All posts by Akeela Zahair

Saving money
ArticlesBankingRegulationTransactional and Investment Banking

Simple Ways to Save Money That Often Go Overlooked

Saving money

One of the most fundamental concepts of generating wealth is knowing how to save money. When you master the art of stretching your earnings further, you have more resources to invest and save towards a more secure future. While shopping around for the best price, using coupons, and other common savings tactics are ideal, other strategies go overlooked, costing you hundreds of dollars each year. Continue reading to learn more. 

 

Skip ATM Fees

When you need access to cash, the ATM is the fastest way to retrieve it. It saves you from standing in long lines at the bank and allows you to get money 24/7. Be that as it may, you incur a fee when you use ATMs outside of your bank’s network. The fee might only be $2-5, but when you calculate that over the number of times you use the ATM in a month, it adds up. Not to mention, most banks charge an additional fee for using out-of-network ATMs. You can save several dollars every year by merely using no-fee ATMs or making purchases using the debit card linked to your bank account. 

 

Overdraft Protection

Even the most financially organized person can overlook a bank transaction. You forget that your cell phone bill is on automatic withdrawal. The funds aren’t available in your checking account. The payment gets returned, and you’re left with a $25-$35 fee to cover. While setting reminders can reduce the chances of overdraft fees, there’s another solution – overdraft protection. This is an “insurance” policy offered by banks where transactions totaling more than your available balance are honored or paid using a linked savings account, saving you hundreds in fees each month. 

 

Rebates

Using coupons or taking advantage of sales when making a purchase are common ways to save money, but they’re not the only solutions. Most people tend to overlook rebate opportunities. Though not applied at the time of purchase, rebates can quickly add up. If you frequently shop online, applying for an Amazon rebate could save you hundreds of dollars on everyday purchases. Believe it or not, there are several cashback and rebate programs you can sign up for to save on everything from groceries to apparel. 

 

Buy Generic

As a consumer, you’ll always pay for the brand’s name and reputation, from your medications to your clothes. For example, a pair of athletic shoes from Payless shoe store will cost you less than a pair you purchase from Nike. Since Nike is the more popular brand, it will always be more expensive than a generic brand from your local retailer. However, if you dig deeper, you’ll learn that these shoes are made in the same factories using the same materials, ultimately providing you with the same quality. So, it’s safe to say that you would save yourself hundreds if not thousands of dollars by being open-minded about generic or lesser-known brands. 

 

Timeliness

When it comes to wasting money, timeliness is a huge factor. When you don’t pay your bills in a timely manner, you incur late fees, penalties, and sometimes added interest. Depending on how frequently you practice this behavior, you could be watching hundreds of thousands of dollars go down the drain. You can remedy this problem by ensuring that you pay your bills on time. Set up automatic payment plans or set reminders to ensure that you have the available funds to cover the bill. If you’re having difficulty keeping up with the due dates, talking with service providers about making adjustments is recommended. 

As the saying goes, “A penny saved is a penny earned.” On the surface, these habits may not seem like much. Incurring a $2 ATM or $35 overdraft fee, spending more on a popular brand, or missing the deadline for a utility or credit card bill seems minuscule, but if you were to add it up over the course of a month or year, chances are you’d be surprised. Keep more of your money in your pocket by developing better financial habits and taking advantage of the resources available to help you save more each day.

Plan A-B
ArticlesFinance

How to Know When to Use an Alternative and When to Stay the Mainstream Course

Plan A-B

At some point in your life, you have been encouraged to think outside the box. In the simplest terms, it means to consider something that stands outside the mainstream. However, that advice needs a lot more nuance to be truly useful. You don’t want to take a hostile view toward the mainstream solution. Most of the time, the mainstream solution is the best one. After all, that is how it became the mainstream in the first place. It is the thing that works most often.

That said, the typical solution does not work all the time. There are reasons for that. We are all different and have different needs. Some situations are outside the norm so they need outside the box thinking. It is not always obvious which situations require an alternative solution.

Some things are obvious. You don’t want alternative pilots who did alternative pilot training. That is clearly a very bad idea. You don’t want alternative electricians who went to alternative electrician school. You only need to try alternative food products to know you don’t want alternative food.

You also want traditional term life insurance. You need an insurance company that is going to be there over the long term, and will cover you in predictable and comprehensive ways. You can find non-traditional value if you shop around. Get your term life quotes to find a plan that’s right for you. There is no alternative to good insurance. Here are a few things where alternatives are more appropriate:

 

Alternative Business Financing

Right now there is a lot of interest in alternative business financing. It is not easy to find financing for startups from traditional sources. This is especially true for tech startups. They are often founded by people who had an idea, a dream, and some space in their mother’s basement. What they didn’t have was money. They also lacked the ability to get a bank loan.

Fortunately, they had their idea during a time of angel investors and crowdfunding. some of the most interesting products have made their way to market with the help of alternative financing. Fitbit is one such example. It was able to survive long enough to be a real competitor to Wear OS and was eventually purchased by google. For many startups, the alternative financing route is the better first choice.

 

Alternative Diets

All special diets are alternative diets. You have the USDA guidelines. Then, you have everything else. Such guidelines are a good general rule for the general public. But if you are diabetic with special needs, you need an alternative diet. This applies for all sorts of situations such as food allergies. Celiac disease is no fun and requires a diet without gluten. Peanut allergies can be life-threatening. Peanut products are in more ingredients than you might think.

When it comes to what you can and cannot eat. You need to listen to your doctor. They might even refer you to a dietary specialist. Some people respond best to well considered, highly curated meal plans. You can’t just eat like everyone else. And you can’t take the well meaning advice of your friends and family. When it comes to your special needs diet, you have to think outside the big box supermarket advertising and look to alternatives more tailored to your needs.

 

Alternative Tech

Many people suffer from RSI because they use a computer all day. We interface with the computer via keyboards, trackpads, and mice. The keyboard as we know it was not designed for comfort or ergonomic health. The good news is there are alternative keyboards you can buy that can give you a better chance of avoiding RSI. The same is true for pointing devices. You have to look beyond the mainstream to find them. But they are there. Millions swear by them.

Don’t despise the mainstream. It is mainstream because it works most of the time for most people. But you are not most people. You are uniquely you. Sometimes you have to walk a different path. If you are looking for business financing, a special diet, or special tech for special needs, think outside the box. Many brilliant alternatives await.

Stimulus Check
Funds

8 Great Ways to Use Your Stimulus Check

Stimulus Check

You’re getting the stimulus check, which is great news for those experiencing financial hardship. Now, it’s time to think about how you’re going to use it. The following are a few ways to help yourself and the nation’s economy.

  1. Clear Debts

One of the best suggestions on how to use stimulus check money is to pay down some debt. If you can decrease the amount you owe, the money saved going forward can be used to buy a new car or maybe even start a business. You’ll be freer, and that’s priceless.

  1. Vacation

Face it, people have had a rough year, and if you want a vacation, then maybe that’s the best thing you can do. It’s a way to recharge your batteries and feel good again. The vaccine is going to reopen things soon, so just plan your vacation with this cash. Stay within the US to boost the economy.

  1. Treat Yourself

Maybe you’ve been a little wary about spending because of everything going on. Things are turning around, so why not consider treating yourself with this check? There must be something you’ve wanted for a long time, like an entertainment center or something similar.

  1. Sustainability

The pandemic has taught us the value of self-sustainability. You can use this check to start your journey. There are many ways you can do this, from buying a chicken coup to have access to fresh eggs at home or investing in a greenhouse to grow vegetables.

  1. Home Repairs

Some folks have been sitting on much-needed home repairs for some time. It’s time to address those repairs, and you can use the check for that. You’ll be stimulating the local economy if you use a repair person from your community. Your home will function a lot better, so it’s a wise decision.

  1. Car Repairs

Maybe it’s not your home that needs to be repaired but your car. People sometimes put off repairs as long as the vehicle is still running. You don’t have to take that risk because you have this check coming. You’ll be supporting mechanics, and that’s a good thing to do during these times. Have an inspection done to see what needs fixing.

  1. Invest

If you feel like you’ve got enough money saved, then consider investing. Granted, there are markets where you might not want to invest just yet, especially if they’re in trouble, but there are a few industries still thriving. Do your research and find out where it might be a good idea to invest. This is an excellent way to ensure that your wealth keeps growing; it’s not like these checks will keep coming though they probably should because they are doing a lot of good.

  1. Save

Sometimes, the smartest thing you could do is just save the money. Maybe you want to make sure you have the cash for your kids to go to college. This could go a long way in making that a reality for you. Maybe you just want to save to buy your kid’s first car. There are many reasons to put your money away, so if there’s nothing else, then this is your wisest move. You don’t want to waste money frivolously, so just keep that in mind.

These are some ways you can use the stimulus check coming your way. You can use other ways, but you know your financial situation and goals, so choose carefully.

Female Investor
ArticlesBankingTransactional and Investment Banking

Here Is What Your Company Can Do to Attract More Women Investors

Female Investor

Women make up about 50% of the population while controlling only 30% of the wealth. This is the worldwide statistic that is set to dramatically change in the right direction over the course of the next decade. As bad as the numbers appear, they actually represent good news. This is a big improvement that is set to continue. Women’s growing wealth prompts the need for changes in the banking sector. That said, it is not all good news. MSN goes on to say:

“Although a third of the world’s wealth is under women’s control today, four in ten wealthy women are currently not involved in the management of their family finances compared to only one in ten men.”

Dramatic change is afoot. And that foot will be wearing Prada. More women are bursting through the glass ceiling, as well as the glass walls and glass doors. You want to be on the right side of history, as well as the right side of your growing female clientele. Here is hot to make sure they do business with you as opposed to your competition:

 

Speak Directly to Women

It is never the right thing to address someone indirectly. If you have a question for a woman, don’t ask her male partner or associate. Speak to her directly. Advertisers often make this mistake. Your marketing does not need to talk down to women. It needs to talk directly to women.

If your healthcare services include women’s health issues, you need to make sure you are speaking to that target audience. If you don’t know how to do that, bring in a healthcare public relations firm that can. If you want to target investment products to women, you are in luck. You have an audience that is rapidly growing. They already want to do more investing. You just have to craft your message so that you are making a direct appeal to the customers you want to attract.

One of the best ways to draw and not repel women investors is to put women in charge of the sales and marketing efforts. Men are used to talking to other men in ways that would be counterproductive when talking to women. The best way to speak directly to women is to let a woman do the speaking.

 

Go Where the Market is Ready

Gender egalitarianism is not alive and well in many parts of the world. Change is happening everywhere. But that change is much slower in some places as opposed to others. If you want to attract more women to your investment platforms, start in the places where more women are empowered to respond to your message.

Women investors in loans rose by 43% in Europe in 2020. Europe has a long history of empowered women. It is a good place to find women investors. The U.S. requires a bit more nuanced effort. Women control a great deal of wealth in the States. 20201 saw the swearing in of the first female vice president. It is overcoming a checkered past with regard to women’s rights. But the market for women investors is set to explode as millions of women become more empowered. Go where the market is ready to reap the greatest rewards.

 

Provide More Offerings Suitable for Women

One of the best things Apple did with Apple Watch was to make two sizes. They never marketed the smaller watch for women. But since women tend to have smaller wrists, it is a sensible option. It is a product useful for women without it being festooned with pink flowers.

When possible, design products to be unisex. When not possible, include an option suitable for the other 50% of the market. If you want women to invest in your company, make it a company that offers something for everyone.

Women are 50% of the population. It will not be long before they are at least 50% of the controlling influence of wealth. Their investing power is here, and growing. You can partner with this new generation of investors by appealing directly to them, being there when the market is ready, and giving them a reason to invest in your company by having offerings suitable for everyone. 

Business leader
ArticlesRegulation

How Your Leadership Team May Be Ruining Your Business

Business leader

Any business’s objective is to make a profit or be sustainable over time. To achieve that outcome, one must understand the steps necessary to accomplish the results desired and all the little things that go into making that goal a reality.

Did you know that employee satisfaction, job performance, and productivity are linked with excellent or poor management? 

There are many factors for this, but in general, the saying that nobody “quits a job, they quit a boss” is the difference in your organization’s success or failure.  

In any conversation regarding high-end achievement versus mediocre results, factors such as timing, speed, positioning, motivation, and leadership are all points that are recognized as to why a project is successful or not. 

 

Analyze Your Team’s Successes

All too often, the focus on why a project succeeds is on tangibles such as improved market position, increased sales, and the like. 

Most organizations focus on the most obvious metric to analyze, and that is customer engagement and sales. For example, a brewery is only as successful as its sales, and to grow sales, there needs to be increased brand awareness. 

Utilizing a customer data platform that allows the brewery to streamline all the marketing, sales, and service processes for its organization can enhance its brand awareness and outreach. 

The brewery will need to improve engagement by increasing brand awareness through product placement, marketing, or other strategies. 

One area that is too often ignored is the morale and general sense of well-being that team members have for their jobs and management. A poorly run organization struggles with retaining quality team members, declining productivity, and lost labor hours due to illness and other factors. 

Too often, a poorly run organization believes that to correct its course, a reshuffling of management is vital. That may be true in some instances; however, one solution is for leadership to take stock of what may be their failings and correct those behaviors. 

For example, employees tend to look unfavorably at management when communication between management and labor is poor, disconnected from the employees ’ concerns, or seems arbitrary and detached negatively. 

 

Find The Patterns To Success And Empower Your Team

This issue may accelerate your organization’s disconnect, especially when an achievement isn’t shared with all the contributing members that helped make that achievement or milestone possible. Part of what makes for effective leadership is to find patterns in your successes and analyze your shortcomings.

Often little achievements are located in the minutia, small actions that add up to become a significant achievement. As a leader, you should be focusing on the small steps that your team members take in their workflow and enhancing their opportunities for success. 

 

Become A Better Communicator

The most crucial step in becoming a better leader is to become a better communicator. Too often, misunderstandings create an environment built on tension and more significant problems. There are three primary communication principles: listen, speak, and empower. 

These three processes will create an environment that your team members will become more invested in, increasing job satisfaction and enhance productivity as a result.

  1. Listen First
  2. Speak Clearly
  3. Delegate Tasks And Empower Solution-Based Thinking

Focusing on empowering labor through engaging conversations and encouraging better lines of dialogue helps improve the perception of the organization’s leadership.

Improved relationships help team members believe in the company’s value, which has a real-world impact on performance and productivity. 

 

Become A Better Leader

A goal of good leadership is to empower your team members to have a set of small achievements that can create a sense of cohesion to the project as a whole. 

These small achievements take on momentum on their own and help your project and organization make larger and larger accomplishments. By sharing in the process, you’re creating an environment where team members can feel pride and attachment to those outcomes. The key then is to share in the accomplishments. 

A leader’s actions will set the trajectory for any project and determine its possible success. Leaders as a whole are made from a series of experiences, reflection, iteration, and education. In fact, through self-awareness and education, most people can learn to become a more effective leader. 

To create sustained growth and success for your organization, you need to focus resources on educating your management team on more effective ways to lead your teams. 

Businessman
ArticlesFinance

How to Gracefully Exit the Business World and Move to the Next Phase of Life

Businessman

There is this little thing called retirement. It is held up as the prize for a life well lived with time and resources left to enjoy. Not everyone wants life’s golden parachute. Some prefer to work all the way up to the end. They never want to slow down. They always want to be in the mix. Those who have risen to the top of their field don’t necessarily look forward to the day when they are no longer in charge. Being in the middle of things and riding the wild wave is what gives their life meaning.

Then, there’s you. Your goal might be to get out of the rat race as early as you can and spend as much time with your family and money as you can, while you can. The most interesting things to do in life still on your list have nothing to do with business, work, or making money. You want to see the world, have a few adventures, and tend the farm. You are ready to cash out and find the sunset where you will eventually head off into. This is how you get out gracefully and move on to the next adventure:

 

Get Top Dollar for the Sale

Walking away from a business without selling it for a good price is as unthinkable as walking away from a house without getting a good return on your investment. Make no mistake about it: Your business is not just something that supports you and your family during the time you have the business. It is a lifelong investment that can be cashed out just like a whole life insurance policy. The only question is how best to cash it out.

You already know you can sell your retail business ventures. You might not have been aware that you can also find people to buy Amazon FBA business ventures. Though based on Amazon services and infrastructure, it is still your business. You have built up that business to be more valuable now than when it was started. That is like equity in a home.

In the case of your business, you have equity. You don’t have to go through a lengthy process to find a buyer and negotiate a deal. You can close the deal in as little as 45 days. If you are ready to walk away from your business and enjoy the next phase of life, don’t just get rid of it in a fire sale. And don’t go through years of headaches finding the perfect buyer. There are better options available for you to get a profitable return on your life’s work.

 

Tie Up Loose Ends

Is it time to get off the investing roller coaster? Are you tired of waiting around to learn the next lesson Covid has in store for you? You are not wrong for seeking an off-ramp. If you have been considering retirement, now is an excellent time to actualize that consideration.

What you want to do before leaving the business world is simplify your life. There are a lot of strands to untangle when moving away from business. You need to work with an accountant to make sure your tax responsibilities are taken care of. You need to give your employees plenty of time to find new work and prepare personalized, glowing letters of accommodation. If you don’t want to deal with complications later, tie up all the loose strands in advance so that you can put it all behind you.

 

Start Something New

There is a good case to be made against early retirement. The biggest danger is not retiring from business, but retiring from meaningful endeavors. Don’t walk away from your business to sit in a rocking chair. Never put a rocking chair on your porch. You still have things to do.

You can walk away from the rat race without walking away from meaningful pursuits. This is the time in your life when you are free to try something new without needing to worry about it being profitable. You can do something just because it is important to you. That is the perfect exclamation point to a life well lived.

It is different for everyone. When it is time for you to walk away, you’ll know. Just be sure to get the best possible return from your business investment. Tie Up Loose Ends. And start something new. 

Afghanistan Currency
ArticlesBankingFinanceForeign Direct InvestmentIslamic Finance

Securing Stability & Success in Afghanistan’s Economy

Afghanistan Currency

As the largest commercial bank in Afghanistan, it may have also proven difficult for Azizi Bank to simultaneously ascertain the title of best commercial bank. Yet, that is exactly what this outstanding financial institution has done, and has rightfully been awarded that title of 2020’s Best Commercial Bank, Afghanistan in this quarter’s issue of Wealth & Finance International Magazine. Join us as we find out more about what the bank has to offer, what makes it so unique, and why it is deserving of this international recognition.

Azizi Bank is the largest commercial bank in Afghanistan, and it has been maintaining that position since its inception in 2006. Being the country’s largest banking group, there is a Pan-Afghanistan presence that stretches across more than thirty provinces and a headquartered office in Ankara Square in Kabul. The work of Azizi Bank started with the professional and entrepreneurial commitment of its founder, Mr Mirwais Azizi of the Azizi Hotak Group & Family and is presently under the leadership of a young and dynamic Chief Executive Officer Dr. Prof. Mohammad Salem Omaid. What makes Azizi Bank unique is the fact that its professional customer service and the sense of belonging that every client and customer has. Each and every employee carries with them this sense of welcoming and belonging, and strives to ensure that all interactions with customers are done so in a way that makes them feel like they are a part of the family feel that the bank presents. In addition to this, there is a wealth of digital innovation and product excellence on show here also. Azizi Bank has invested significant time, money, and manpower into ensuring that every product is designed to suit a client requirement, and this commitment distinguishes the bank to be the most distinctive and superior bank across Afghanistan.

For almost fifteen years, Azizi Bank has been managed under the governance of a very competent and effective Board of Supervisors, who brings a vast repertoire of knowledge and experience in their various fields, and are internationally acclaimed in their respective work. At the management level, there is a brilliant mix of youth and experience, which leads to both innovation and stability across the board. Today, Azizi Bank has more than fifteen hundred employees, and with a fifteen percent female work force, it is playing a quietly effective role in women’s emancipation and empowerment across Afghanistan. Aside from Azizi Bank, there are another eleven banks in the country, including two banks from Pakistan. The total banking deposit is approximately USD 3.2 billion, with all assets totalling approximately five billion USD.

As a country, Afghanistan has witnessed strong economic growth and developing in banking systems when compared to the previous two decades. Growth in the financial sector, specifically within the banking sector itself, was considerable. Thus, national income increased, and there was massive promotion in many of the other macroeconomic factors, including exchange rates, inflation, balance of payments, government revenues, investment, international trade, industrial production, and employment levels. Azizi Bank has always played a pivotal role towards each and every reform of the Central Bank of the country, and has marked itself out as a pioneering force of financial inclusion programs and branchless banking. Recently, in a bid to further bolster these initiatives, Azizi Bank has signed an MOU with the Afghan Postal Service to provide branchless banking through their more than four hundred and fifty post offices covering the country and some of its most remote locations.

The team at Azizi Bank is also made up of the bankers of choice for some of the major UN agencies, such as UNICEF, WHO, and WFP, who are present and working in Afghanistan. Azizi Bank is all about enabling these agencies to make their payments and disbursements to the far and rural areas of the country. Furthermore, this outstanding bank is the only bank in the country to have a mobile wallet solution, called AZIPAY, for all types of payments, including paying utility bills, education fees, groceries, and airline tickets. There is even excellence with the more comprehensive financial inclusion initiatives, with Azizi Bank having converted one of its subsidiary banks into a full-fledged Islamic Bank in the country. This is the first and only full services Islamic Bank in the country to date. With Afghanistan having more than 99% of its population being Muslims, such a change will definitely pave the way for more people coming into the banking fraternity, thereby improving the financial inclusion ratio of the country.

Since its inception, there have been several core founding values that have been the focal point of the bank and its championing of sustained financial growth in Afghanistan. Azizi Bank has always believed in innovations, and has never stepped back away from investing in innovative technological initiatives. The bank also has the best in class management board and senior management in the country, comprising of experienced bankers with an averages of more than two decades’ experience from the United States, India, Pakistan, Africa, and Europe. Azizi Bank has also always believed in the learning and development initiatives towards capacity building, and have built a comprehensive policy on the same. These structural reforms have brought in change within the bank to a large extent, and have always made it unique compared with other peer banks working in the country.

As has already been conveyed above, Azizi Bank prides itself on being a technology-driven back that makes full use of some of the latest technological innovations from across the world. With society moving towards more digitalization than ever before, the customer’s perceptions have changed on what they can access and want from their banking services. Afghanistan in particular is a country where more than half of population has a smart phone, and there is greater opportunity for banks to invest more into technology than ever before. Azizi Bank has foreseen this opportunity prior to its competitors and peers, and is now in a position where it can adapt to the ever-changing present and future. One of the ways in which the bank has taken the initiative and seized the day regarding innovative technology is by being a prominent voice on several developmental projects aimed at meeting financial customers’ expectation all across Afghanistan.

Providing technologically-savvy services banking services is the goal for many institutions, especially now that the world is moving towards an increasingly digital society. With the gradual transition towards advanced digital banking, there comes a greater need for traditional banks to keep up with modern systems and innovative ways of doing things. Azizi Bank has also initiated different tailor-made products for both deposits and advances meant for different levels of society, including accounts for children, students, women, senior citizens, retail businesses, small and medium enterprises, and entrepreneurs to name just a few. Despite the wealth of innovation on show at Azizi Bank, there have also been challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The arrival of the pandemic meant that Afghanistan, which is a predominantly import-driven economy, witnessed a surge in the cost of commodities, thereby affected the normalcy of life and common people. Industries of all sectors and types were affected, and so was the fate of the financial sector as well. In essence, the economy and economic growth of the whole country took a massive hit. There has been some impact on Azizi Bank amidst the pandemic, which has sustained itself almost a year and still counting. With the initial lockdown in place for the first few months of 2020, business was seriously hampered, though there was no significant decline for deposits. Where Azizi Bank really was affected was new business. Overall trade finance and the recovery of loans has been another key area affected by the pandemic, although the Central Bank of Afghanistan did come out with a detailed recovery plan to aid the situation and get the country back on its feet as soon as possible.

Pandemic or otherwise, Azizi Bank did have a strategic business plan in place, as well as a disaster recovery plan considering the geography of operation. The bank is always prepared and ready to face any sort of adverse situation, including this current crisis. As a bank, Azizi Bank also took steps and made plans even before the government made any sort of official announcement in terms of business contingency, staff contingency, and operational contingency initiatives and operations. Azizi Bank took immediate steps to ensure total safety and stability for itself and its staff, even before the lockdown was announced. All mediums of communication were used to reach staff and the public, and the bank stopped all meetings, conferences, customer gatherings, and training. In the immediate aftermath of the announcements made by many world governments, including Afghanistan, Azizi Bank formed a committee to analyse and make plans to curve this emergency situation.

Safety precautions including complete sanitization, thermal meters, face masks and gloves, and more were initiated at all the branches for both customers and staff alike, whilst plans were also made to rotate the staff so as to avoid close proximities. Expatriate staff members were also encouraged to work from home where possible, thereby minimising the risk of transmission and infection. Armed with these various safety measures and initiatives, life will eventually return to normality for Azizi Bank. However, with the ongoing political uncertainty still prevailing and international donors reluctant to pump in additional funds, this latest COVID-19 scare will definitely affect the overall growth of the Afghanistan economy. Stability will take time, but Azizi Bank will see it through.

Outside of the financial work carried out by Azizi Bank, there is also a deep-rooted and ever-present commitment to charity work and community-based initiatives. Azizi Bank is the only banking institution in Afghanistan that has a sustained CSR Policy and Responsible Banking. For the team, they consider CSR as one of the most important aspects of growth, and the institution also supports the important cause of the government in terms of sustainability initiatives. Supporting society as a whole is equally important, and there are a great many ways in which Azizi Bank does this too. The bank’s involvement on CSR initiatives has made a great impact across society and for the brand of Azizi Bank.

In working on these initiatives, the bank has been quite active for the last five years on various initiatives across the country and has therefore received considerable amounts of appreciation from the government and wider society. From a community service perspective, Azizi Bank has supported multiple hospitals and homes in terms of providing medicines, essential utilities, infrastructure development, food materials, stationeries, and organising blood donation camps. The team at Azizi Bank have also focused their time on various environmentally sustainable and green initiatives. Working in this area, the bank has endeavoured to stand out by starting a green initiative that involved planting thousands of trees across Afghanistan. Alongside this, there are also campaigns on saving water and pollution control, two of the most prominent environmental sustainability issues faced by many all over the world.

Azizi Bank has recently partnered with the National Environmental Protection Agency (NEPA) of the government of Afghanistan, and this partnership will surely lead to collaborative work on various other initiatives aimed at increasing environmental sustainability. Finally, the last core area that Azizi Bank works in outside of its own four walls is that of community support. Azizi Bank has always sought to provide free training sessions to local college graduates and management students alike, with topics ranging from banking and finance, to the inner workings of an economy, and much more. Whilst this is a community support initiative aimed at giving finance students the best possible knowledge around, it also doubles as the perfect recruitment opportunity. Qualifications is one thing, but Azizi Bank also encourages fresh graduates to push their way to the forefront of the industry and make an impression with their dedication and commitment to understanding finance.

Ultimately, Azizi Bank is far more than just an exceptional institute of finance. Rather, it everything a country could possibly want from a bank that seeks to be innovative, be a unifying force that invests in the future, and delivers outstanding financial services to everyone in the country. Azizi Bank is constantly redefining its own success, and is fully deserving of this latest success from Wealth & Finance International Magazine as being recognized as 2020’s Best Commercial Bank in Afghanistan.

Few Words about the bank’s CEO – Dr. Prof. Mohammad Salem Omaid

A result oriented proficient starting his professional journey with Azizi Bank in 2006 as a Finance Officer and successfully ascending the steps to become the President and CEO. In his career span of more than 14 years, Dr. Omaid handled diverse roles having rich & extensive experience in Finance & Accounting, Corporate Accounts Trade Finance, Corporate Credit Financing, Operational Banking, Investment Banking and Retail Banking. Initiated several measures, Bank Products, Technological products aimed at promoting the bank and its objectives. Dr. Omaid’s contribution towards refining the banking structure in the country earned him appreciations & accolades not only from the Govt. & Public body within the country but also from the international agencies worldwide.

Dr. Omaid’s experience and knowledge for a sustainable growth earned him several international accreditations and he is also the only afghan conferred with the honorary professorship of Academics, Oxford. He is also the Member of the Europe Business Assembly, UK, The World Confederation of Businesses, USA and an active member of BAFT, USA. He is also associated with the ICC, Banking Commission, Afghanistan and is the Chairman of the Afghanistan Banks Association.

He is also the recipient of the Asian Banker “Young Banker” Award in 2017, being the only one from the Central Asian Region till date. In 2020, Dr. Omaid is conferred with the Professional Doctorate by the European International University, Paris for his endurance, commitment and leadership in shaping a bank in Afghanistan as per international standards.

A visionary leader and a highly respected citizen in the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan.

For more information, please contact Samrat Dutta at www.azizibank.af

Bitcoin
ArticlesMarketsStock Markets

Bitcoin to Hit Fresh Highs – But Standby for Regulator-Triggered Price Swings

Bitcoin

The Bitcoin price nears $50,000 and will continue to reach new highs in this first quarter of 2021 – but investors should also expect volatility due to increasing regulatory scrutiny.

This is the warning from Nigel Green, CEO and founder of deVere Group, one of the world’s largest independent financial advisory and fintech organisations. 

It comes after the cryptocurrency hit more than $49,700 for the first time in history on Sunday the 14th of February.

Mr Green says: “Last week was a massive one for Bitcoin, reaching new all-time highs amid soaring interest from institutional investors.

“Morgan Stanley, the U.S. investment giant is reported to be considering investing in Bitcoin through its $150 billion investment arm; Elon Musk’s Tesla announced it had invested $1.5 billion in the digital currency and was getting ready to accept it as payment; BNY Mellon confirmed that it had created a digital assets unit to build a custody and admin platform for crypto assets; and Mastercard said it would give its merchants the option to accept cryptocurrencies later this year.

“In addition, Miami confirms it is considering paying workers and collecting taxes in cryptocurrency and the mayor of the city wants to hold Bitcoin in the city’s treasury.

“This all follows the likes of PayPal’s decision last year to allow customers to buy, sell and hold Bitcoin and as Wall Street giants like Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan issue RFIs (request for information) to explore Bitcoin and crypto asset custody.”

He continues: “There is a clear direction of travel: institutional investors are taking Bitcoin more and more seriously as a financial asset and a medium of exchange. They are increasing their exposure to it at a faster rate than ever before.

“This is pushing cryptocurrencies ever more into the mainstream financial system and, subsequently, driving the price skywards.”

The deVere chief goes on to say: “With the growing institutional demand combined with ultra-low interest rates, we can expect Bitcoin – which has already given a 55% return so far year to date after the 300% gain in 2020 – to reach new highs in this first quarter of 2021.

“However, with increasing dominance and value, comes increasing regulatory scrutiny. 

“Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies will come under the spotlight from watchdogs like never before and this can be expected to create volatility in the market.”

His warning comes as central banks and governments around the world ramp up their focus on digital currencies. 

In the U.S. in recent days, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen raised again the prospect of future cryptocurrency regulation and as the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) could reportedly investigate Elon Musk over Tesla’s $1.5 billion Bitcoin purchase.

Nigel Green concludes: “Institutional investors are increasingly appreciating that in this tech-driven, ultra low interest rate, low growth world, and where there is diminishing trust in traditional currencies, digital and borderless cryptocurrencies may be becoming a better fit.

“We can expect the price of Bitcoin to surge to fresh highs as a result.  But investors must be aware that regulatory pressures will cause price turbulence.”

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ArticlesMarkets

Self-employed Workers Estimated to Contribute £125 Billion to Drive the UK’s Economic Recovery

economic recovery 2021 covid pandemic
  • Self-employed and side-hustler movement continues to thrive despite challenges caused by COVID-19

  • Over 55s are leading the way in starting new businesses or side hustles during the pandemic

  • By choosing a challenger banking, newly formed businesses are more likely to grow

Research released on Monday by Mettle, the NatWest-backed business account, using YouGov’s platform, estimates that the UK’s growing self-employed and side hustler movement will contribute an estimated £125 billion in turnover to the UK’s economic recovery in 2021. Furthermore, small and medium-sized businesses (with 1-49 employees) are estimated to contribute approximately £310.46 billion.

Pre-pandemic in 2019, the Office of National Statistics (ONS) found over 1.1 million people were either employed in two jobs or self-employed in addition to having another job. COVID-19 has only accelerated this and the growth of the self-employed and side hustler movement, with changes in employment and lifestyles pushing more people to work for themselves than ever before – either through choice or out of necessity of being furloughed or made redundant. The population of self-employed workers in the UK now sits at over five million, making up 15% of the UK’s workforce.

Around 25% of all UK adults now consider themselves to be a side hustler, according to Henley Business School. Having ‘a side hustle’ in addition to a full-time job (from freelance design work, to a passion such as wedding photography), has for the first time for many, become a necessity to supplement income.

Mettle’s research surveyed 2,194 self-employed workers to uncover the role of this segment in boosting the UK economy, the barriers they faced when starting their venture, and the role of banking organisations in helping them thrive.

According to the research, the most popular motivation for going solo was the flexibility and freedom it provided (57%), followed by their desire for a change in work/life balance (38%), and wanting more meaning and purpose in their life (24%).. Those aged 55 and over are leading the way when it comes to self-employment, with 38% of limited companies and side hustles formed post-March 2020 having been established by that age group.

The rapidly expanding self-employed and liquid workforce movement is being supported by a rise in challenger banking solutions that provide online products and services. The majority (83%) of respondents who use challenger bank services and feel supported by them, felt this was because of the ability to do everything virtually, their bank’s ability to get things done quickly (61%) and the fact that their innovative technology and products are more compatible with their business needs (51%).

Compounding this, the COVID-19 pandemic is making the challenge of running a business or side hustle even more difficult. 57% of those surveyed are not looking to expand their business or side hustle or enter a new sector in 2021, with over a quarter of respondents specifically not looking to expand (29%) citing the UK’s economic uncertainty as the reason why. More than ever solutions like Mettle are of utmost importance to help this audience to manage their finances, and to support their maintenance, growth and contribution toward the UK’s economic recovery.

Marieke Flament, CEO of Mettle, commented: “More people are choosing to start or create something of their own than ever before due to changing lifestyles, personal circumstances, or fulfilling a personal ambition. This research highlights the importance of this growing movement for the UK’s economic recovery in 2021 – particularly amongst the over 55 age group.

“The smallest end of the SME market has historically been underserved in terms of business banking, with the majority of incumbent institutions focusing on large commercial customers and corporates. This made it difficult for small business owners to get set up quickly, get paid and tax ready. We champion self-employed workers and side hustlers and are dedicated to building our product to serve them and their needs.

“As the UK looks to rebound from the economic damage caused by COVID-19, it’s absolutely vital that this segment has access to the support and services it needs to thrive. Mettle’s position within NatWest means we can facilitate this. We leverage the experience and risk knowledge of NatWest, but we also operate like a start-up, so we can move at pace and offer a product that enables self-employed and side hustlers to start, run and grow their businesses successfully.

“Banking doesn’t need to be complex, and we think new small business owners, self-employed workers and side hustlers should be able to rely on their bank to help them easily navigate day-to-day processes as they focus on overcoming the macro-economic hurdles outside of their control.”

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ArticlesBankingCash Management

How to Build Credit the Right Way

Woman credit card

People say that money makes the world go round, but the truth is that good credit provides you with the most opportunities. Building credit can be a challenge if you don’t have any previous history. However, it’s an essential part of life and can simplify many situations.

Keep reading to learn three methods of building credit the right way.

 

1. Open a Credit Card

Most people know that opening a credit card will influence their overall score and history. However, they don’t know how to maximize it for their own benefit. Here are three factors to consider.

 

Choosing a Secure Credit Card

There are many credit cards available on the market, but it’s essential to know the difference between secured and unsecured cards. Simply put, secured cards require an upfront deposit that minimizes the risk for the issuer. With a secured card, you can build your credit without risking going into debt. They’re typically much easier to obtain an unsecured card — making them a good option for anyone with limited credit history. The only downside is that your deposit creates a cap for your spending limit.

 

Getting a Co-Signer

If you’d like to have an unsecured card and don’t have a credit history, you can consider getting a co-signer. This person would agree to take on your debt if you default on paying. If they have good credit, then you’re more likely to get approved. The downside is that most major credit card companies do not allow for co-signers. You’ll need to research your options if you’d like to take this approach.

 

Making Regular Payments

To build good credit, you’ll want to make regular payments regardless of the card type. It’s always best to pay off the debt in full. Keep in mind that late payments can cause additional interest and penalty charges to accrue. Additionally, your payment timeliness influences your score.

 

2. Apply for a Loan

When the situation calls for it, loans are extremely beneficial. They typically have lower interest rates than credit cards and can allow an individual to purchase something outside of their savings range. Many loans are also known as good debt because they help a person pursue investments that improve their life. They also influence credit and can help build a long-standing history.

From this standpoint, it would be worthwhile to make a significant purchase or investment using a loan. These purchases encourage natural credit building. Keep in mind that you should only borrow as much money as your feel comfortable paying back. Defaulting on a loan will damage your score, so it’s worth setting up an automatic repayment program.

 

3. Become an Authorized User

One of the easiest ways to build safe credit is by becoming an authorized user on another’s account. When added, you gain access to their available funds and earn a credit history without liability. Unlike co-signing, if the other person stops paying, you are not responsible for covering their fees. However, it’s beneficial to choose someone who pays their bills on time and is financially stable, so their account does not negatively affect your score.

 

Be Patient

You can use these three ways to grow your credit and check the results using annual score reports. Good scores allow you to get lower interest rates on future loans and credit cards and improves your chances of getting approved. Building credit takes time, but it pays off in the long run.

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ArticlesBankingTransactional and Investment Banking

Women Investors in Loans Rose by 43% in Europe in 2020

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Mintos, the largest marketplace for investing in loans in Europe, saw a stable increase among women investors in the EU, with the sharpest growth in Estonia, where women constituted 36% of all newly registered Estonian investors. Meanwhile, Germany led the way with the highest number of women investors overall. 
Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, Mintos, the leading alternative investment marketplace for investing in loans in Europe, has reported an increase in women investors in 2020. The company, which holds 40% of the market share in the EU, saw women investors increase by 43% over the course of 2020. Women constituted 15% of the total 363,312 investors on the marketplace that houses the majority of women retail investors in Europe. 
The most active women investors in loans last year were based in the Baltic region, most notable when looking at the proportion of investment activity by gender in a county by country comparison. In Estonia, women made up 36% of all the country’s newly registered investors last year, while in Latvia and Lithuania the number was 25% and 18%, respectively.
In terms of total number of women investors, Germany led the way with 3160 women investors, who constituted 13% of all investors. In Estonia, there were 2129 new women investors, while in Spain—1442.
“The fact that an increasing number of women consider and actually start investing is a victory to everyone, knowing how underrepresented this group of investors is,” said Martins Sulte, CEO and Co-founder of Mintos. “It also shows that alternative investments, especially loans, are an attractive asset class for women investors.”
The demographic breakdown also shows that the average amount of first investment among women investors, who chose to invest on the marketplace ranged from €20 to €1300. Women investors who chose their first investment amount on Mintos in the range from €0-50 were from countries such as Germany, Denmark, Finland, Andorra, Serbia, Monaco. Investors from Austria, Estonia, Spain, Czech Republic, Poland, Portugal, Lithuania, Switzerland, Bulgaria, Italy, Romania, Belgium, Slovakia, Hungary, Greece, Sweden, Luxembourg, Malta, Norway and the Netherlands chose from €50 to €200, while Irish, Icelandic and Albanian investors leaned towards the €200-1300 investment level.
The company also reports that an average woman investor had an outstanding balance of €2,028 at the end of the last year, compared to €4,164 at the end of 2019. The company links this to women investors being more cautious last year due to the impacts of the pandemic, even though the total number of women investors increased. In January 2021 the investment volumes steadily increased, yet it is too early to make any projections at this moment in time.
The total interest earned among all women investors on Mintos at the end of the year was €11.5 million, with the average amount of interest earned per woman investor depending on the country and start date. In Germany, the average interest earned by the end of 2020 was €929, while in the Baltic countries of Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania it was €315, €727 and €849, respectively.
The overall interest in alternative investments among women has been an encouraging trend globally. With more women joining the workforce earlier and staying longer, women now control about $72 trillion of the world’s investable wealth, a number expected to grow as years pass.
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ArticlesBankingCash Management

‘Normal’ Bank Lending to SMEs Down 10% Last Year As Banks Focus On CBLIS & BBLS Loan

Small business loan form .
  • £61bn of CBILS & BBLS loands handed out to SMEs

  • Alternative lender market vital for SMEs looking to grow in 2021

The outstanding value of non-emergency lending by banks to SMEs has dropped by 10% from £168bn in December 2019 to £152bn in December 2020, shows new research from ACP Altenburg Advisory, the debt advisory specialist.

ACP Altenburg Advisory says the research shows that once CBILS and BBLS loan schemes come to an end, SME businesses are likely to struggle to obtain finance from banks which is not partly or fully underwritten by the Government.

Total CBILS and BBLS lending to SMEs has ballooned from £4bn in April 2020, to a total of nearly £61bn that has been lent by December 2020*.

Once the CBILS and BBLS schemes come to an end, ACP Altenburg Advisory says banks may have limited appetite to lend and increase their exposure to the SME sector any further, given the significant increase in overall SME lending over the past 12 months when including the emergency lending.

Many banks are already reducing non-emergency lending to new to bank business customers. As CBILS and BBLS loans are underwritten by the Government, banks have been able to offer better terms for those loans than for ‘business as usual’ lends, which do not provide lenders with the same safety net.

ACP Altenburg Advisory says, therefore, alternative lenders are likely to be sought after in the coming months as SMEs find it more difficult to obtain finance from traditional lenders.

Will Senbanjo, Partner at ACP Altenburg Advisory, says: “CBILS and BBLS loans have dominated banks’ lending activities to such an extent that they have limited capacity to write normal loans to SMEs. This means that businesses looking to grow may struggle to obtain the funds they need.”

“SMEs looking to raise additional funds for growth in the months ahead may need to look at the alternative options, such as asset-based lending or alternative lender funding. Alternative lenders are open for business and are keen to deploy capital to well-managed businesses that have strong growth potential.”

Debt advisers can be crucial in helping a business to obtain the right funding package to fit their business needs. Advisers can help a business understand and explore the various funding options open to them, and then help them present their business to the most appropriate lenders in the right way.

*Based on data from the Bank of England and the British Business Bank. SMEs are defined as businesses with less than £25m turnover.

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ArticlesMarketsStock Markets

Bitcoin, Dogecoin Hit All-time Highs Driven By Elon Musk – But How To Choose An Exchange?

Dogecoin, bitcoin crypto currency

Bitcoin was driven to new record highs on Tuesday morning – trading above $48,000 – as investors continue to pile in on the news that Tesla bought $1.5bn worth of the cryptocurrency.

A filing with the U.S. financial regulator on Monday reveals that the electric car company run by the world’s richest person, Elon Musk, has made the massive purchase of the digital asset which has jumped more than 300% in a year.

The surge in the price of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, including Dogecoin – which was also fuelled by an endorsement by Musk on Twitter over the weekend – comes as digital currencies become mainstream due to soaring interest from both retail and institutional investors, increasing levels of mass adoption, and as global interest rates remain at historic lows.

But how does a new crypto investor choose a platform on which to buy, sell, hold and exchange?

Nigel Green, an influential cryptocurrency expert and CEO of deVere Group, one of the world’s largest independent financial advisory and fintech organisations, says there are five fundamentals.

He says: “More and more people are wanting to invest into cryptocurrencies, knowing that they are the future of money.

“But many, even those who have extensive knowledge of the stock market, have concerns about selecting the right cryptocurrency exchange.

“The total capitalisation of the cryptocurrency market is now an estimated $1.2 trillion, but it is still lightly regulated. This means that it’s vital that investors know what to look for in an exchange.”

He continues: “There are five fundamentals for your checklist.

“First, security. The system of a private exchange for saving consumer documents as well as funds should be as decentralised as possible as if it’s all on a couple of web servers, that makes them easy hacking targets.

“Investors should also look for a system that utilises two-step verification throughout login, such as a password, and also quick-expiring codes received through the app.

“Avoid exchanges which offer cheap trade costs or services but are based in areas around the world where investor security is weak.

“In addition, investors ought to assess exchanges as well as the businesses behind them as they would certainly do with any other organisation that they would depend on to protect their money.”

“Second, costs. Some exchanges are proficient at addressing costs in advance, while others hide them. Go for the exchanges that are upfront and transparent.

“Third, simplicity and ease of use. Take into account that you’re not always going to trade from your desktop. In fact, finding an exchange that focuses on ‘on-the-move’ trading via a secure app is often a better option.

“Fourth, dependability. Does the exchange run efficiently when trading quantity is high, or when the currencies rate is see-sawing? Some exchanges are notorious for their system accidents and trading stops.

Fifth, client service. Make sure an exchange has a chat or fast communication service integrated.”

Mr Green concludes: “Whilst Elon Musk’s Tesla, and other institutional investors, including PayPal amongst others, will have teams of crypto experts behind them, retail investors can also get involved.

“Investing in cryptocurrencies remains highly speculative and it is not for everyone – but one of the keys to success would be selecting the right crypto exchange.”

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ArticlesFinanceFundsTransactional and Investment Banking

Why People Are Going Gold As An Investment

gold money investment


Gold is one of the safest investments available, apart from a savings account. This is because of its stability, even in uncertain times. In the past, owning gold was quite controversial because of the worries surrounding its price fluctuation and potential instability. Now, however, more people choose to invest in gold as part of their overall assets because of its many benefits. For one, investing in precious metals is a good way to protect your savings.

When you hear about the benefits of investing in gold or buying gold products, most people associate it with investing in jewelry. While this is certainly a key component to any well-rounded portfolio, gold itself is a much broader asset. Gold can be used to buy or trade almost anything – bonds, mutual funds, stocks, commodities, and even estate. If you’re looking for a way to diversify your portfolio but are worried about your investments in gold being exposed to more risk than other assets, then look into investing in precious metals as a part of your portfolio.

Here’s why people are turning to gold as one of their investment options:

1. You Can Start Even With Only A Small Amount

One of the greatest advantages of investing in gold like Oxford Gold is that you don’t need to have a substantial amount of money to start. You can begin, even with only a small amount. Hence making it a very accessible option even for those with limited funds to start with at the moment.

Even if you start small, the key is for you to slowly increase your investment, so you can stabilize it in the long run.

 

2. It’s A Very Safe Investment

Gold is considered to be a safe investment. As an investment, it won’t lose its value unlike other stocks and bonds, which are very susceptible to the volatile market.

It’s highly unlikely that you’ll encounter any problem with the value of this precious metal. You can easily earn a lot of money with your gold investment and even increase your wealth within a short time.

 

3. It’s A Stable Hedge Against An Unstable Market

Gold is one of the most stable assets that you can choose to invest in. Even when the stock market goes down, gold continues to retain its value. Therefore, you can consider it as a very safe investment choice.

The thing with gold is that it’s a very limited asset because it’s a precious metal. This stays the same, even if the demand does increase. Because of this, the price continues to go up. This situation makes it a very stable hedge against an unstable market.

 

4. It Gives You A Good Return On Investment

One of the other reasons why gold is also becoming a very popular investment form is that it guarantees a very good return on investment.

There are several factors that influence the rate of return that a precious piece of metal can offer. First, it’s very easy to mine and sell the metal. Second, it doesn’t require too much investment capital to start off with. You can simply start selling jewelry and coins to get started.

With these two factors alone, you can rely on a faster ROI. This means you can start paying back whatever capital you spent on your gold. The profits will also come in faster than expected. It can bring your financial status a sense of security.

 

5. It Protects Against Inflation And Economic Fluctuations

If there’s a dip in the value of currencies around the world, owning precious metals such as gold or silver is a great way to protect yourself against the fluctuations in the value of money.

Because of its value being tied to the U.S. dollar, precious metals are usually the safest investments out there. They don’t depreciate like other assets. This protects you against inflation, as you know the value of your gold investments stays stable, at least.

This makes gold a good form of long-term investment. You don’t have to worry about it losing its value over time. It’s something that can keep increasing in value on a regular basis, so you have great security in knowing they are protecting your wealth.

It also increases the likelihood that if you do sell your assets, you will receive a high enough amount to cover your losses, if you incur any. This can also help provide economic stability for you, particularly when you’re going through big changes, such as newly starting a business, for example.

 

6. It’s Easy To Diversify

The last benefit to investing in gold, in particular, is that they’re easy to diversify. There are so many different investments you can make with them. You can invest in fine gold jewelry, gold coins, ETFs, gold bars, bullion, and coins, for instance.

Gold bars are smaller than bullion coins and are less susceptible to theft. If you want a simple, low-risk investment, invest in gold bars. You can purchase them at banks or from online brokers, and you can store them in safety like a safety deposit box or a bank safe.

Diversification is a great way to increase the value of your investments and protect yourself in case of a crash. Investing in just one gold investment can diversify your portfolio significantly, and you don’t have to sell your holdings to take advantage of these diversified investments.
In the past, investors used to get along just fine without diversifying their portfolios. However, the world’s economy has changed, and most investors have had to deal with the global recession. It’s thereby imperative for investors to start diversifying their portfolios to protect themselves from these negative indicators.

 

Conclusion

Investing in gold is a very good choice for you, even if you’re a newbie investor. These reasons above are precisely why so many have gotten into investing in gold as their choice. The key is for you to just learn more about it and make sure that you understand everything there is for you to know about gold investing. You can learn so much more about it and comprehend it in totality, depending on your risk tolerance, liquidity, and risk level. In doing so, you know that you’re on the right path towards the proper way of investing in gold.

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ArticlesBankingTransactional and Investment Banking

Investing Full Time: What You Need to Know

investing for beginners


Do you dream of pursuing a career in investing but are unsure where to start?


Lets start with the basics

Investments. A broad term that can be used to describe the purchase of a large form of collateral, such as a house or other class of asset. Or smaller item investments can also be used to describe a luxury watch, a prime example of this is when an Air Force Vet purchased a ‘Cosmograph Daytona Oyster Rolex’ back in 1974 for $350, later to find out the exact model is now worth $700,000 in 2020. 

However big or small you want to start your investment journey, as long as you’re prepared to make a long-term commitment your life goals are achievable.

Although investing can increase your wealth whilst staying ahead of inflation, there are always risks involved with ANY investment – which is why it’s important to diversify your portfolio.

Putting this in simpler terms: increase your chances by dividing your capital into various opportunities covering diverse and alternative markets.

 

Do you need a minimum amount to invest with?

To become a retail investor you can start out with under £1000, which you can build on over time. Although most private equity or pre-IPO opportunities have a required minimum investment amount. The offering entity also have to ensure they have enough assets under management (AUM) to achieve their investment goals and cover overheads.

 

Broaden your horizons

If you’re a seasoned or more experienced investor, you may feel passionate about stocks and bonds, but have you considered private equity investment opportunities? These have outperformed the traditional investment asset classes this year.

In a FundRise report titled “Why Private Markets Outperform Traditional Publicly-Traded Stocks and Bonds” it concludes how the evidence strongly supports the view that an allocation of 15% or more of a portfolio to private [investments] leads to higher returns and should be taken seriously by all investors.

 

Be prepared for risk

All investments involve some degree of risk. If you intend to purchase securities – such as stocks, bonds, or mutual funds – it’s important that you understand before you invest that you could lose some or all of your money. … The reward for taking on risk is the potential for a greater investment return.

 

Don’t sell at the first sign of profits!

It’s a wise tactic to allow your investments time to mature as they will likely continue to increase. It is however advised to exit a trade in decline as soon as you can. If you follow this rule, the money you make on your positive investments will far outpace any failed opportunities.

 

Keep your finger on the pulse

If you’re going to pursue a full-time career in investing you will need to access analytical industry insights and keep informed regarding new opportunities or evolving market conditions. Platforms such as Investopedia, Forbes, Bloomberg to name a few will keep you well informed.  

 

The more you learn, the more you earn…

Not only can you interact with digital platforms and even turn on your notifications to receive regular updates… reading some world-renowned books that feature some of the most successful entrepreneurs will help. Investment books are a key element of your personal development and can develop a money-making mindset.

 

Some of the most popular books for a guide to investment:

Rich Dad Poor Dad (1997) by Robert Kiyosaki

The Essays of Warren Buffett: Lessons for Corporate America

Beating the Street (1993) by Peter Lynch

The Intelligent Investor (1949) by Benjamin Graham

Think and Grow Rich (1937) by Napoleon Hill

If you want to invest, educating yourself is a key part of that process. To conclude, anyone can become an investor, starting small and begin progressing into new markets is always a good place to start.

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ArticlesFinanceTransactional and Investment Banking

“The Modern Investor” Setting New Investment Rules

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Retail investors have made quite an impact on the stock market recently, although several seasoned investors deem them as amateurs set to make wrong decisions and lose their wealth. Other experts believe modern investors are becoming a force to be reckoned with.

There is a lot of focus on addressing the modern investors, who are mostly millennials and became a more visible investor group in 2020 by investing heavily in tech stock, seeing the opportunity to hedge against the potential inflation and at the same time exploring alternative investment asset classes. Some seasoned investors are saying the modern investors are just chasing a trend and playing with fire, while others believe the cohort should be taken seriously.

Who is the modern investor?

Modern investors are predominantly millennials, both in age and spirit. Though most of them, especially in the US, have yet to acquire more wealth than their predecessors, baby-boomers, millennials are a growing power in the investment world, already influencing the current industry.

The driving force behind modern investors’ ability to change the industry is technology. From robo-advisors to gamification, tech-savvy investors are increasingly relying on and using apps and the internet. When once investing was a privilege accessible only to well-off citizens, now technology has made it only a few clicks away, presenting a plethora of opportunities to invest not only in the traditional assets like stocks or bonds, but also alternatives like arts, wine, loans, and others. 

Contrary to the general view, modern investors are well-informed. A survey by Accenture revealed that 90% of financial advisors believe their millennial clients are more aware about their investing options than they were five years ago, indicating that the interest and engagement in investing is nevertheless growing.

Alternative investments – crucial part of modern portfolio

Blackstone research on new investor behaviour also shows that alternative investments are rising in popularity as investors are seeking alternative investments to find yield, some for higher returns, or protection from rising rates, or a haven against market volatility.

As modern investment portfolio changes, adapting to potential market changes may require a search for new sources of funding. One of the growing alternative investment asset classes— popular with millennial investors—is investment in loans. Their biggest advantage is higher returns in comparison to passive income instruments, in addition to being a more predictable alternative to growth stocks. As a debt-based product, investment in loans is also less volatile.

“Modern investors have shown everyone in the past year that they are a force that needs to be taken seriously,” said Martins Sulte, CEO and Co-founder of Mintos, the leading alternative investment platform for investing in loans in Europe. “We have worked closely with this investor segment, with over 370 000 retail investors on our platform, who give us feedback that they turn to alternative investments, and investing in loans in particular, as a means to manage their savings or create them.”

Mr Sulte also added that modern investors are more prudent than the industry might think, seeing diversification and alternatives as a way to future-proof their portfolios. 

“We see a trend towards diversification even within our platform, which indicates that modern investors are not reckless as some make it out to be,” he said. “With pensions funds or bank accounts offering low savings rates, we see people search for better options and find passive investing as a solution for higher returns. While we cannot compare investing in loans to savings accounts at a bank due to both being entirely different forms of financial service and risks involved in any form of investing, we do understand and lately witness in greater amounts the interest for making money work much more for oneself.”

Conclusion

For many modern investors, especially those using trading apps, a retail portfolio may include a rather random selection of assets. That said, the retail investors are quick learners and are not as naive as some observers deem them to be. Undoubtedly, there are those that follow the trend, but the modern investors are making their moves and the market is responding accordingly. 

Covid stock investors
ArticlesBankingMarketsStock MarketsTransactional and Investment Banking

What Has Covid Taught Investors

Covid stock investors
  • 44% of investors are now looking to back UK-based companies rather than global firms –  9,629,000

  • 45% of investors feel their ‘risk-appetite’ has increased due to Covid-19, as traditionally safe investments in big companies are no longer viable – 6,942,000

  • 27% of investors are looking to invest in sectors created by the Covid-19 pandemic, such as PPE, social distancing equipment and virtual solutions – 5,674,000

  • 19% of investors believe the coronavirus pandemic has opened more investment opportunities than it has closed – 6,278,000

Investing was one of the most unpredictable aspects of 2020 for anyone concerned with the market, whether that be a sophisticated portfolio or just a workplace pension. The stock market crash at the start of the lockdown and continued economic disruption has left many wondering what the future will hold, while soaring tech stocks have added further complexity to an ever changing market. But what has the Covid pandemic taught investors? 

The overall effect of this period has led investors to reconsider what they are doing with their investable assets. To understand this shift, SME investment specialist IW Capital has conducted nationally representative research to uncover the sentiments of the UK’s investors.

 

Look beyond the panic

Each period of disruption, like that felt last year, offers opportunity for companies to adapt quickly to the changing times and although there has been a lot of worry and negativity surrounding the new lockdown restrictions, we have to look to the positives with one of them being the roll out of the Covid vaccines. Working with both entrepreneurs and investors, there is a clear desire from the small business community for growth investment and to take a big step growth-wise this year. With a 12% increase in new businesses starting up during 2020 compared to 2019, 2021 is set to create some exciting investment opportunities for investors throughout the country.

 

The unexpected happens 

This year has taught us that the unexpected does happen. Investors need to look to the future and prepare for the unexpected to improve financial resilience. This could be by having liquid assets or a rainy-day fund you can use if investment values fall, which is particularly important if you’re drawing an income from investments. Having options for when the unexpected does occur should be part of any investors financial plan and is something that has been brought to the forefront for many as a result of the pandemic. 

 

Maintain a diverse portfolio

The Covid pandemic has had a far-reaching impact across a variety of sectors, however some industries have been affected far more than others, with travel and hospitality being forced to close for months at a time and unable to trade. In contrast, the pandemic has created opportunities for some sectors too, such as manufacturing and biotech. While a diverse portfolio will still have suffered volatility, it can help lessen the impact. Investing in a range of assets, industries and locations can help spread the risk. When one investment falls, another may perform better helping to create balance.

 

Don’t overreact to market volatility

When the pandemic first hit and the stock market plummeted, many investors began to panic and looked to sell shares in order to avoid potential future losses, but when investing, a long-term time frame and goal is so important. Short-term volatility is often smoothed out once you look at investment performance over a longer time frame. It can be frustrating to see that investment values fell in 2020, but when you look at performance over the last five years, for example, you’ll probably still see an upward trend.

 

Luke Davis, CEO of IW Capital:

“Investing and investing wisely has never been easy by any stretch but this year has been particularly difficult for investors at every level. 2020 demonstrated the value of long term investing and future planning. The stock market crash in March triggered a real halt in investment, and although the market hasn’t fully recovered, there has been strong growth since November and in places in the US share indexes are actually higher than the last year. 

“There have been winners and losers from each stage of the pandemic with sectors like travel feeling the true impact of the pandemic and others like online solutions seeing growth and opportunity in a time of financial turmoil. But, this is true of any world event and has forced investors to look to be more future facing.”

flexible payment
ArticlesFinanceFundsRegulation

Flexible Pay: Could it Become a New Trend Amid Pandemic?

flexible payment


In the light of the pandemic many are experiencing financial difficulties and are feeling the pressure of waiting for payday. Research carried out by Money Advice Service has previously discovered in the UK there 8.3 million adults who have found meeting monthly bills a “heavy burden” and have missed more than two bill payments in a six-month period. With the current economic climate and new research performed by EY, the weight of financial commitments is now at the forefront of people’s minds, as a result employers are exploring ways to alleviate the financial pressures currently felt by many.

 

What is flexible pay?

Flexible pay is a new concept whereby employees are paid with an on-demand option. This means if the employee requires their pay early, they can call their earnings to date to fulfil their financial needs removing pressures.

Flexible pay provides an on-demand solution to overcome financial difficulties without the need to ask for an advance from the employer which, in itself, is a daunting task. Flexible pay provides employees with on-demand access to their salary without cause to provide reasoning to why they need access to their salary early.

 

What employees needs it can address

In a study performed by EY, 73% of UK workers find it a challenging to meet everyday expenses or worry about not being able to meet them. In the report EY found 58% of people who have experienced financial difficulties have also reported a material deterioration in their health and wellbeing. Additional pressure stemming from financial difficult can cause mental health issues if long term strain of finances is not addressed.  The stresses associated with these financial burdens can impact other aspects of people’s lives from health and mental wellbeing to work life and personal life.

Flexible pay provides employees with a solution that does not result in additional borrowing and interest associated with borrowing.

 

The benefits it can generate for employers

Flexible pay is a solution that benefits the employer as well as the employee in several ways.

  • Cash flow neutral option for employers
    • Unlike other benefits often provided by employers, flexible pay is a cash flow neutral option. This means employers are not having to factor an upfront payment before the work has taken place.

  • Seen more favourably by employees
    • As with other employee benefits, flexible pay offers the opportunity for employees to look favourably upon their employers. This is a benefit that is designed to help remove a common factor that triggers stress, where work life can also be a contributing factor, flexible pay helps remove stresses outside of the workplace.

  • Attract Talent
    • When recruiting employee benefits can often sway talent to choose to work with a specific employer. Flexible pay demonstrates the employer is not only aware of the employee needs but also shows they are looking to support the employee with benefits designed to provide solutions to employee’s needs whether short or long term.

  • Improve Productivity
    • With many working remotely as a result of the pandemic, mental health and wellbeing has been a focus for employees as it can often impact productivity. By alleviating financial strain that often negatively impacts the employee’s mental health and in turn, their productivity the employer helps prevent their employee’s productivity from being affected.

 

How to roll it out in your business

Part of the challenge when introducing new benefits to employees is how to integrate it within the business. With flexible payment it requires set-up, training and rolling out to employees.

 

So what are the initial requirements?

  1. Flexible pay requires integration with the employer’s payroll system to enable a proportion of the employee’s salary to be available to call upon at the rate it is accrued.

  2. Employees will be required to measure the time worked; this could be through some form of a timesheet to record what has been worked when. This measurement will help calculate the accrued earning.

If payroll is performed in-house, training your finance team is vital to ensure only the salary accrued is available to the employee and any changes to payroll processing processes with particular attention to your payroll software. Training will need to focus on how employee accrued salary data is collected and processed as part of your payroll solution whether outsourced or not. 

Once the changes to your payroll is available to your employees it is important to educate them on what it means for them, what is changing for their payroll and, of course, how they can use flexible pay to call their salary early if need be.

 

IRIS FMP UK is an international payroll solutions provider that is able to offer bespoke payment solutions to businesses to reflect the employer and employee needs including flexible payment options. We are supporting thousands of international and UK based SME organisations. With over 40 years’ experience, we are committed to providing our clients with the very best service, offering transparency, reliability and honesty.

ArticlesFundsFunds of Funds

Conister Reports Record Lending

  • 2020 lending totals £131 million, surpassing 2019 by 7%

  • Conister has also received an additional allocation of £5 million from the British Business Bank to focus on resilient businesses seeking funding

  • Conister has lent £9 million through the British Business Bank’s BBLS

Conister Finance & Leasing Limited (“Conister”), part of Manx Financial Group PLC (AIM:MFX), today announces that it achieved record lending levels in 2020, by advancing deals totalling £131 million, representing a 7% increase on the total amount lent throughout 2019 (£122 million), by providing critical funding to small and medium sized enterprises (“SME”) as they navigate the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The growth in funding facilities can in part be attributed to Conister’s accreditation to various Government backed loan schemes to help support struggling businesses in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Through the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (“CBILS”), Conister has advanced £9 million in vital funding across 35 loans and recently announced that it had applied for and received an additional allocation of £5 million to focus on resilient businesses still seeking funding.

Conister has consistently supported the Government’s financial assistance for UK businesses which it believes has been a crucial lifeline to many. In addition to the CBILS lending, Conister has advanced a further £9 million across 246 loans through the Bounce Back Loans Scheme (“BBLS”), against an initial allocation limit of £10 million. 

Douglas Grant, Managing Director of Conister, commented: “We must ensure that the financial security of businesses is protected to allow those that are sustainable to flourish in the future. Up to now, the BBLS and CBILS have performed a fundamental role in keeping many SMEs alive and acted as an important triage system to identify and support qualifying businesses needing credit. However, we believe that we have now passed this phase. Unfortunately, we must recognise that many businesses will not survive this pandemic, particularly if provided with an unsustainable debt burden. It is imperative for the future that we now focus on identifying and protecting our most resilient business sectors.”

“At Conister we have delivered upon all of our initial objectives. We had an allocation limit of £20 million for the CBILS and BBLS schemes and so far, we have lent £18 million, and we will fully allocate the remaining £2 million in the coming weeks. Without doubt, the scale of applications was enormous and so we applied for and received an additional allocation of £5 million for the CBILS scheme and we will focus lending this to robust business sectors that we believe will thrive in the future. Conister will continue to do all it can, working alongside Government and traditional lenders, to support British businesses.”

Jo Dyer, Portfolio Business Manager at First Business Securities, a recipient of a BBLS loan facility through Conister, said: “Conister showed the support and leadership we needed when we first received an increase in requests for payment holidays in April, leading to an ever more likely cash-flow problem. We were impressed with their speed and efficiency and their service won’t be forgotten in future.”

APR
ArticlesBankingCash Management

68% of Credit Card Holders Don’t Know What An APR is and Why This Is Costing Them Money

APR

Key findings:
•69% of people, overall, could not correctly define what an APR is an what it’s used for.

•68% of credit card holders do not know what an APR is.

•66% of mortgage holders do not know what an APR is.

According to KIS Finance’s financial survey, only 31% of adults in the UK could correctly identify what an APR (Annual Percentage Rate) is, including its purpose and how it should be used.

Even more worryingly – a massive 68% of credit card holders don’t know what an APR is, bearing in mind that the APR is undoubtedly one of the most important factors when comparing unsecured financial products like credit cards and personal loans.

The two most common believed definitions of APR were:

•The interest rate alone, without any fees or costs

•The maximum amount that a lender is allowed to charge


How do the figures look when split by age group?

Percentage of people in each age group who could not correctly define what an APR is:

18 – 24: 87.5%
25 – 34: 63%
35 – 44: 77%
45 – 54: 71%
55 – 64: 60%
65+: 73%

 

Only 12.5% of those aged between 18 and 24 know what an APR is

The lack of basic financial knowledge in the 18 to 24 age group is worrying. Having a basic understanding of everyday financial terminology, plus general money and debt management, is an essential life skill.

This leads to the question of whether more financial education should be taught in schools as a key life skill.

Financial education was introduced to the UK’s National Curriculum in 2014, however, findings from The London Institute of Banking & Finance’s Young Persons’ Money Index 2019 backs up our data as it revealed that students still say they are not getting enough access to financial education and they worry about money. Only 17% of students said they had access to financial education within the last year, and just 4% are taught financial education as a separate subject.

Holly Andrews, Managing Director of KIS Finance says:

“Financial education is clearly needed based on these recent findings and financial advisors must take steps to ensure applicants do have a clear understanding of the commitment they are entering in to.

We have long been an advocate of these, and other similar matters, being covered as part of the high school curriculum to ensure everyone has this knowledge when they leave school. From the age of 18, people will be offered unsecured borrowing and it’s essential that they understand all the key points of what they are taking on.”

 

The largest group of credit card holders struggle to define what an APR is

Another main concern is that 60% of 55-64 year olds couldn’t say what an APR is. And according to KIS Finance’s survey, this is the age group with the largest percentage of people who currently have a credit card. Given the often high costs associated with credit cards, it’s worrying that so many people are not aware of the right way to make sure they’re getting the best deal.

 

So, why is it important to understand APRs?

Holly Andrews continues to describe the importance of understanding APRs and the dangers of not doing so.

“Whenever you apply for an unsecured personal loan or credit card you will be quoted the APR. This is very important to understand because the APR tells you what the lender will charge you for borrowing the money over a one year period.

The APR takes into account the interest charges plus any other fees or costs charged in setting up the loan. The APR therefore represents the ‘true price’ of your loan.

The APR is essential for you to be able to plan exactly how much you will have to repay on a loan or credit card. Credit cards are a little different however as you’re only charged interest if you don’t repay the balance in full every month.

APRs are a very useful tool for comparing financial products on a like-for-like basis and will allow you to make more informed decisions. It can be tempting to simply go for the product with the lowest interest rate, but the APR will give you a better idea of what the loan will cost overall.

Even if the interest rate is higher on one product, if the APR is lower, this will be the more cost effective option over the course of a year.

The findings of this survey are worrying because the majority of people cannot be choosing the cheapest products, and those working in the finance industry use the term ‘APR’ freely assuming it’s well understood.

 

What is a representative or typical APR?

“It’s also important to understand the difference between representative APRs and the actual APR you’ll be charged. Lenders can’t show an exact figure for what you’ll be charged on a product without knowing your individual financial circumstances, so on promotional content they will display a ‘representative’ or ‘typical’ APR.

The ‘representative’ or ‘typical’ APR is the rate that at least 51% of the company’s customers must be able to obtain for the finance facility being advertised. Companies can’t advertise APRs that barely anyone can qualify for. You may not be in this 51%, that’s why you may be charged a different rate when it comes to actually applying for the product and after the lender has looked at your credit history and your current financial situation. This could mean that the rate you actually receive may be higher or lower than the one advertised.”

 

What are the dangers of not understanding APRs?

“If you don’t understand what the APR is on the financial products you’re taking out, you could end up being charged a lot more than you were expecting or budgeting for. If this is the case and you can’t meet the required repayments on your loan or credit card, you could see yourself winding up in a lot of debt and seriously damaging your credit rating. Not to mention the stress that being in debt can cause, so making sure you understand the true cost of borrowing is really important to make sure you get the best deal possible, and you don’t wind up over committing yourself financially.”

Home insurance
ArticlesInsuranceRisk Management

How to Secure a Cheaper UK Home Insurance Policy

Home insurance

 

The cost of home insurance in general is quite high in the United Kingdom, especially if you live in one of the major cities like London, Oxford or Winchester among others. There is, of course, a direct correlation between the average cost of home insurance and that of the local real estate in any area, so we are not likely to see home insurance costs coming down significantly anytime soon. If anything, all trends point towards both home and health insurance becoming even more expensive in 2021.

But despite that fact, there is still an opportunity for homeowners to save money on their insurance premiums, as long as they know how to cut costs without cutting the necessary benefits. Here are a few tips that should help.

 

Don’t Trust Any Insurance Agent Blindly

This is a difficult task because insurance agents are convincing professionals who will be looking to sell you the best deal that they can. It’s a “best deal” scenario for the agents and their employers, but not quite for the customers in most situations! This is not to say that every insurance agent will always try to upsell, but that is a very likely scenario, given that it’s their job to do so.

Every insurance agent works for an insurer and they have targets to meet. Therefore, there is no possible way that an agent will help you find the best home insurance deal across all insurance companies in the UK. At best, an honest agent will guide you in finding a good policy from their company, which could suit your needs quite well. That is not exactly a bad deal either, but it’s nowhere close to the kind of money you could be saving by comparing quotes from separate insurance companies.

So, don’t just listen to agents blindly, but compare home insurance online first with a site like Quotezone.co.uk. This is a neutral platform that anyone can use for an unbiased home insurance comparison. You will receive quick quotes from multiple insurance companies simultaneously, and will then be able to compare the quotes side-by-side. They help homeowners find the best possible deal, by letting customers use the competition between top home insurers in the UK.

 

See If a Combined Policy isn’t Cheaper

Home insurance policies are often divided into insurance for the structure/building (house, apartment, etc.) and insurance for the contents within that insured building. Combined policies are usually cheaper, because you will be getting both building insurance and content insurance from the same company. The homeowner will still need to compare their quotes online to find the very best deal, but combined policies are almost always cheaper than insuring the building and its contents separately.

Do be careful in ensuring that the policy doesn’t ultimately end up adding unnecessary for optional extras you don’t actually need, though.

 

Make a List of the Coverage Your Home Insurance Policy Should Have

There are several advantages to having a list which clearly highlights all your home insurance needs. It will make it easier for you to:

  • Prioritise what you need the most, instead of being swayed by an agent’s own interests
  • Find policies that cover most of those benefits within the base plan
  • Find policies that cost the lowest after adding benefits which you must, if applicable
  • Compare home insurance policies online with better results, based on the previously mentioned steps

 

Avoid Paying Unnecessary Interest on Your Premiums

Monthly, bimonthly or quarterly home insurance plans will almost always cost more than if you pay annually or biannually instead. This is because insurers will charge anything between 5% and 10% interest on the total premium when you opt for a payment plan.

If you own property in a prime location, not insuring your home is a very bad idea. There is a high chance that it will eventually cost you a lot more if you decide to skip home insurance altogether. Besides, as long as you manage to use the tips we just discussed, your insurance policy won’t feel so financially draining anymore. If you already have an ongoing policy that is putting a strain on your finances, start looking for other options so that you can shift to a cheaper and better policy as soon as the current contract comes to an end.

cryptocurrency
ArticlesFinanceFunds

Examining the Pros of Stablecoins

Stablecoins are a form of cryptocurrency that differs in one key way to the likes of Bitcoin and Ethereum – they’re stable, hence the name. Rather than experiencing volatility on the markets, those who purchase stablecoins can relax knowing that their investment won’t fluctuate in price. This makes them beneficial for not just individuals, but businesses that accept cryptocurrency as well.

The main type of stablecoin that we are going to look at in this article is centralized stablecoins. These are backed by fiat currencies 1:1 and so you often see them referred to with the currency next to their name – for example USDT (Tether) and GUSD (Gemini USD). The reason they are classed as centralized is because they are backed by a central organization, such as a government, a bank, or a company.

Let’s take a look at some of the benefits of centralized stablecoins.

 

Easy to Purchase

Opting to buy USDT and other stablecoins is very easy, and can be done by anyone with an internet connection. Platforms like Paxful make it easy for anyone to sign up, open a wallet, and buy USDT in whatever amount they want. You can purchase stablecoins using your debit card, PayPal, gift cards, credit cards, Western Union and more. It has never been as easy as it is today to get started.

 

Allows You to Use Fiat Like Crypto

When most people get started with cryptocurrencies, they can find it hard to understand just how much of a particular cryptocurrency they’re getting for their dollar. However, because stablecoins are pegged to a Fiat currency, it’s not quite so difficult to understand. Looking at Tether again, we can see that one USD equals one USDT. Tether experiences the exact same price movements as the USD, making it easier to understand and invest in.

 

Low Fees

Because of the peer-to-peer nature of stablecoins, and the lack of intermediaries, transactions tend to be a lot cheaper than with traditional finance. Credit card payments and bank transfers, for example, both charge a fee and commission, which can be exceedingly high when transferred abroad. This is not the case with stablecoins. Also, as mentioned above, due to them being pegged to a Fiat currency, it’s possible to transfer your USD to USDT, transfer the USDT to a friend, and then have them transfer it back to USD to save on transaction fees.

 

They’re Not Volatile

The main advantage of stablecoins over other types of cryptocurrency is that they’re not affected by the same price fluctuations. This is something that is crucial if the world is going to accept cryptocurrencies in the mainstream. No-one wants to accept payment for something, or receive their paycheck, without stability as the amount they receive could change dramatically from day to day. Due to their nature, stablecoins are helping to overcome many of the challenges faced by traditional cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum, which will only help to encourage the spread.

As you can see, stablecoins have a clear place in the economy. It will be interesting to see if they ever replace Fiat currency in the future.

Co-operative bank
ArticlesBankingCash Management

The Co-operative Renews Support of The Hive, As Part of Its Ongoing Commitment to the UK’s Co-operative Businesses

Co-operative bank
  • The Co-operative Bank has committed an additional £400,000 to support The Hive – a programme to help new and existing co-operatives delivered by Co-operatives UK

  • The Co-operative Bank’s customer-led Ethical Policy outlines its commitment to nurture and support the co-operative sector, having previously invested £1.3 million in this programme since 2016

  • Rose Marley, Co-operatives UK’s new CEO anticipates ‘a new wave of entrepreneurs responding to a need to do things differently’

The Co-operative Bank has announced it has renewed its partnership with The Hive, a support programme for the UK’s co-operatives, delivered by Co-operatives UK.

The Hive, which The Co-operative Bank has supported with a total investment of £1.7 million since 2016, has helped over 1,000 co-operatives and groups with support including direct business advice, workshops, training and mentoring. Part of the funding from The Co-operative Bank has also helped develop a digital registration service for co-op start-ups – a first for the sector. As part of this process, new co-ops will also be able to access free business banking from The Co-operative Bank.

Since the launch of The Hive in 2016 some of the key achievements over the last four years include:

  • Over 1,000 groups have received support worth in excess of £600,000.

  • 50 free introductory sessions facilitated across the UK, attended by more than 500 groups, looking to start a co-operative or wanting to learn more.

  • Over 80 new co-operatives have been incorporated.

  • 40 ‘Community Shares’ support packages provided, raising more than £6 million of community investment in the development of co-operatives and their communities

  • The support has impacted more than 20,000 volunteers, members and employees as well as their wider communities.

  • Supporting co-ops throughout Covid-19, helping them navigate the various business support schemes, working through business forecasting and cost saving opportunities and helping businesses ‘pivot’ to online trading.

This news follows Co-operatives UK research which suggested co-operatives may be far more resilient to economic shocks and significantly more likely to survive compared with other businesses. After their first five years, 76% of co-operatives are more likely to succeed when compared with other businesses (42%). Co-operatives contribute £38 billion to the UK economy and the UK’s 7,063 independent co-ops employ 241,714 people with over 14 million members who own and have a say in how they operate.

Nick Slape, Chief Executive Officer, The Co-operative Bank said “As a bank built on co-operative values and ethics we remain committed to supporting the co-operative sector, giving like-minded people, innovators and groups the support they need to succeed when UK businesses face unprecedented challenges during this extremely difficult time. We hope that through our ongoing support of The Hive and partnership with Co-operatives UK, we can make a real difference to people running or looking to start a co-operative.”

Rose Marley, Chief Executive, Co-operatives UK said “The pandemic has really made people think about their business and working lives. As more and more people are looking at how they might improve their future working lives for themselves, their families and the communities they are based in, we are delighted that The Co-operative Bank is supporting new and existing co-operatives to do just this.

“Our research demonstrates that co-operatives are almost twice as likely to survive the early years of business compared to traditional business models, and workers are looking for fairer and more equitable ways to do business and challenge the status quo.

“Leeds Bread Co-op is a brilliant example of how The Hive has supported businesses through the pandemic. And with continued support from The Co-operative Bank, The Hive will continue to create more robust and resilient business that will make a real difference to the communities they are rooted in.”

Leeds Bread Co-op is an independent artisan bakery and workers’ co-operative. They received support from The Hive to help them adapt in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Lizzie, a Worker Owner at Leeds Bread Co-op said “We had a massive drop in sales from our wholesale customers who had to close because of government restrictions in the spring. We decided to cease trading temporarily for the safety of our staff and local community and to give ourselves some breathing space whilst we worked with an advisor from The Hive on urgent financial modelling and collective decision-making about our priorities. This was in addition to financial support from The Co-operative Bank as part of the Bounce Back Loans Scheme (BBLS). We’re now back open, with social distancing measures in place as well as a new click and collect service and home deliveries, meaning we can still continue to trade in these challenging times. Support from the Hive was a lifeline at a critical time.”

In addition to supporting co-operatives through The Hive, The Co-operative Bank also provides tailored accounts specifically for community and co-operative businesses. The Community Directplus Current Account gives registered charities, community interest companies, co-operatives and credit unions an ethical way to bank for free. Community Directplus customers also have the opportunity to apply for up to £1,000 for project funding from the Co-operative Bank’s Customer Donation Fund which helps support special projects and fundraising opportunities.

Trading app
ArticlesBankingFX and PaymentSecurities

PixelPlex Shares Details of Its New Crypto Arbitrage Platform

Trading app

 

PixelPlex, a global provider of blockchain-powered solutions, has announced the successful launch of a crypto arbitrage platform. The new application is designed to provide cryptocurrency traders with an effective tool with which they can grab the most beneficial deal.
PixelPlex developers have pointed out that one of the most important features of their platform is the built-in arbitrage bot, as it does crypto trading itself and helps users to make a profit.

The engineering team has also explained how it works. The bot simultaneously buys and sells the same amount of bitcoins (or any other cryptocurrency) from two different exchanges. Meanwhile, their equivalent amount in fiat is different, so the trader makes money on the difference in currency rates.

The PixelPlex bitcoin trading platform contains a data collection mechanism, an algorithm for finding profitable deals, a tool for handling cryptocurrency volatility, and the ability to exchange cryptocurrencies for fiat money and vice versa.

The company’s team of experts have commented on more details of their solution. They have mentioned several major risks usually associated with crypto arbitrage, such as a halt in trading caused by the accumulation of all funds on one exchange and high transaction fees that lead to zero profit or even financial losses. To prevent and eliminate these issues, a graph theory-based optimal search algorithm was developed.

The algorithm receives data from leading exchanges like Binance, Bittrex, Kraken, and others, then it selects the best trading deal and executes the transaction before the market changes and the trader passes the opportunity.

As noted by PixelPlex, their platform is capable of making instant decisions, thereby allowing traders to rest and check their account balance once in a while. They claim that their arbitrage software includes all the features every trader needs: the ability to set thresholds for trades and profits, trade directly or through a minor pair, and access investment strategies that are typically not available when using conventional methods.

Another feature that may not be immediately noticeable, but equally important, is the intuitive user interface. The PixelPlex designers and developers have placed opening and closing deals buttons a few clicks apart and included a built-in set of options to let users customize the solution. Copy-trading and all the information in the app are presented in graphs and charts.

In the end, PixelPlex representatives have noted that their crypto arbitrage solution is easy to integrate and carry over to any business environment.

Digital Banking
ArticlesBanking

Over a Quarter of Brits Now Have an Account with a Digital-Only Bank

Digital Banking
  • The number of Brits with a digital-only bank account has gone up by a percentage increase of 16% 

  • Almost 1 in 6 Brits (17%) plan to open a digital bank account over the next 5 years

  • The top reason for opening an account was the convenience of banking online for the third year running

  • However, 16% of traditional banking customers who aren’t planning to switch said their bank had been helpful during the COVID pandemic

Currently over a quarter of Brits (27%) say they have at least one bank account with a digital-only bank, according to personal finance comparison site finder.com.

This is a percentage increase of 16% from last year when 23% of Brits said they had an account with a digital bank. It is also over 3 times the amount of Brits who had one in January 2019 (9%).

Finder’s 2019 research found that 24% of Brits intended to have a digital-only account by 2024. However with 27% now having an account, Brits have gone digital 3 years earlier than expected.

A further 17% of Brits intend to join them over the next 5 years, with 11% planning to do so over the next year. This could mean that 44% of Brits could have an account with a digital bank by 2026. If this percentage were applied to the UK adult population, it would equal almost 23 million people.

The top reason for opening an account continues to be convenience that digital-only banks provide, for the third year running (26%). The second most common reason was that users needed an additional account and setting up a digital account seemed to be the easiest option (20%). Customers also wanted to transfer money more easily (19%), making this the third biggest priority.

People wanting a trendy card is still driving signups as well, with 1 in 10 (10%) existing, or future, customers citing this as a reason to get an account.

Despite the increase in digital-only banking customers, the numbers who aren’t considering one have actually risen. Last year, 23% of respondents said they aren’t considering a digital-only bank account, but this has risen substantially to 42% in the latest survey. 

This is likely a result of increased customer loyalty, 58% of those without a digital bank account said they felt as though their incumbent bank had treated them well and therefore had no desire to open a digital bank account. Additionally, 16% felt as though their incumbent bank had performed particularly well during the pandemic. 

Over a third (36%) of those without a digital bank account said they had not decided to bank with digital providers because they preferred to be able to speak to someone in branch. 

Digital banks are still most popular with younger generations, 46% of gen Z say they currently have a digital bank account, with a further 28% intending to get one over the next 5 years. This would mean that by 2026 just under three quarters of gen Z (73%) could have a digital bank account. 

Commenting on the findings, Matt Boyle, banking specialist  at finder.com said: 

“This research shows that digital-only banks are here to stay, with the number of users in the UK rising for 3 years straight. On top of this, Starling and Revolut announced this year that they have made a profit for the first time, really demonstrating that digital banks are starting to become a serious part of the banking furniture. 

“The pandemic has also played a role in the rapid digitalisation of the banking industry, with those who had never experienced online banking having no other choice but to take their finances online. It seems that Brits are starting to realise the convenience that can come with digital banking and this is reflected in our research.”

To see the research in full visit: https://www.finder.com/uk/digital-banking-adoption

Successful Business
ArticlesDue DiligenceRisk Management

Your Business Is Successful: What To Do Next

Successful Business

In the world of business, huge triumphs are hard fought for.

Therefore, it’s important that you don’t squander all that your entrepreneurial journey has meant to you so far. While it can be incredibly difficult to reap any rewards from your own venture, it’s almost just as difficult to retain your success in the days ahead. A balanced, rational approach is undoubtedly needed.

Success is not the end of your journey, but a new beginning. Here’s a few ideas on what to do next.

 

Remain Rational

Even if your finances have undergone a radical makeover in recent times, it’s still important to be level-headed.

In October 2018, The Guardian reported on an American entrepreneur who made millions in commercial radio, but lost it all after falling victim to a textbook investment scam that could have easily been avoided. He died broke. Obviously, there’s a lesson to be learned here.

It’s easy to feel like you’re invincible after success has come your way. However, success can be a fickle thing and provide a false sense of security. No one is above human error and the occasional bout of poor judgement. So, invest by all means, but do so via legitimate channels for a strategic gain, and keep your wits about you.

 

Reward Yourself Smartly

Just as it is easy to fall prey to dodgy investment schemes, its also possible to spend in excess and waste your money via your own volition.

There are people in the world who would claw tooth and nail for a tiny fraction of what you have, so it’s important to not only enjoy your success, but to respect it also. That means utilising it wisely and enjoying the fruits of your labours in a controlled, strategic, and smart fashion.

If you want to dabble in high-end property, for example, then consult million-pound mortgage experts. The dedicated brokers of Ennes Global negotiate the best possible lending terms, and endeavour to provide all their clients with a smooth, clean transaction experience. Answering questions, running calculations, and providing strong advice – it’s all their bread and butter. Every investment you make that’s backed by their services is guaranteed to be a good one.

 

Find the Pattern

Congratulations, you’re successful! Now things need to stay that way.

Coronavirus has widely been reported to be the bane of businesses the world over. However, it’s undeniable that some industries have thrived despite all the doom and gloom. Online retailers, fast food services, and delivery companies have all seen a huge uptick in their productivity and profits. Of course, there’s also the real chance the boom won’t last when the crisis is abated.

Find the pulse of your success as soon as it arrives and ascertain whether it’s a temporary bit of fortune or the product of a real, recurring strategy of your own making. Many businesses ebb and flow, sometimes not staying at the pinnacle of their potential for long, so it’s important to identify exactly what is going right in your firm and sticking to whatever is working like glue.

It’s also important to plan for when outside circumstances like pandemics, the economy, and shopping trends might change. What then? Keep an eye on the future, and make sure your business is flexible enough that it isn’t a one trick pony. That way, things won’t collapse the moment the wind changes, because while firms can experience a huge surge in profits, they can crash into oblivion just as hard also.  

Approved
ArticlesFinance

How to get Approved for Finance

Approved


Applying and then being rejected for equipment finance or loans for your business can be disappointing and frustrating, not to mention time consuming, even more so in the current climate. This is why we are encouraging our businesses to follow the correct process and work with us to process their applications efficiently and have a better chance of securing the best deal possible.

It’s safe to say that lenders do not need an excuse to turn down applications, which means your application needs to tick every box, cross every ‘t’ and dot every ‘i’, in order to give you the best possible chance. Our job is to help you, so here are some of our top tips on how to get approved for finance.

 

Have a target outcome in mind

Lenders will either provide finance for your equipment, to help support your business and its operations, selling to customers, such as a frying range for a chip shop, oven for a restaurant or squat rack for a gym. However, you may require a business loan, which may support your business by helping to invest in equipment, stabilise cash flow as well as giving you money for a rainy day. By establishing which of these two target outcomes is suitable for you and your business, you can ensure you get the right finance for the right reasons, giving your business the best time of investment.

 

Get the right equipment

Most lenders prefer equipment in a good condition from a recognised supplier, such as those we work with at Johnson Reed. The finance for your equipment will be secured against the value of the asset, therefore the working condition, type and origin of the equipment will help to reassure the lender that it can help your business, whether its use is directly or indirectly connected to turnover, in order to be sure your business can repay the finance. This gives the lender confidence in your business and the investment.

 

Have a rationale

Your business is more likely to be accepted for finance if you have a clear rationale or business plan for the purchase. By answering the following questions:

What is the finance for?

How will it be used?

How will it benefit your business

How will it help you generate turnover?

the lender will be able to clearly see the plan for the business, how it can generate revenue using the finance, giving confidence to the lender to accept your rationale and confidence that you can make repayments. Being prepared and knowing your business inside out, as of course you do, is exactly how you can you can boost your chances to secure that all important investment for your business.

 

Check your credit score and documents

By having your credit score in order (we use Experian), with updated history, addresses, details and information, as well as any documents ready-to-hand. Having information and documents such as bank statements, accounts, ID and rationale for investment can all help to ensure your application is processed quickly and efficiently, without delays or hesitation from the lender.

 

Think like an underwriter

You need to install confidence in underwriters when applying for finance. They are paid to assess your application by scrutinising every aspect of it, to establish whether there are any doubts about you or your business, and its ability to succeed in repaying the finance that you need. Therefore, it makes sense to think like one, try and visualise what they are thinking when processing your application. Are you presenting the best case for your business to be approved? Are you presenting a clear rationale, with up-to-date documents and reasoning behind any questions they have regarding your business? The answer to these questions needs to be ‘yes’ to give your business the best chance.

 

We know how important investing in your business is, and how it has to be done right. This is why we offer hands-on support to our clients in securing their funds, at the best price, because rates matter, to us and to you, when it’s your business.

If you are interested in a business loan, equipment finance or leasing from Johnson Reed, visit our website, drop us a call (0161 429 6949) or an email ([email protected]).

Finance
ArticlesBankingTransactional and Investment Banking

2021’s Major Investment Risks – But Why it Could Be a Year of Massive Opportunity

Finance

Investment headwinds will “still exceed the tailwinds” in 2021 – but there could be more “major opportunities now than in perhaps the last 10 years” if you know where to look.
 
This is the bold and, given 2020, perhaps surprisingly optimistic forecast from Nigel Green, chief executive and founder of deVere Group, one of the world’s largest independent financial advisory and fintech organisations.
 
It comes as investors around the world focus on rebalancing portfolios for 2021, after a year no-one expected.
 
Mr Green says: “2020 was a year for which nobody had planned.
 
“This included investors, many of whom were caught spectacularly off-guard by not having properly diversified portfolios, which left them open to untold financial risks.
 
“Looking ahead to 2021, it is likely that investment headwinds will still exceed the tailwinds – but, I believe, that there are also more major investment opportunities to be had in the next year than perhaps in the last decade.”
 
‘Headwinds’ are the factors that likely weigh on growth and returns, and ‘tailwinds’ are those that can be expected to boost growth and help drive positive returns.
 
He continues: “The major long-term headwind from the fallout of 2020 is unemployment, which will hit demand, growth and investment.
 
“There’s also the roll-out of a mass global vaccination agenda which will be a lengthy process and logistical minefield, plus there are the ‘vaccine sceptic’ concerns to address.
 
“Meanwhile there are geopolitical issues that could impact on investor returns. These include the significant readjustment that will need to happen following Brexit, U.S.-China trade relations which are likely to become increasingly competitive especially in the tech sector, and the rising border tensions between India and China, amongst others.”
 
However, despite the significant headwinds, the deVere CEO flags three major investment tailwinds in 2021.
 
“First, the rollout of the Covid vaccines which means economies can be expected to begin solid recoveries,” he says.
 
“Second, President-elect Joe Biden will enter office and his administration promises a more predictable approach to trade and foreign affairs – and the markets like certainty.
 
“And third, it is likely that governments will continue to offer fiscal support packages as their economies recover from the pandemic, offering a ‘floor’ for markets.”
 
Mr Green goes on to add: “To quote Einstein, ‘In the midst of every crisis, lies great opportunity.’
 
“This is why, after such a monumental crisis, I believe that if you know where to look and act appropriately to build your wealth, there could be plenty of key opportunities to come.
 
“The pandemic has accelerated history, speeding up and exacerbating major trends in just a few months, that ordinarily might have taken decades to be fully realised.”
 
He maintains that the global economy, how we live, do business and interact remains fundamentally changed.  “It is doubtful the world will go back exactly to how it was pre-Covid – there are many aspects of the ‘new normal’ which people like and support, just a home working.  As such, some of the major shifts are unlikely to be reversed,” he notes.
  
“As such, investors need to look for the lower entry points of quality companies to top-up their portfolios and, critically, they need to bear in mind how the world has changed. 

“Their portfolios must reflect the future, not the past.”
 
Mr Green concludes: “Headwinds will surpass tailwinds in 2021 as the world readjusts, but it’s essential that investors stay invested. As we know, history has shown us that stock markets tend to go up over the long-term.
 
“But as the world moves ahead to a post-pandemic era, it’s crucial that investors ensure their portfolios are suitably diversified across asset classes, sectors, currencies and regions, so as to make the most of the considerable opportunities that will inevitably present themselves.”

Finance Management
ArticlesFunds

Beating the City – Could it Pay to be Your Own Fund Manager

Finance Management

By Ben Hobson, Markets Editor, Stockopedia 

For investors, it’s an incredibly unsettling time. Uncertainty continues to sweep the stock market and it’s anyone’s guess just how far the economic impact of coronavirus will spread. 

Some sectors have been sucker-punched by the crisis, such as airlines, leisure and travel. In a few cases, companies are facing a battle for survival. 

However, you can beat the City with a little know how. 

Ben Hobson, Markets Editor at Stockopedia explains why now might be the perfect time to break free and run your own investment portfolio.

 

Keep your costs down 

Ideally, you want to keep the annual costs of running your own portfolio below 2.5% to beat the cost of owning a fund. 

Fund expense ratios are often listed very appealingly at, for example, 0.75%, but this often fails to take into account a layer of hidden fees and transaction costs that can easily take the true cost of investing in a fund up to and beyond 2.5% or even as much as 4% annually. 

Diversification can deliver higher returns and buffer against market downturns, but you don’t need upwards of 100 stocks to benefit, like in many mutual funds. After all, as the number of stocks you own increases, so do the costs of rebalancing the portfolio. 

The optimal level of diversification for a portfolio is arguable, but some luminaries have argued that you only need 6-8 stocks to get the lion’s share of diversification benefits. Research shows that 15 stocks in a portfolio can give 87% of the benefits of full diversification. 

From our own analysis, it starts to pay to be your own fund manager when you’ve got £25k to invest or more – but even trading smaller sums can provide valuable experience as you build your portfolio. 

 

Give every stock a role  

Try and take a more portfolio-based approach and think about your overall strategy. That means worrying less about individual stocks (narrow framing) and seeing the bigger, long-term picture. 

Narrow framing is when you make decisions without thinking about their wider impact, like the effect of a stock purchase on your portfolio. This can lead to all sorts of potentially costly mistakes and could mean your portfolio becomes over-laden with stocks that all have similar characteristics, leaving you over-exposed. 

Instead, give every stock a role that serves the rest of the portfolio. That mix might include large-cap blue-chips, small-cap growth plays, fast-moving cyclicals and perhaps some dependable defensives. And follow a firm strategy and fight the instincts of selling winners and holding losers. 

 

Resist the urge to react  

Fund managers are well trained to keep a level head. After all, it isn’t their money they’re winning or losing. 

Being your own fund manager is a time-consuming activity and with your own money at stake, it’s easy to become oversensitive to market movements.  

However, checking your portfolio too much or becoming emotionally wrapped up in day-to-day market shifts means you’ll be likely to miss the opportunity to reap the rewards of holding on for an uptick in value. Don’t forget that each trade  costs you in fees, which can add up over time and eat away at returns.  

To anchor your thought processes and protect against that urge to react instantly to market movements, make sure you build and refine your own investment strategy, then apply it consistently across your portfolio.  

 

Time to go global 

Home bias can increase risk and cost money in terms of missed opportunities.  

It’s never been easier to go global with your investments, with electronic markets and masses of company information available at your fingertips, so if you’re managing your own portfolio there really is no excuse not to look further afield for the best investments.. 

Investing is always risky and prudence is required when dealing in unfamiliar markets – but exercising caution and demanding a margin of safety is always good practice regardless of where you are investing . 

One way of partially addressing this concern is to rule out developing markets (or use ETFs) and focus instead on the big, global indexes. 

You can also mitigate concerns around a lack of knowledge of overseas markets by sticking to systematic, factor-based investing methods. This approach analyses a share’s core fundamentals – like value, quality and momentum – over time to project future rises or dips in value, which can help to minimise the risks of behavioural biases and knowledge gaps. 

Crypto currency
ArticlesFinance

3 Signs That Crypto Is Going Mainstream

Crypto currency

 

This Bitcoin bull run is different from 2017’s because cryptocurrency is showing all the signs of going mainstream in the next couple of years

For a long time, cryptocurrency was the preserve of a small group of tech enthusiasts and hardcore libertarians. This began to change in 2017 when Bitcoin hit staggering heights and the front pages of most newspapers. After the great crash of 2018, however, Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies dropped off the radar of mainstream consciousness.

Bitcoin was still a popular asset but primarily one for savvy individuals trading on exchanges and consumers making derivatives bets via smartphone apps. But the latter half of 2020 saw a change. Today, all the signs point to crypto going mainstream and becoming part of our daily lives.

 

1. The PayPal Effect

With over 305 million active accounts and a merchant network of 22 million, PayPal has a large reach. This is why the company’s bombshell announcement that it would start allowing users to buy, and more importantly spend, cryptocurrency was so big. Users would be locked into PayPal’s network, which will not be enough for crypto purists. But it provides an easier way than ever before for people to buy and sell cryptocurrency.
PayPal’s decision will help to normalize cryptocurrency for large numbers of people and merchants who would never have considered it before. The key is that most people are familiar with how PayPal works. So it provides a frictionless way for merchants to accept crypto payments without being forced to integrate new tools into their e-commerce packages. In other words, it makes cryptocurrency simple.
The decision has come with some limitations. For the moment, it is limited to the United States. And perhaps more important, users will be unable to withdraw cryptocurrency from the PayPal wallet. This means that PayPal is acting as a sort of “crypto gateway,” rather than allowing users to truly own and control their cryptocurrencies.
That being said, the deal is still significant and represents a leap forward in crypto education and acceptance.

 

2. Institutional Capital Is Obsessed With Bitcoin

The most recent Bitcoin bull run differs from 2017 because it is being fuelled in part by institutional investment capital. Household names in the investment world, including Grayscale, MassMutual, and even Goldman Sachs, have jumped headfirst into the world of cryptocurrency. Indeed Greyscale now has over $19 billion in crypto-assets and that figure looks set to grow.
This rush of investor capital is significant as it represents a “stronger hand” than many of the retail investors currently in cryptocurrency. Many companies that are betting on crypto will be looking to hold their assets for the long term. One of the more ambitious claims was from Microstrategy, which is looking to hold onto its newly acquired BTC for 100 years or more. 
In theory, this capital increases the underlying value of Bitcoin. This effect is compounded because the supply of Bitcoin is capped at 21 million. This means that scarcity will cause an increase in value as demand continues to rise. In the long term, this will lead to other cryptocurrencies being lifted by Bitcon’s rising tide, as investors late to the party seek a better deal with more affordable options.
 

3. A Crypto Ecosystem Is Being Built

The other success story of 2020 is Ethereum, which has grown by more than 455% to $723. This impressive growth has been driven primarily by an explosion in DeFi apps, and the much-anticipated update to Ethereum 2.0.
DeFi apps are designed to mimic real-world financial instruments and have attracted around $14 billion in locked crypto assets. The most popular so far have been lending apps and decentralized exchanges.
The apps work using smart contracts and the vast majority use the ERC20 token protocol. This means they use the Ethereum blockchain. These smart contracts enable decentralized apps to do things like allowing P2P crypto exchanges and lending without the need for a 3rd party adjudicator.
The problem is that each contract functions as a transaction and so needs to be approved by validators on the Ethereum blockchain. The sheer popularity of DeFi apps has led to a significant slowdown in 2020, which some saw as a block on growth. The Ethereum 2.0 update will go some way towards fixing this via a switch to Proof of Stake, which will improve scalability.
If the Ethereum 2.0 update proves to be workable, it could be a bedrock upon which a fully decentralized crypto ecosystem is built. This will enable crypto holders to access financial services without being forced to use fiat currency and could open up a whole new world.

 

Crypto Is Here to Stay

Perhaps the biggest sign that the world is warming up to crypto comes from JPMorgan’s own Jamie Dimon. The famous executive was one of the more vocal voices comparing Bitcoin, and by extension cryptocurrencies generally, to a scam akin to the famous Dutch tulip mania. Now he openly admits that Bitcoin and the technologically underpinning it has potential, but it is simply not his “cup of tea.”
With even staunch skeptics coming around, it’s clear that cryptocurrency is here to stay and you may even find yourself using your own crypto wallet in the near future. If you aren’t already, that is.
digital payment
ArticlesBankingFX and Payment

FICO UK Credit Market Report November 2020

digital payment

New Data Raises Concerns About Post-Christmas Payments as Consumers Raise Card Spending

Global analytics software provider FICO today released its analysis of UK card trends for November 2020, which reflects the mixed financial fortunes of UK consumers as well as highlighting the continuing debt waiting game.

“Our new data shows that despite the introduction of the second national lockdown, credit card spend increased in November, as Christmas shopping got underway, boosted by Black Friday,” explained Stacey West, principal consultant for FICO® Advisors.

“Spending on UK credit cards is now only 2.6 percent lower than a year ago; either consumers are feeling confident enough about their finances to increase their spending levels or they simply need the cheer of Christmas to counteract the continued gloom of COVID-19, whether they can afford it or not. The concern is that a proportion of spend is being funded by the current government financial support for those on furlough. Payment holidays on existing credit agreements are also probably taking the pressure off outgoings and giving some consumers a false sense of financial wellbeing.”

“There could be a real issue after Christmas as payment deferrals come to an end in early 2021 and furloughs at the end of April (unless they are once more extended). Christmas debts will be unmanageable for some. The sudden introduction of tier 4 and the anticipation that these measures will be in place for months means extra pressure and hardship on many businesses, especially at one of the most profitable times of year.”

 

Spend on UK cards increased and percentage of payments to balance dropped

Average spending on UK credit cards increased by £19 to £638 in November and is now only 2.6 percent lower year on year.

But the percentage of payments to balance fell for the first time since June. The percentage paying the minimum amount on their cards also increased for the first time since June and was especially noticeable for accounts opened less than a year.

 

Increase in missed payments

The one missed payment rates continue to be dynamic, reducing in November; for accounts open less than a year, the percentage of accounts missing one payment reached over a two-year low. However, the average balance on accounts missing one payment is now only £4 lower than a year ago.

Of greater concern is the percentage of accounts and balances with two missed payments, which increased for the fourth consecutive month. The average balance on these accounts grew to over a two-year high in November. Here too, there has been large annual growth in the average balance, which is now £252 higher than November 2019. For three missed payments it is £411 higher.

West added: “We are now starting to see that consumers missing payments have higher average balances. There are also signs that once a payment is missed, this is never recovered. A robust pre-delinquency process is, therefore, more important than ever to prevent the customer going down the collections route. Pre-collections treatment can open the dialogue on the sensitive subject of financial difficulties and help avoid negative actions and increased stress once payments start to be missed.”

Equity Crowdfunding
ArticlesEquityFunds

Research Says Equity Crowdfunding Makes Firms More Appealing to Future Investors

Successful equity crowdfunding campaigns make companies more appealing to future venture capital financing, reveals new research from Trinity Business School.

According to research from Dr Francesca Di Pietro, Assistant Professor in Business Strategy at Trinity Business School, firms that successfully obtain equity crowdfunding, in which people invest in a company in return for shares in that firm, are more likely to attract future venture capital financing.

The researchers suggest that this is because receiving equity crowdfunding signals an entrepreneurs’ quality, as well as the firms’ market appeal, making the company more appealing to venture capital investors.

In undertaking the study, the researchers used a dataset of 290 UK firms that had successfully fundraised using two prominent equity crowdfunding sites.

Di Pietro and her colleagues also analysed and compared how different shareholder structures impacted the likelihood of future venture capital investment, finding that firms who used the nominee shareholder structure (in which shares are held and managed by crowdfunding platforms in place of actual shareholders) were more likely to receive subsequent venture capital finance than companies using a direct shareholder structure.

The research adds to discussions around the entrepreneurship and signalling theory by recognising the role of crowdfunding as a mechanism for companies to signal their value using those who have already invested.

Dr Francesca Di Pietro, Assistant Professor in Business Strategy at Trinity Business School, says:

“For entrepreneurs: If you are thinking about launching an equity crowdfunding campaign, you may want to consider the “nominee shareholder structure”, i.e. one legal shareholder (i.e., the nominee/platform) that holds the shares on behalf of the crowd investors.”

This research was published in the Journal of Corporate Finance.
ArticlesMarkets

MarketFinance Lends £342m, End of Term Report Shows Trends and Insights

 

More loans, larger businesses and a regional shift – these are some of the trends and insights that fintech business lender MarketFinance observed during 2020.

 

Key insights
  • MarketFinance lent a total of £342.4m across all solutions, over the first 11 months of 2020. Representing a 3.4% increase in total lending over the same period in 2019 (£331.1m)

  • The profile of companies using invoice financing changed significantly during COVID-19. Those businesses using invoice financing were both larger than usual (an average turnover of £2.1m, compared to £1.3m in 2019, a 60% increase) and received 83% more financing on average than they did in 2019

  • Businesses in London, Hertfordshire, the East of England and the South West experienced the greatest drops in invoice financing year on year, with a 45% decrease in London alone. These geographies are hubs for the Support Services and Information & Communication industries, indicative of how hard these sectors have been hit by COVID-19

  • Demand for business loans soared with a 13-fold increase in loans between Q2 and Q3 2020. The majority of loans (60%) were made to businesses in Support Services, Wholesale & Retail Trade, Manufacturing and Construction.

 
Q1 and Q2 2020

The UK’s economic prospects showed signs of turning early in 2020, as Brexit-related uncertainty began to fade. Despite the promising start to the year at MarketFinance, with larger businesses borrowing, this upward turn halted suddenly when the COVID-19 pandemic arrived. The country and economy, effectively, went into lock down at the end of March. However, during this time when UK GDP crashed by 2.2% across Q1, it was also the first sign of the coming shift for many companies towards new alternative financial mechanisms.

As of Q2, 46% of businesses reported that income was down by 50% and so the number of companies using invoice finance dropped by 35%. However, while smaller companies with a narrow spectrum of business activity looked to other financial solutions, larger businesses with diversified workflows (and therefore revenue streams) were able to continue using invoice-backed facilities to boost their cash flow. The average revenue of these companies was over double what it had been during the same period the previous year, growing to £2.1m, an increase of 127%. In fact, while approved company applications for invoice finance went down, invoice values actually went up. The average size of an invoice being financed increased significantly in Q2 in comparison to the previous four quarters.

 

Q3 2020

MarketFinance became an accredited CBILS lender and so the quantity and concentration of loans advanced increased by a significant 13 times compared with Q2. Interestingly, over a third (36%) of all loans to manufacturing companies went to those based in the Midlands.

Anil Stocker, CEO of MarketFinance commented: “Small businesses will play the pivotal role in the UK’s economic recovery as we emerge from the pandemic, and we are confident that the bounce back will, with the right support, be swift. These linchpins of our economic fabric will require innovative, sustainable and tailored financial solutions that are fit for purpose in a post-pandemic world. It is up to all of us – accountants, brokers, business advisors, banks and lenders – to continue to step up to the plate and help these businesses survive and thrive.”

 

Q4 2020

Invoice finance was showing gradual growth as of mid-November 2020, suggesting some normalisation of business activity, despite the second UK lockdown. Although the number of companies using invoice finance per quarter dropped by 55% from Q1 to Q2, the figures for Q4 appear to be trending up on both Q2 and Q3. There’s some way to go before we see levels return to those of 2019, but there’s every sign of businesses recovering well as we move into 2021.

COVID-19 continues to affect global supply chains. Manufacturing, Wholesale & Retail Trade, and Construction companies have sought further funding to see them through the pandemic and beyond. Manufacturing companies received 19% of all MarketFinance loans across industries. 32% went to companies in the Midlands, 21% to companies in London and another 21% to companies in the South West, also continuing the trend from Q3. Facing significant challenges to both importing and exporting, Wholesale & Retail Trade companies received 15% of loans across industries, with 40% of these to companies in London.

Anil Stocker added: “Of course, the challenges and uncertainties that 2020 has presented won’t end come January. Businesses will have to navigate the aftermath of COVID-19 for months to come. However, although a lot of businesses have felt a negative impact over the past year, many have executed successful pivots and taken advantage of new opportunities that presented themselves. We’re hopeful that this strong comeback signals we’re already past the worst of the situation. We’ve also been incredibly proud of business support networks up and down the country. They’ve rallied together to support businesses throughout the year and we expect to see this support continue. We’re excited to carry on providing SMEs with the working capital they need to grow, innovate and build towards a successful future.”

Online shopping
ArticlesMarkets

Online Retail Sales Growth Shows Lockdown 2.0 killed the High Street’s Revival, Says ParcelHero

ParcelHero says today’s ONS retail figures show e-commerce devoured over 31% of early Christmas spending as the High Street shut up shop once again in November.
November’s retail sales estimates, released today by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), reveal the High Street’s loss was online’s gain. Online sales spiked by 74.7% in value as early-bird Christmas shoppers hit the internet in record numbers.
The home delivery specialist ParcelHero says that the closure of non-essential stores across England for the second time this year caused the value of overall retail sales to fall back in November -4.1% compared to the previous month. This had a devastating impact on town centre stores’ sales but created record sales online.
ParcelHero’s Head of Consumer Research, David Jinks MILT, says: ‘England’s High Streets became ghost towns once more, as shoppers hunkered down in the warmth and safety of their own homes to snap up thousands of early Christmas bargains. Black Friday had an epic lead-in this November and Brits made the most of it by snapping up online bargains at Amazon and their favourite stores. The boom in online sales was so strong that it dragged up the volume of all retail sales by 2.4% compared to November 2019.
“This was great news for online retailers but highly challenging for their delivery partners as the value of department stores,” online orders increased by 157.2% and household goods stores and non-food sites saw sales rise by 124.7%. The sheer volume of home deliveries will have had a knock-on effect as Christmas orders really kicked in early this month.
“It’s no coincidence that the second lockdown was topped and tailed by the failure of well-known names such as Edinburgh Woollen Mill at the beginning and Debenhams and Topshop at the end. This was a truly dark month for the High Street with names such as Peacocks, Jaeger and Burton also collapsing into administration. Clothing stores reported the sharpest decline in sales volumes in November with a monthly fall of -19.0%. Retailers said that, despite extensive online Black Friday promotions, the enforced closure of stores had affected sales. Clothing sales were still a whopping -30.5% below pre-pandemic levels seen in February.”
“However, many retailers have woken up and smelled the Christmas gingerbread-flavoured coffee. 86.9% of businesses remained trading during Lockdown 2.0 suggesting that, despite store closures, many were able to continue to trade online.”
“Both consumers and retailers need to proceed cautiously for what remains of this year to avoid the impact of still soaring online sales. The beginning of the week is being dubbed ‘Manic Monday’ as last-minute orders are expected to swamp courier networks. For more information on how retailers can reduce the impact of the second wave by comparing carriers,” prices and services, see ParcelHero’s updated guide at https://www.parcelhero.com/en-gb/uk-courier-services.
funds
ArticlesEquityFunds

UK Medicinal Cannabis Company Eco Equity Hits £18.3 Million Funding Target

funds
 
Company set on being a leading supplier in Europe as market opens up
UK-based medicinal cannabis company Eco Equity, owned by  private equity fund vehicle JPD Capital, has raised £18.3 million to enable it to become one of Europe’s leading suppliers of medicinal cannabis.
Eco Equity – founded in 2018 – is a London-based company with operational facilities in Zimbabwe, including a state-of-the-art greenhouse cultivation facility, having secured one of five licences to cultivate cannabis for medicinal purposes in Zimbabwe in late 2018. Cultivation was due to start as scheduled in the second quarter of 2020, however coronavirus has delayed that until the end of Q4 2020.
Eco Equity has been operating under the corporation structure of medicinal cannabis investment vehicle JPD Capital since its inception and recently closed round two of its fundraising, having reached the target of £18.3 million (US$24.3m).
Jon-Paul Doran, CEO of JPD Capital, said: “Research has shown that there are tremendous benefits from medicinal cannabis for people with illnesses such as epilepsy, arthritis and many more.”
He added: “We want to position ourselves as one of the leading pharmaceutical producers of medicinal cannabis. As a low-cost producer we believe we can bring the produce into the UK through the right channels at a price point which makes it accessible to people who desperately need it.”
Medicinal cannabis was legalised for prescription in the UK in 2018, joining the growing number of countries around the world have already legalised medical cannabis or are considering doing so.
Eco Equity is currently a private listing and was offering pre-IPO shares at £0.10p each at its inception in 2018, after a recent audit by Baker Tilly in 2020 Eco Equity was valued at US$210m (£163m) and shares valued at US$0.72 (£0.56p).
Eco Equity is now a fully funded entity within the JPD Capital portfolio and is now engaged in rapid scaling of its operation and infrastructure to achieve fully operational status. The company is expected to generate US$57.7 million (£43.3m) in gross revenues when fully operational, with EBT of nearly US$33.8 million (£25.4m).
Said Jon-Paul Doran: “We are thrilled to have been able to close our second round of funding for London based Eco Equity and see our first portfolio entity become fully funded.  Since launching over two years ago, our flagship operation with cultivation in Zimbabwe has grown from strength to strength and we are pleased to be able to reward our investors.”
Eco Equity’s Managing Director Tommy Doran in Zimbabwe said: “The coronavirus pandemic has caused issues for many organisations this year, and it is always particularly tough for new industries to avoid collapse. The medicinal cannabis industry has continued to show resilience in the face of adversity, and with the company set to begin cultivation at the beginning of 2021, we are looking forward to the year ahead, rather than looking back on what has been a difficult year across the globe.”
As part of its Q3 and Q4 2020 activities, which require the company to transition from fund raising activity into cultivation and supply for its wholesale customers. Eco Equity has negotiated significant off-take contracts, securing the sale of all produce and ensuring Eco Equity is cash flow positive in 2021, this will generate significant and scalable revenue as the company moves towards an IPO next year.
The third quarter of 2020 was also a period of strategic collaborations for both Eco Equity and JPD Capital. Eco Equity started a Research and Development collaboration with the Harare Institute of Technology (HIT) a Zimbabwe-based scientific institute dedicated to “technopreneurial” leadership. 
JPD Capital began its collaboration with the UK Conservative Drug Policy Reform Group (CDPRG) chaired by Crispin Blunt MP, who advocate evidence-based drug policy. The group exists to find and examine the evidence to support policymakers in reducing harm and securing the benefits of evidence-based drug policy.
JPD Capital has also announced its expansion into Europe, including the creation of medicinal cannabis company Íbero Botanica, a joint venture between Verdex Group and JPD Capital, with facilities in Almeria, Spain.  
Verdex Group is an EU licensed Spanish company for research, cultivation and production of cannabis for medicinal and therapeutic pharmaceutical medicine. Verdex Group owns and operates two greenhouse cultivation sites and over 100 hectares of outdoor sites across the Andalucía region in the south of Spain.
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Optimize Office for More Wealth

office
A personal workplace should act as a reflection of yourself and highlight your abilities professionally. You want your office to attract wealth and emphasize your talents. To do so, the space should be unique but well-equipped to handle new opportunities as they arise. In the room, you should feel confident and in-control of your future. To potential customers, your office puts them at ease and subconsciously reassures them of your professional abilities.
Here are five ways you can optimize your office for more wealth.

1. Organize Clutter

Clutter makes people feel stressed, while organization systems ease frustrations. It’s pretty simple to decide which would be better to implement in a home office. Takes some time to declutter, and encourage your employees to do the same.
You’ll experience a boost in productivity and potential clients will feel at ease knowing they are working with someone who is professional, organized and efficient.

 

2. Update Wall Design

Sleek new wall paneling adds an element of sophistication to any work setting. Your office should represent your personality without distracting customers from your work. Wood-paneling provides a sense of history, while providing a cozy and custom feel. You want to feel comfortable, while still working in a professional setting that emphasizes productivity.
Optimizing for more wealth means your office should be ready for new opportunities should the situation present itself. By updating your wall design, you’ve prepared a custom office space without compromising design or functionality. It will act as the perfect backdrop for your next client meeting or virtual conference.

 

3. Highlight Achievements

Your office is the perfect place to display your degrees, award and certifications. While working it will motivate you to strive for success. It will also highlight your accomplishments without seeming overly flashy. Reminding yourself and your clients of your achievements will attract wealth and confidence, helping you to reach your goals.
Remember to choose the awards and certifications you’re most proud of that also relate back to your industry. The goal is to look successful without making the space feel cluttered.

 

4. Prioritize Lighting

Lighting can make or break an office space. Natural lighting is proven to boost wellness and productivity, while poor lighting is related to drowsiness. Research also demonstrated a reduction in eyestrain and headaches when natural light was present in work-environments.
While you should prioritize natural lighting, it’s also important to have brightly lit interiors for when the sun begins to set. Aim to have a variety of personalized lighting on desks as well as overhead lighting that will reflect off of the walls and ceiling.

 

5. Emphasize Sophistication and Functionality

Find the balance between furniture that is sophisticated but also functional. You need to feel comfortable to work more efficiently. Look for products which are ergonomic and promote good posture. While you want your office to look fashionable, it’s crucial that your furniture and equipment remains practical.
Subconsciously people trust those who dress sharp and care about their image. As an extension of your professional self, a sophisticated office space will garner more respect than a mismatched room. With respect comes greater opportunities and a stronger reputation, allowing you to charger higher prices.

 

Act the Part

Use these five ways to optimize your office for more wealth. Remember, designing a classy and sophisticated workspace only gets you so far — you need to act the part too. Dress professionally and look well-groomed each day, whether you work from home or go into the office. When you look good, you feel more confident and it impacts your productivity and other’s perception of you.