Travel is Poised to Recover Faster than Expected

Recovery
  • Points transfers from banks into frequent flyer schemes are accelerating and trending ahead of airline passenger recovery
  • US points transfer activity already exceeding pre-pandemic level by 30%
Yesterday Ascenda, the technology company that makes banking rewarding, revealed consumer confidence in travel is returning quickly according to leading indicators from its bank solution TransferConnect, the world’s largest global exchange for frequent traveller miles and points.
TransferConnect facilitates the exchange of rewards currencies between financial services brands and a broad set of major airlines, hotel chains, super apps and retailers worldwide. The network enables banks across 40 markets to connect with 50 major merchants and delivers access to real-time points transfers for 1.2 billion consumers worldwide.
The newly published data is the first of its kind ever released in the industry and showcases how rewards currency exchange volume from banks into frequent flyer schemes has compared against airline Revenue Passenger Kilometers (RPKs) over the past 18 months. The analysis provides unique insight into how the multi-billion dollar bank rewards value chain has been impacted by the pandemic and where travel recovery is heading in coming months.
When COVID-19 first brought global travel to a standstill in March 2020, bank consumers naturally ceased to transfer their accumulated points into frequent flyer miles. Both RPKs and rewards transfers plummeted more than 80% during a 60-day period.
However, customers continued to earn bank rewards unabated on their everyday card spend as the pandemic unfolded, with growing points balances waiting to be redeemed. The year 2021 then brought the turning point, as news of global vaccination progress unleashed pent up travel aspirations and prompted a reinvigoration of bank point conversions into frequent flyer schemes. Since March 2021, that transfer activity has accelerated its recovery materially ahead of passengers carried. The effect is consistent across geographies and especially pronounced in the US market, where the volume of bank points exchanged into frequent flyer miles has actually surpassed pre-pandemic levels from April 2021 onward and is still continuing its upward trajectory.
In addition to these strong signals of returning consumer confidence in air travel, the analysis also reveals that hotel chains have capitalized on the pandemic to sustainably grow their share of global rewards currency transfers. Following the onset of the crisis, transfers into hotel points had naturally gained relative share as consumers were forced to opt for local vacations. Hotel points represented less than 10% of currency transfer volume in 2019, increasing three-fold in March 2020 to 30%. What’s most remarkable, however, is that the behavior change has persisted into 2021, even during the recent months of recovery, indicating that the chains have sustainably grown their level of engagement with loyalty program members.
Sebastian Grobys, Chief Commercial Officer at Ascenda, said: “As the pandemic unfolded, the world’s eyes were glued to plummeting operating statistics published by airlines and travel industry bodies across the world. Since then, there have been many attempts to analyse the slope of the recovery curve and make predictions about the future, for example looking at forward booking patterns. Today we’re excited to contribute a new and unique source of data that shows frequent flier mile transfers are rising significantly in a strong signal of accelerating recovery.”
Fintech Banking
ArticlesBanking

How is Fintech Transforming Banking in Central Asia?

Fintech Banking


By Abdullo Kurbanov and Zuhursho Rahmatulloev, co-founders of Alif

When we think about the markets driving the financial technology (fintech) revolution, London, New York and San Francisco immediately spring to mind. In many ways, it makes sense for these cities to be at the forefront of fintech innovations. Each of these cities accommodate diverse pools of financial and professional service specialists, attract significant investment, and boast world-leading digital infrastructure.

Since 2015, challenger banks and fintech companies have launched in these locations, offering new products and services that seek to transform consumer finance and retail investment. In doing so, they are collectively helping to empower society through digital solutions. 

While it is important to acknowledge the fintech ecosystems in advanced economies, we should not let these overshadow some of the exciting developments currently on display in emerging markets. Regions like Central Asia are on the brink of what we deem to be a “fintech revolution”, led by a new generation of fintech companies. Importantly, these companies are taking an agile approach by addressing localised issues through the creative deployment of technology.  

Tajikistan is one such country in the middle of a profound digital transformation. With the aim of achieving better financial efficiency and inclusion gains, the country’s fintech industry is helping to digitally empower its citizens. Moreover, at the regional level, by applying tech to address the current banking challenges faced by people based in Central Asia, such as remittance payments and Sharia-compliant fintech platforms,  the Central Asian region is set to become a global leader in Shariah compliant fintech.

 

International remittances

Admittedly, a core driver of economic development in the Central Asia region is remittances. Over the years, the mass migration of people to Russia from Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and some other former Soviet Union countries has resulted in economies that rely on remittances as one of the core contributors to GDP. According to the World Bank, remittances accounted for 33% of Tajikistan’s GDP in 2019 – equating to $2.5 billion. In Uzbekistan, personal remittances received in 2019 totalled 14.75% of GDP.

Remittances do play an important role in supporting domestic households and ensuring countries are positioned to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. However, the complexity and costs involved in arranging these payments can lead to people paying extremely high fees. Banks and money transfer operators (MTOs) are typically responsible for managing such payments. The costs arise when these operators need to engage with several intermediaries, not to mention the margin on the exchange rate. 

Research by the World Bank concluded that COVID-19 has led to a decline in remittance payments in Europe and Central Asia; a consequence of weak economic growth, currency depreciation and unemployment in migrant host countries.

It is here that fintech models can drastically reduce the costs involved in such transfers while also providing greater transparency over how the payment is managed. It is estimated that if every remittance payment made in 2018 to the Europe and Central Asia region had been facilitated through Fintech models, consumers could have collectively saved US$1.59 billion.

These cost savings arise from the lower transfer costs and fees when compared to traditional operators. The payments can also be arranged instantaneously, which ultimately reduces the chances of individuals looking to informal, high-risk avenues of transferring finance.

Evidently, fintech can have important distributional effects by supporting those who rely on remittances. By making the process cost-efficient and transparent, consumers can significantly reduce the amount of fees and costs paid for any type of remittance transfer.

 

Empowering the region with Islamic fintech

With most people in Central Asia identifying as practicing Muslims, the region is ripe for the growth of modern, technologically enhanced Islamic banking. At the core, Islamic finance is based on the principle that money does not have an inherent value. Instead, it is seen as an instrument used to exchange products and services – things that do have value. Islamic finance also prohibits interest payments. In other words, people should not be able to make money from money.

However, there is so much more to Islamic fintech than simply ensuring the core beliefs of Islamic finance are integrated into fintech platforms. Considering the sustainability and development goals of Central Asia, the fact Islamic finance promotes risk sharing, encourages financial inclusion, and is focused on social welfare outcomes, ensures it can play a positive role supporting the economic progression of the region. The provision of Sharia-compliant banking through fintech solutions not only improves the digital capabilities of the region but contributes to broader social and economic goals.

 

Creating a digital ecosystem in Central Asia

Digital connectivity is a key enabler of economic productivity, growth and market innovation. As more and more services are offered online, there is a need to ensure that everyone around the world is digitally enabled. Despite this, the World Bank estimates that nearly half of all people in Central Asia are not digitally connected. This is a concerning figure, highlighting the need for a long-term strategy which directs investment into the infrastructure and skills needed for the region to have internet access.

Private and public sector cooperation is needed to facilitate this digital transformation. For example through ongoing consultations and meetings between public bodies, and local companies at the helm of digital innovation. A digital ecosystem needs to be created, and fintech companies can assist in two practical ways. 

The first is through the practical deployment of accessible technologies that assist with people’s daily financial needs. From consumer and retail financing, such as buy now pay later (BNPL), point-of-sale financing through to transparent online channels that facilitate cross-border currency transfers, fintech companies are ensuring the development and proliferation of technology that practically address the common needs of those based in the region.

The second way is through education, skills and training. Digital literacy empowers individuals, and this can only be achieved if people are encouraged to pursue education that betters their understanding of technology, particularly when it comes to finance. For growing fintech companies in the region, it makes sense to implement academy programmes to create a skilled workforce. Such education programmes will also provide the inspiration needed to support a new generation of tech entrepreneurs keen to learn how to programme, thereby reducing the factors that might tempt younger generations to move outside of the region.

 

Fuelling growth and innovation through tech

Fintech is naturally positioned to help empower Central Asia and support the digital transformation of the region. From offering an easier and more accessible way of managing remittance payments through to the provision of Sharia-compliant services and financial education, fintech will be integral to the economic advancement of Central Asia. Importantly, fintech companies are heeding the call with companies like Alif applying the latest technology to ultimately improve the way people can manage their finances.

Based on what we are seeing unfold now, Central Asia could establish itself as competitive global hub in fintech innovation through the release of platforms, products and services that support issues typical to the region, particularly when it comes to Islamic finance. For these reasons, we are optimistic about the future prospects of fintech in digitally transforming Central Asia in the coming years.

Abdullo and Zuhursho - ALIF
Abdullo Kurbanov and Zuhursho Rahmatulloev, co-founders of Alif
Investment small business
ArticlesFinance

Investment in Small UK Firms Booms Despite Covid

Investment small business


By Luke Davis, IW Capital.

New data from the British Business Bank has revealed that UK smaller companies received a record £8.8 billion of equity investment in 2020 despite the disruptive effects of both Covid and Brexit. This record growth looks set to continue in 2021, with £4.5 billion of investment reported in the first three months of the year already, while our own research at IW Capital – where we provide vital growth finance for SMEs – reveals that 16% of UK investors are looking to back startups and SMEs in 2021.

The figures come from the British Business Bank who first started to track this form of investment over ten years ago. The Bank was also a key contributor to this record, supporting over 20% of all UK equity in 2020 – the majority of which involved the newly launched Future Fund.

The Fund, launched in May 2020, provides convertible loans, ranging from £125k to £5m to eligible investee companies. Technology and IP-based businesses have so far made up around 40% of the companies receiving investment, with Business and Professional services following at 26% of the firms. This still leaves, however, a significant portion of the market if not uncatered for then certainly under-funded – a chronic problem for UK businesses over the past decade.

SMEs are a vital sector of economies the world over, but especially so in the UK, where firms with fewer than 250 employees contribute over £2 trillion to the economy. They make up 99.9% of private sector businesses and employ around 60% of the workforce, and as such are crucial to the UK economy and its growth. This is a significant portion of the overall GDP and much of it is spent in local communities – something which has come to the fore during the pandemic.

Considered in tandem with the fact that before the pandemic, small firms were hiring at a rate three times higher than large companies, this evidence demonstrates just how powerful SMEs will be in tackling potential unemployment as a result of the end of furlough.

Investment in small firms also almost always comes with advice, guidance and an outside perspective that can prove invaluable to a business looking to grow, scale or simply survive – especially in the current climate. Through angel investment and other forms of private finance, entrepreneurs are offered advice, connections and introductions that can make the difference between success and failure or scale and stagnation.

This investment support comes at a time of record optimism in the SME sector, with three quarters of CEOs expecting overall economic conditions in the UK and Ireland to improve over the course of the next 12 months. The combination of optimism and investment backing could spell a perfect storm for growth in the sector that is so vital to the UK economy.

The economy in 2021 is already heating up, with it set to return to pre-pandemic levels by the end of the year, and its continued growth will be fuelled by the small businesses that provide its foundation.

The record level of investment reported in 2020 is great news and – from our experience through the last year and a half – not at all surprising. There has never been more demand to support SMEs and startups in their growth journey, whether that be through the Enterprise Investment Scheme or any other route to provide funding, and the trend is by no means over.

Our research indicates that a significant proportion of the UK’s investment community are actively investing in these firms. Opportunities in this sector exist not only for great returns but also to make a real difference in the life and growth of a business. something that is becoming more important for investors as they adopt a more altruistic approach.

IW Capital invested in at least six different growth SMEs during 2020 and the majority of them have grown at a rapid pace thanks to our support. The growth of these businesses ranges from sustainable packaging that pivoted to produce plastic-free PPE, to apps making seamless hospitality service possible during a pandemic. The unifying elements they all possess are passion, determination and talent, all qualities that the UK entrepreneurial sector has in spades.

Managing Finances
ArticlesFinance

How to Manage Your Finances More Effectively?

Managing Finances


Even if you think that your salary is not that low, you might routinely discover that for some reason, you have underestimated your monthly spending. Although you are not the only one, it doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t put plenty of effort to ensure that you have some savings that could be much needed when something unexpected happens.

It might be easier said than done, but it doesn’t mean that you are fighting a losing battle. In a moment, we’ll explain how to manage your finances more effectively so that you can live a more stress-free life. It will require a fair bit of self-discipline, but it’s worth the effort.

 

Pay off Your Debts

Once you have determined how much you spend on each category and have set up a budget plan that makes sense for you, make sure that you stick to it and don’t deviate from it unless necessary. If there are expenses that seem unreasonable or unnecessary, try to cut down on them and see how much money could save over time.

If there are any debts that need paying off urgently, then pay them off as soon as possible before they take over your life completely. If the amount you owe is too much for you to repay on your own, you can always consider getting a personal loan, such as the one offered by societyone.com.au. On top of that, consolidating several loans into a single one can help you pay off your debt faster.

 

Track Your Spending

In order to determine your spending habits and see where your money goes, we recommend that you track each and every expense you make. If you are going to use a budgeting app, it will be recorded and calculated automatically. A paper-based system will require more manual work on your part. If you want to be more organized, don’t forget to include recurring expenses such as electricity/water bills, insurance premiums, etc., in your monthly plan.

 

Make a List of Your Expenses

Once you have determined how much you spend on average monthly, you can start making a list of all the things you spend money on. If you are not tracking your expenses, you might have overlooked some of them, while others might appear to be unreasonable. For example, it doesn’t really make sense for a 25-year-old person to spend $800 on groceries every month. This might just be the case if they live with their parents and have a very generous allowance, but it’s unlikely that they earn that much money on their own. Another example is clothing. Let’s say that you spent $500 on clothes last month. If you make $2,000 per month, then this might be a bit excessive.

There are also expenses that you might need to cut down, even if they seem like a necessity. For example, if you spend $100 on coffee every month, it might be time for you to reconsider your priorities or at least reconsider how much coffee you drink every day. Although this is somewhat subjective, we can give you an example of an excellent way to do it. For instance, if you want to cut down on coffee, try to reduce the amount of money you spend on this commodity by a dollar or two each month. Once you have done that for a couple of months, you should be able to stop buying coffee completely. This way, you will slowly start getting used to your new lifestyle, and in the meantime, you will save quite a bit of money.

 

Make a Budget Plan

Once you have determined how much you spend on each category, it’s time to create a budget plan. First of all, we recommend that you try to stick with the same categories as before, but if there are some items that you feel can be moved from one category to another, then go ahead and do it. The second thing that you should do is to look for opportunities where you can cut down on spending without significantly reducing your quality of life.

For example, if you have decided that you don’t need a car because public transportation is sufficient, then think about how much money you would be able to save by not purchasing one. If you are thinking about cutting down on your phone bill, think about how much money you can save by switching to a cheaper provider or changing your plan. This way, it will be much easier for you to stick with your budget plan.

 

Conclusion

You don’t have to be an economics expert to know how to manage your finances effectively. Still, it’s a valuable skill everyone should have! After all, you never know what will happen in the future, and if you spend your money in an unreasonable way, you may be in trouble.

If you want to develop good spending habits, you can start with baby steps. Determining what you spend your money on is a great starting point, and you can use various budgeting tools to help you with that. Ultimately, you can think about establishing an emergency fund and increasing your savings.

Investment market
ArticlesFinanceMarkets

UK Investors Have Their Say

Investment market

Confidence levels are up, Millennials make their mark and interest in ethical investing hits new highs.

Confidence levels amongst UK investors have risen 20 points (62 – 82) in the last 12 months according to new research amongst 1100 UK investors (£10k+).

The Investor Index, now in its second year, is conducted jointly by London-based communications agency AML Group and research agency The Nursery Research and Planning and was launched in April 2020 to assess the immediate impact of Covid 19 on investors and the UK investment marketplace. The first report of its kind to provide an objective overview of the industry based on hard data – the study was welcomed as a barometer of post-Covid investor behaviours.

One year on, and still in the grip of the pandemic, the 2021 study has revealed some significant changes and ‘recalibrations’ amongst investors.

 

Confidence returns – but not to pre-pandemic levels

Over the past 12 months, confidence levels have risen most amongst older investors (55+) up 30 points (54 – 84), investors that are retired up 27 points (57 – 84), those that use financial advisers up 31 points (65 – 96) and investors with a portfolio of £200k+  – up 38 points (55 – 93).

The study has also revealed a disparity in gender confidence levels – with men indicating a 25 point rise over the last 12 months (61- 86) compared to a rise in confidence levels of just 10 points among female investors (65 – 75).

However whilst the results are cause for some degree of optimism – investor confidence levels are still 18 points down from pre-Covid levels.

 

Gen Z/Millennials Vs Baby Boomers – the emerging generational divide

10% of UK investors have started investing since the pandemic began – and of those new investors three-quarters (74%) are under 35s.

It’s a changing landscape with the younger investor bringing different attitudes and priorities to the investor table.

89% of under 35s have changed their investment strategy over the last year vs. 31% of 55+ investors. Younger investors are also increasingly looking to ESG products – with 27% including responsible investments in their portfolio compared to only 4% of investors aged 55 and older. Younger investors are also more focused on the long game – with 30% looking to longer term investments compared to 8% of investors 55+.

When it comes to investment decisions, younger investors are increasingly turning to family (40%), banks (30%) and friends (27%) for advice.

 

It’s a gift – investors demonstrate a change of attitude

57% of UK investors have changed their investment strategy since the pandemic started – with a focus on products offering ‘long term growth’ (46%) over ‘short term growth’ (30%).

Investors are increasingly concerned about their children’s financial security. 70% of investors are aware of the £3,000 wealth transfer allowance with 38% having given £500 or more over the last 12 months – with children the biggest recipients (72%). Indeed the average amount gifted in 2020 was £8087 compared to £5421 pre pandemic (2019) – a 49% increase and a clear indicator of the want for investors to safeguard futures for loved ones.

 

How invested is the UK investor in Responsible Investing?

Investors feel that ethical/socially responsible financial products are more important now than at the same time last year – up 9 percentage points (23% – 32%) with three in ten of those surveyed stating that they believe that these products will be more important in the future – up six percentage points (24% – 30%).

However despite investors acknowledging the importance of ESG/RI there is a continuing perception, despite contrary evidence, that it carries a performance penalty with investors ‘prioritising financial security over wider ethical considerations’ – up five percentage points (23% – 28%).

 

Younger investors look to DIY platforms

Since the start of the pandemic in March 2020, four in ten investors under 35 (39%) have invested more with DIY platforms – compared to just 14% of 55+. And while the younger investor has indicated a ‘happy to do it myself’ attitude regarding financial planning and investments they are less confident when it comes to their feelings about the industry. Just under one-third of under 35s (29%) are confident markets will bounce back compared to more than half (52%) of investors aged 55+.

Perhaps predictably, younger investors are more tapped into trends and news stories connected to investing.

39% of under 35s cited an awareness of the growth in DIY platforms with 44% familiar with the story around Reddit users driving up the share price of Game Stop and 31% aware of the rise in silver prices. Investors aged 55+ recorded significantly lower awareness across all trends.

Digital world
ArticlesFinance

Building An Inclusive Digital Future For Every Child

Digital world

By Sunita Grote, Ventures Lead, UNICEF Office of Innovation & Thomas Davin, Director, UNICEF Office of Innovation

Witnessing the scale of the global pandemic has shown us a paradox: as schools, businesses, and borders closed, our lives went online, children and young people turned to online learning; companies shifted to remote working; and our gatherings with family and friends crossed time zones over video conferencing. We turned to the digital world to deliver our groceries, discover new treasures and experiences, and manage our finances and futures.

The pandemic instigated a mindset shift and accelerated the digital future — but not for the entire world. Half of the world’s population doesn’t have access to the internet.  For many children around the world, the pandemic simply stopped access to lifesaving and essential services like education, healthcare, protection from violence— and the number of children living in multidimensional poverty has soared to approximately 1.2 billion due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It is also estimated that 142 million more children are now living in monetary poverty as parents lose their jobs and income sources.

1.7 billion adults still lack the most basic financial services, leaving them unable to adequately access and invest in their health, education, entrepreneurship – and the chance to protect themselves and their future in the wake of another crisis.

We need to build the infrastructure and systems that enables the most marginalised communities to access digital services. This means closing the current gaps in access, financing, capacity and priority to develop valuable solutions that leverage the latest technological breakthroughs.

 

Closing the gaps to build inclusive digital economies

UNICEF’s Innovation Fund aims to close these gaps by financing early stage, open-source emerging technology with the potential to impact children on a global scale. The Innovation Fund has grown into a $35M+2267ETH+8BTC pooled fund that has invested in 118 solutions across 57 countries, and provides product and technology assistance, support with business growth, and access to a network of experts and partners. Beyond building solutions, the Fund sets out to diversify the community of entrepreneurs that benefits from capital. We put special emphasis on supporting solutions built by the traditionally underrepresented in venture capital – to date, 40% of our investments are in female-led companies. We exclusively support  open source solutions to ensure that these become digital public goods, opening access to them and the value they generate to communities around the world.

The Fund’s investments have generated solutions supporting the global response to COVID-19. These include, for instance, the HealthBuddy chatbot that provides information and addresses misconceptions in 7 languages, built on Ilhasoft’s platform Bothub. UNICEF’s Magic Box platform is able to analyse and develop models based on data provided to us by our partners, predict the spread of COVID-19 and analyse the impact of social distancing measures on children and their families in developing and emerging markets. UNICEF focused our efforts on developing and accelerating solutions that can provide services to and insights on markets that are often neglected by the rapid pace of technological development.

 

Leveraging the latest technological breakthroughs for children

Blockchain-based solutions allow us to rethink how problems are solved.The technology allows for greater transparency and efficiency in systems, better coordination of data across multiple parties, and the possibility for greater community engagement in decision-making that is more difficult with traditional technologies or systems.

In a crisis that required a shift to digital services, we saw blockchain and cryptocurrencies provide value to the COVID-19 response.

We have seen UNICEF’s leadership in establishing a crypto-denominated fund provide new opportunities to new partners,  committing resources toward innovation, including for the COVID-19 response, and toward COVAX efforts. Chainlink, a decentralised oracle network,    contributed to UNICEF’s Innovation Fund and will provide technical expertise to investment companies around smart contracts. Binance Charity donated $1 million in crypto to support UNICEF’s global vaccine rollout and released limited-edition NFTs with proceeds going towards COVAX.

Blockchain-based solutions also have the potential to improve the efficiency of the response. Our portfolio company StaTwig is piloting its blockchain-based app by partnering with the Government of India to track and improve the delivery of rice, supporting their effort to secure food for millions living in poverty – a need amplified by the onset of COVID-19. 

Our newest cohort of investments is building solutions toward greater financial inclusion. The startups are  exploring solutions to make payments to frontline workers more efficient, facilitating cross-border transfers, developing community currency, improving access to saving and lending services, and more. This is the first cohort to consist of majority female-led companies; and expands our portfolio to Rwanda and Iran.

 

Improving transparency and efficiency of our investments

This cohort is also the first to receive equity-free investments in USD and or cryptocurrency through UNICEF’s CryptoFund – a new financial vehicle allowing UNICEF to receive, hold, and disburse cryptocurrency – a first for the UN. The CryptoFund enables us to apply the benefits of blockchain to our own operations and improve our efficiency and transparency at a time when we need to find ways to achieve more with limited resources. We can now make investments in under a few minutes for under a few dollars, all while being fully transparent around where funds are being used.

This flexibility and speed allowed UNICEF to quickly disburse funds and invest further in eight Innovation Fund companies developing features to mitigate the hardships of COVID-19 on children and youth. One of the companies was Somleng (Cambodia), which needed to quickly scale its low-cost Interactive Voice Response Platform to work with the government to send vital information about COVID-19 — and eventually run its Emergency Warning System.  We are now working to bring this flexibility and speed to our government and other public partners – by building and offering digital public goods to manage and track cryptocurrencies more efficiently through our Juniper suite of tools.

 

Building the new digital economy

We now all share the experience of a global pandemic and resulting lockdowns, and those of us with access to digital services found ourselves still interconnected in the “new normal” and able to participate meaningfully – and benefit from – the digital economy. Decentralised systems are generating unprecedented revenues and returns in the current market – with benefits currently going into the hands of few.

COVID-19 has proven that only when access to the benefits of digital systems is universal, can we respond quickly and prepare for – or stay afloat and thrive during – the next crisis. Imagine a world where solutions, data, financing, and talent are instead accessible and more evenly distributed as public goods; where scarce resources are channeled towards solutions that are designed to bring both financial and social value for all.

Emerging technologies and digital public goods offer an incredible possibility to realise this inclusive, accessible world – where the digital economy is distributed so that everyone, even the most vulnerable, holds a key to safety, resiliency, and future growth and opportunities. We must venture into supporting untapped, underrepresented communities in a transparent way so that, together, we can build a digital future for every child and every young person to survive and thrive.

Housing market
ArticlesMarkets

How to Ensure Your House Is Ready For the Market

When putting your house on the market, there are numerous factors to consider. For instance, you may ask the question “when is the best time to sell a house?” However, before you consider putting your house on the market, you may want to ensure that it is ready first. In doing so, this could help to speed up the process and minimise the risk of losing money.

 

Finding the Right Agent

Deciding that you want to sell your home is the first step of the moving process, however, finding the right estate agent to help you sell your property is next. When looking to find the right estate agent, you must select the right person, as this can have an impact on the time it takes to sell your home.

As you look at the options available to you, look for the person who you feel follows the best practice, meets all the requirements and effortlessly work to industry standards. Aside from providing you with peace of mind that you have the right person capable of helping to sell your property, it can also help with increasing your chances of selling your home.

 

Check the House For Any Minor Repairs

Showcasing a house that looks as though it has been well-maintained, creates an impression on potential buyers that the property has been cared for over the years. As you begin the process of putting your house on market, it is worth conducting a thorough investigation of your property to see if there are any problem areas you notice that could be worth fixing.

These tasks do not need to be grand such as renovating a kitchen, they could be as small as filling in any holes in the walls or checking for any clogs in your guttering. This could be done before or after your valuation, however, doing it before might help with increasing the value of the property.

 

Have An Accurate Valuation First

Ensuring that you have an accurate valuation of your property is a key factor when selling your home. For instance, if you undervalue your home and it goes onto the property with too low of a value, whilst you may generate a lot of interest, if you were to sell at such a low cost then you will also lose money.

As you look to put your house onto the market, you may want to consider house valuation surveys to determine what price your property should be listed at. If you are wanting to value your house, firms such as GB Home Surveys can provide you with an accurate overall value of your property. Investing in such a service will help give you peace of mind that there are no potential pitfalls that could cause a surprise.

 

Worth Going Neutral

When looking at any property, neutral tones and colours tend to be the most appealing to potential buyers. In addition to brightening up the home and creating the illusion that rooms are a touch bigger than they are, neutral tones will help those viewing the property to envision themselves living there.

 

Ultimately, most of the updates that can be done to prepare your home for the market are unlikely to damage your bank account. Instead, they can help to increase the overall value of your property and potentially selling it far quicker – so it is worth considering implementing one of these strategies before you put your house on the market.

Wealth management
ArticlesWealth Management

Digital Adoption in Wealth Management in 2021

Wealth management

By Will Bailey, Chief Strategy Officer, InvestCloud

Just over one year ago, the world of wealth management was forced to turn digital overnight.

For many in the sector, the resulting digital drive forced technology adoption faster than we had ever seen. A KPMG study, conducted in April 2021, finds that 74 percent of organisations have accelerated operational digitisation, compared to 50 percent in August 2020 – showing the direct impact of the pandemic on priorities. But while the pace of digital adoption has increased, there are still many opportunities to innovate and differentiate a firm and ensure a better competitive advantage through technology.

But first, there needs to be a better understanding of digital adoption, and what it can achieve.

 

Adoption to date

Traditionally, many firms have geared digital adoption to the back-office – streamlining processes and simplifying human input. This of course makes perfect sense in terms of reducing costs, but it often also comes at the cost of improving the client experience.

The “point solution” approach, caused many in the industry to use digital as a means to solve specific business pain points – firms are now buried under point solutions for client onboarding, portfolio management, and report generation. Driven by the desire to grow and retain clients or find operational efficiency, managers made these one-off changes to keep with the times or to offer specific add-on functionality to remain relevant to clients. But relying on this piecemeal approach alone will not suffice and has resulted in fragmented operating environments that still rely on human processes or Microsoft Excel to see across the organisation.

The problem with the “point solution” approach is demonstrated in a report published in April 2021. It found that 63 percent of wealth platforms show significant digital capability gaps compared to investor expectations. And just 37 percent of investors give their platforms top scores for the digital experience.  This highlights a significant gap between investor expectations and the tools wealth managers actually need in order to carry out their job.

Those who have gotten digital right recognise it as a core component of their client engagement and servicing strategy. Digital must be an extension of the brand and the ongoing dialogue between client and advisor. This requires wealth managers eschew point solutions in exchange for a holistic and consistent dialogue with clients.

This move in how we view digital will help meet the rapidly shifting attitudes amongst clients. Clients now require instant access to information and the ability to take action; accessible at anytime, anywhere and on any device of their choosing. Firms who make the effort to improve their digital offering will continue to earn their place to compete in the market — whilst those who do not will be rendered obsolete.

 

The current environment

The pandemic saw digital transition from a “nice to have” to business critical. As we look to exit from the pandemic, digital’s role in wealth management will not lessen but will continue to increase as client behaviours establish the “new normal.”

Wealth managers pride themselves on delivering great client experiences, either in plush offices or wherever their clients demand. Client expectations – already shifting towards digital-first – have now been irrevocably changed as they become used to on-demand services.

The basics of client engagement need to be re-considered. What can clients access online? What do they view? What do we need them to see? These questions must be answered – but managers must answer these with an empathetic lens applied to ensure the client feels like their experience is individual to them.

Increasingly, this is leading to a rise in the notion of delivering holistic advice via digital.

 

Defining digital holistic wellness

Holistic wellness is about moving beyond traditional wealth management and brokerage services towards catering to a client’s entire financial life and beyond. It means managers can go beyond the traditional remit and get even closer to clients – becoming the center of their financial lives and extending to cover all assets.

But with a greater remit, managers face more complexity. This is where digital delivers value.

Digital tools allow managers to create holistic wellness by capturing information about their clients that goes far beyond simply finances. This includes health, family, physical assets, and life goals. It develops a complete view of the client by deploying digital tools that allow the clients to share information in their own time over the course of their relationship with an adviser.

This begins right at the start of the relationship with dedicated pre-client portals that facilitate engaged prospects to seamlessly become clients and provide advisors and clients with digital tools to give a holistic view of the future. This – combined with behavioural science, machine learning and amplified intelligence tools – allows advisers to foster deep relationships quickly and intuitively with clients, rather than taking months to build up acquired knowledge via traditional means.

Ultimately, this empowers the client with community, knowledge, and a sense of relief. This is critical at a time of unstable financial markets and where advisers cannot have physical interactions with clients.

 

2021 and beyond

As we look to exit from the pandemic, wealth management will continue to digitise.

The “old think” technology adoption approach that creates fragmented experiences will give way to “new think,” digital client and adviser interactions that are part of one continuous relationship.

New think requires managers to challenge orthodoxy and resist the dual threats of increasing commoditisation and fee compression facing the sector. To achieve new think, every manager must buy in to the thinking that every digital journey starts with the client and each client is unique, the digital journey must support the uniqueness while enabling standard practices and procedures to allow for scale.

This is why providing holistic wellness is so important to the future of many advice firms – it further resists issues facing wealth managers. Provided both digitally and via high-touch human contact, holistic wellness creates a “sticky” experience for clients, making them more likely to stay with you and even expand share of assets if you can provide a more complete service offering.

While the sector might be looking forward to a return to normal in the coming months, now is the time to review technology adoption to date and think about how digital can enable the business and unlock new revenue streams. The opportunities are there – so long as comprehensive digital solutions are embraced, and everything is designed with the client in mind.