All posts by Akeela Zahair

Bank Fraud
ArticlesBanking

Confirmation of Payee for Bacs Is a Welcome Upgrade, But It Could Go Further

Bank Fraud


More than 4.5 billion Bacs payments are made in the UK every year, representing
roughly 90% of all regular monthly payments via direct debit transactions. But until now, this vital payment system was not secured by Confirmation of Payee (CoP), a payment verification service that Pay.UK first rolled out in 2020. 

 

By the end of 2021, all the SD10 banks will offer CoP, which already protects CHAPS and Faster Payments. The addition of CoP to Bacs represents an important step in the industry’s battle against fraud and will provide more confidence during payment transactions.

 

However, in its current form, CoP is not yet the silver bullet that will defeat fraud. To realise the full potential of CoP, it requires further development to improve user experience and offer improved protection against crime.

 

Ozone API already offers a CoP solution that provides more information about a payee before a transaction than the standard CoP check. Ozone’s founders developed the Open Banking standards that are now used around the world and delivered the sandbox and reference implementation for the UK Open Banking Implementation Entity (OBIE).

 

It has now issued a call for the industry to expand CoP by incorporating different forms of identifying data and improving user experience.

 

“The addition of CoP to Bacs payment is a welcome move that will make life more difficult for criminals,” said Huw Davies, Chief Commercial Officer of Ozone. “However, the framework is rudimentary at this stage, meaning that the developing CoP is a long way from complete.

 

“CoP is supposed to add friction when risk is high and reduce friction during ‘safe’ transactions. Yet the way that CoP has been implemented by some banks is confusing and cumbersome, sometimes showing dramatic fraud warnings even after the payee’s details have been verified, causing the payer to worry that their payment will be misdirected, or worse, lead to apathy about the messages.

 

“The continued evolution of CoP and extension of its use cases is good to see. But we’re still at the beginning of this journey and must continue to think about how to move forward with its development.”

 

 

 

 

The evolution of fraud

 

Fraud prevention is one of the areas in which CoP plays an important role. Criminals are changing their tactics, sparking a huge rise in authorised push payment (APP) scams in which fraudsters trick victims into transferring money directly into their accounts.

 

During the first half of 2021, the losses caused by APP fraud soared by 71% to £355.3 million – overtaking the amount of money stolen in card fraud. In 2020 alone, losses totalled £479m, with the actual figure likely to be much higher due to underreporting.

 

Earlier in 2021, the Payment Systems Regulator (PSR) reported that SD10 banks and other PSPs had confirmed that CoP has “improved security and strengthened customer confidence when making a payment to a new payee”. Its data also showed a reduction in the number of APP scams experienced by CoP-enabled PSPs.

 

“With regards to APP fraud, it is likely that CoP has prevented what would otherwise have been a larger increase in scams,” the PSR wrote.

 

There is cause for optimism in the PSR’s statistics, but the fact that APP is still growing shows that further action is needed.

 

Chris Michael, Ozone’s Chief Executive Officer, said: “CoP has the potential to combat APP fraud and offer businesses and consumers the reassurance they need when making payments. Unfortunately, the current framework is not complete yet. We need CoP to be much more than just a simple algorithm. The extension of CoP to Bacs is a good move that points to a better, more secure future of payments. But there is still a long road ahead.”

 

 

The state of COP

 

CoP was initially mandated for six banks but optional for others when introduced in 2020. However, earlier this year, the SD10 firms (a group of major banks made up of Lloyds Banking Group, Bank of Scotland, Barclays, HSBC, NatWest, Nationwide and Santander) wrote to the PSR to offer a commitment to deliver a new Confirmation of Payee role profile by the end of 2021.

 

There is another important date coming in 2022. Phase 1 of CoP will be retired in 2022, with PSPs expected to complete migration to Phase 2 by March 30.

 

Phase 2 is “aimed at broadening participation in CoP to all account-holding PSPs, not just those that operate accounts with a unique sort code and account number”, according to the PSR. In the first phase, a PSP offering COP was required to be enrolled on the Open Banking Directory, which then allowed them to identify each other and send CoP messages.

 

The second phase will allow PSPs that do not have full Open Banking membership to access the Open Banking Directory, allowing a wider range of organisations to offer COP as well as offering reduced set-up and running costs.

Phase 2 also includes technical enhancements that will allow PSPs to send and receive Secondary Reference Data (SRD), which is more information than a sort code and account number that allows for account identification.

Ozone believes the expansion of the data available to CoP is a welcome addition to the framework.

Freddi Gyara, Ozone’s Chief Technology Officer, said: “CoP can be improved by adding further capabilities to the Open Banking frameworks which provide additional information when a payment request is made. Ozone’s API solution already allows banks and businesses to draw on a wider range of data, offering greater certainty during a payment transaction.

The evolution of CoP is only beginning. In the future, it will use much more than just a payee’s name, sort code and account number. External validation data from other data sources (such as Companies House or social media profiles) could more accurately help to verify the identity of a payee. Other methods of verification could include biometrics or phone number matching.

 

“When the framework is complete, it will be a powerful weapon against fraud and remove unnecessary fear or friction from payments.”

Cryptocurrency
ArticlesMarkets

Dos and Don’ts with Cryptocurrency

Cryptocurrency


If you are looking to get started with cryptocurrency and either invest or buy and sell coins, you will want to understand the basics and what to look out for. Depending on what your needs are, you may be wanting to invest in a cryptocurrency and see how the price performs in the long term, or you may want to get straight into buying and using digital currency to purchase goods and services. Either way, here’s a short guide to some of the dos and don’ts with cryptocurrency to keep in mind.

 

Don’t put all your investment in one place

In the same way an investor will approach the stock market, you’ll want to diversify your portfolio and choose a range of different cryptocurrencies to buy. As the market can be volatile, you’ll want to have plenty of options to see growth. It’s a good idea to look beyond the well-known cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin or Ethereum and diversify with altcoins. There are many thousands to choose from, each with its own different outlook, such as Floki that is combining the power of memes to be the people’s cryptocurrency, offering its own NFT metaverse and marketplace. This is part of the memecoin revolution that saw Dogecoin experience huge growth in a short space of time. Diversifying also ensures that if prices fall with some, you could still see success with others.

 

Do research and lean on insights

If you are not experienced with using cryptocurrency, you’ll want to be cautious before spending your real-world money. Keeping up to date with the latest cryptocurrency trends, news and insights can quickly provide an understanding of what’s happening presently, historically and what’s upcoming. It can be confusing, so it’s recommended to speak to experts or those who have been using cryptocurrency for a while. Consulting with those experienced with trading and spending digital currencies can be very helpful if you are a novice. You’ll also make sure that you make an informed choice with a cryptocurrency, as not all can be spent in the same way. If there is something in particular you want to purchase using cryptocurrency, you’ll want to make sure they accept your chosen coin. As it becomes more mainstream, businesses and retailers will be open to many more cryptocurrencies outside of Bitcoin, Ethereum and the most well-known choices.

 

Don’t fall for scams

As with any emerging or popular market, there can be those looking to take advantage and bad actors who will make false promises. Being able to spot the scams before parting with your money is crucial, with imposter sites that look like the real thing or new currencies that draw you in with guarantees of a high return. Being vigilant with anything to do with your personal finances is important, so ensure that you have researched fully before buying a chosen cryptocurrency and that you check the URL of the exchange you are using before proceeding. There are also phishing scams relating to must-buy digital currencies that can reach you via email or text.

 

Do own private keys

Once have a cryptocurrency balance, you’ll want to store them privately rather than on a public exchange. By having your own private keys, only you can access your coins and stay as secure as possible. A hardware wallet is a good way to achieve this as it is offline and away from any potential hackers or data breaches. Just like a USB memory stick, you can store your balance away from your computer or tablet and access it when you want. If taking this step, you’ll need to make sure you don’t forget your password and use encryption or 2FA to ensure it’s secure to you only.

Managing finance
ArticlesFinance

Year-Round Advice for Managing Financially During Seasonal Holidays

Managing finance


Throughout the year, there are plenty of seasonal holiday to celebrate whether it be Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving, or New Years. Depending on your individual beliefs, you may have additional times of celebration. Often, these times are for eating, drinking, and celebrating with loved ones.  However, these times of year can also prove to be quite stressful financially. Especially, if they call for gift-giving or organising an event like a family party. Whatever the occasion, there’s plenty of ways to keep on top of things financially for these times without the need to over spend.

 

Plan Ahead

When seasonal events occur during the year, the last thing you want is to fork out a payday loan to cover the expenses. A top piece of advice would be to plan of yourself to avoid such financial pressures. Invest in a calendar to you can pinpoint all the important dates during the year. This way you can remain mindful of how much potential money you will need to spend, whether you need to buy gifts, and it also provides you with an opportunity to budget. It’s important not to leave things to the last minute. Take advantage of seasonal sales too. That way, you can save yourself time and ease the stress when these events come around.

 

Party Hard but Party Money Smart

Whether you’re celebrating Easter, Christmas, New Year or Thanksgiving, whatever the occasion there is no doubt going to be a party with friends and family. We know full well that the more partying to be had, the more opportunity to spend money increase. Whatever the occasion, let your hair down but be mindful of how much you’re spending. When it comes to spending money at social events throughout the year, one piece of advice would be to set aside budgets for this. Taking a calendar, you can look ahead of yourself and create social budgets at the beginning of each month and work from there. In some cases, looking two months ahead of yourself would be more organised.

 

No Need to Be Extravagant

When social events occur throughout the year, particularly the more special occasions, it’s easy to spend. Whether you’re spending money on a new outfit, hair, make-up, shoes for yourself or buying gifts to mark the occasion. There’s nothing wrong with learning to be a bit more frugal since these times are all about having fun. When it comes to dressing up for occasions, why not haul your local charity shops to find a second-hand outfit at a fraction of the cost? Plus, gift-giving doesn’t need to cost the earth. Some of the most thoughtful gifts are the ones that are handmade or bought with sentimental intention.

 

Don’t Try and Pay for Everything

Hosting parties and events throughout the year can add up. Even having the family round for a Sunday dinner every week cuts into your monthly food budget. Let alone the idea of hosting lots of celebrations. If you need help easing the financial pressures, don’t be afraid to ask for it. Even if we have loads of space in our home, it doesn’t always mean we have loads of money. If it’s a dinner you’re hosting, you could ask each guest to bring a dish with them. Not only does this ease your wallet, but also makes dinner more interesting. Family occasions, whatever the celebration, are a team effort.

 

Take Time Out

For some of us, the year can be filled with all kinds of social events to look forward to. Remember to take time out for yourself, especially around the bigger events. If you have any paid annual leave, take advantage, and get paid while you have some fun. Each month, set aside small budgets for self-care so you can look after yourself all year round while having fun with family and friends.

ArticlesSecurities

Top Cyber Threats Facing Financial Services Firms

With the advancement of technology, different types of cyberattacks have emerged that invade computer systems and can cripple the operations of an entire organization within minutes. Among all the industries, financial services firms are among the top targets of cyber attackers due to the sensitive data firms deal with, leading to possible financial gains attackers can receive. The cost of cybercrime in the financial services sector is $18.3 million, the highest among other industries. Thus, it is imperative to know which cyber threats financial firms are highly vulnerable to. The article discusses the top five cyber threats facing financial services firms and how you can prevent them.

 

Ransomware

Ransomware is a form of malware that invades a computer system through various means. Often disguised as messages from legitimate users, ransomware mainly invades a system through phishing emails, spear phishing, drive-by downloads, and social media messages. Once ransomware infiltrates a computer system, it will encrypt the files making them inaccessible.

Ransomware attacks have become a very common and costly cyber threat worldwide. In 2021, the cost of damages due to ransomware was $20 billion, which was 57 times higher than it was in 2015. Therefore, every financial firm needs to be on high alert establishing robust security mechanisms to prevent ransomware attacks.

For ransomware attack prevention, financial firms can take the following measures:

  • Provide the necessary employee training on how to avoid ransomware attacks.

  • Ensure that employees always check with the sender when they receive a suspicious email, text, or social media message and avoid clicking on suspicious links.

  • Keep a regular backup and recovery plan

  • Keep their system software up to date to mitigate ransomware attacks through software vulnerabilities.

  • Maintain systems for endpoint protection and email protection for added security.

 

Data Breaches

A data breach occurs when an individual’s or an organization’s sensitive, private and confidential data get exposed to unauthorized parties. For financial firms, the data can be from users’ personally identifiable information to critical data such as bank account numbers and passwords that could lead to severe financial losses for individuals connected with the firm.  Data breaches can happen either due to human error, stolen devices, weaknesses of the security technologies or bad actors inside and outside the organization. The cost of a data breach is increasing every year. In fact, in 2021, the average cost of a data breach was $4.24 million, up from $3.86 million in 2020.

There are many actions financial firms can take to ensure the security of sensitive data. The best approach for data breach prevention will be encrypting data with a robust encryption algorithm so that unauthorized parties cannot see the content of the data. Keeping your software and servers up-to-date also ensures your data are not vulnerable to data breaches from outsiders. Establishing strong security and access policies that meet regulatory compliances, including multi-factor authentication and introducing tight security policies for BYOD, also provides strong protection against possible data breaches.

 

Phishing and Social Engineering

Social engineering is a common cyber-attack method where attackers use human interactions to invade a computer system. In a social engineering attack, attackers are often disguised as legitimate persons who can even be employees. The attackers can get information from various sources required to infiltrate a system.

Phishing is also a type of social engineering where attackers use malicious emails or websites to invade a computer system disguising themselves as a legitimate and trustworthy person or an organization. For example, the email sender can act as your organization’s help desk, asking you to reset the password by providing a seemingly unharmful link.

To prevent phishing and social engineering, advise your employees not to open any emails if they do not know the person who has sent the email, even if it appears legitimate. Always enforce multi-factor authentication of logins to prevent account compromises if an attack occurs. Also, keep your software up-to-date and use strong antivirus software on your computers, keeping them up to date with automatic updates.

 

DDOS attacks

A distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack happens when attackers exhaust a server or a network by sending many requests at once. It means the network or the server suddenly gets an unexpected network traffic spike which is more than what it has been configured to handle. The sources of attacks can be multiple systems that attackers exploit. The exploited computer systems can have multiple servers and include IoT devices. Research suggests that by 2022, the DDOS attacks can rise up to 14.5 million.

There are several ways financial firms can prevent DDOS attacks. One is rate-limiting or limiting the number of requests the servers can handle. Using a web application firewall is another way to mitigate the effects of DDOS attacks, which can filter requests based on defined traffic rules denying entry to unwanted traffic. Another way is using a black hole to route traffic that can prevent routing traffic directly to the network or the system by routing into a different path.

 

Insider threats

Insider threat is another popular form of cyberattacks in which a malicious person inside the organization deliberately or unknowingly steals sensitive and critical information. Typically, an insider is an internal employee of the organization who can access critical information. Some insiders become pawns of other bad actors who unknowingly expose critical information. Also, the insider can be a mole, who is an outsider of the organization but somehow manages to gain access to the organization’s network.

The best way to protect your organization from insider threats is by enforcing strong security and access policies with strict access control mechanisms. Also, always protect your critical information through encryptions and data backups. Monitoring and keeping records of the critical data access by the users is also a good practice that can identify potential malicious insiders within an organization.

 

Conclusion

Cyber-attacks are an ever-increasing phenomenon worldwide that financial firms are highly vulnerable to. This article discussed the top 5 cyber-attacks that can harm financial organizations leading to loss of revenue and reputation. As prevention is always better than cure, financial firms need to establish prevention mechanisms described throughout the article.

Bad Credit
ArticlesFinance

Improving Your Finances with Bad Credit

Bad Credit

So, you have bad credit. While credit doesn’t make up our finances, it plays a significant role. When you have bad credit, it can be because you don’t have enough money to pay back the money you owe. If you don’t owe anyone anything and still have bad credit, it’s necessary to get whatever small loan or credit you can to start building your score. Improving your finances with bad credit isn’t impossible. If you continue reading below, you will be able to find out how you can improve your finances with bad credit.

 

Pay Back What You Owe

The most important thing to do is pay back that money you owe. When you have debts to a bank, creditor, or another type of lender, the most important thing to do for your financial well-being is to give the money back. Not only will it increase your credit score, but you will also be able to avoid high-interest rates. You might need cash now but paying back your debts is imperative to living a healthy financial life. To improve your finances, it is pivotal to pay who you owe.

 

Take Out a Loan

If you have paid back the money you owe and still have bad credit, it might be a good idea to take out a loan. You are probably hesitant to get a loan for obvious reasons, but you must build your score somehow. Luckily, there are many different types of loans that you can take out when you have bad credit.

Of course, the most important thing is to pay back the money immediately to increase your credit score, but if you can pull it off it’s a way to kill two birds with one stone. Applying for a loan can provide funds and increase your credit score at the same time. For example, if you have a mortgage a HELOC with bad credit is a loan that refinances your mortgage by using the home as collateral. It’s a way to improve your credit and keep more cash.

 

Get Approved for a Basic Credit Card

With bad credit, you might think you can’t get approved for a credit card. This may not be the case. You should try to get a basic credit card with a small limit and low-interest rates. You can put purchases on the card and pay it off to build your credit score. Getting approved for a credit card is a great way to get your hands on some funds and boost your credit score while you’re at it. Be careful not to put too much money on the card, though. If you can pay off the money immediately, you will be able to improve your financial standing.

 

Make an Investment

Whether you have good credit or a bad score, you can make an investment in something. It doesn’t matter if you are investing in a business, yourself, a property, or something else, making an investment is something you can do for your finances with bad credit. If you have a little money and want it to work for you, investments are a great way to do that. It doesn’t matter what your credit score is, businesses and people will take your money for an investment. Your credit score doesn’t come into play when you are giving someone money.

 

Create a Financial Plan

Whatever your financial situation is, you should create a plan to get your finances in order. Your financial plan should include building your credit score and standing. It doesn’t matter where you are at now, if you have a plan to improve your financial situation and life overall you will be a lot better off. Creating a financial plan is integral to your economic well-being. It doesn’t matter where you’re at. What matters more is where you’re going.

Improving your finances can be difficult, but if you remain steadfast and do your best to put a concise plan into place you will be a lot better off. Credit doesn’t necessarily determine your prosperity, but it is an indicator of how you are doing when it comes to money. Whatever your situation, putting in the time and effort to both raise your credit score and improve your finances will pay off in the end. You won’t regret alleviating the stress that comes with it.

Alternative Investment Markets
ArticlesMarkets

Finding Alternative Investment Opportunities In Markets

Alternative Investment Markets

For many, the global stock and bond market is complex, confusing, and challenging to navigate. Add to those challenges the uncertainty centered around the pandemic, job insecurity, and the general economic instability in the U.S. can make financial decisions much more anxiety-riddled. 

There are a variety of investment opportunities, each with its own risk, that you can consider. The investment boom is fueled by people’s desires to make and earn a passive income, add to retirement funds, and provide a level of financial stability that traditional jobs may lack. 

Finding hidden gems, alternative investments like NFTs, cryptocurrencies, and other opportunities to consider are excellent strategies to minimize your risk while having the potential for positive earnings. The point of the strategy is to consider a mix of short-term aggressive exposure (and potential gains) versus longer-term investment that takes time to mature and earn.

 

Types of Investment Vehicles Worth Considering

There are countless investment opportunities to consider, from Bonds to traditional stocks, cryptocurrency, and more. So how does the average investor make sense of all the options available? Investing isn’t easy and comes with some risk, but by taking a diversified approach, you should meet some of your goals while simultaneously lowering your exposure to risk. 

Below we offer three suggestions of what to invest in to maximize your potential. However, it’s important to keep in mind that this is a suggested strategy and not a guarantee to any particular outcome. You should always be sure to invest only with capital you can afford to lose, and always do your due diligence before making any major moves.

 

Cryptocurrency

Several factors have led to the crypto boom, ranging from the “boom” cycle of the investments, the rising popularity of the currency with celebrities and athletes alike, and the rise of social media as a primary form of information gathering. However, the primary benefit of crypto is the decentralized nature of the currencies. Being a decentralized currency means that its value is based on the demand of the currency rather than acting as a regulated form of legal tender. 

In turn, this gives rise to the vast “booms” we are seeing. Nonetheless, one possible downside to this type of investment is that it comes with volatility that turns many traditional investors off. The risk associated with volatility is that the value can see wide swings daily, leading to significant earnings and losses in a single swing. 



Traditional Stock Market

In traditional stock investing, you’re purchasing a share in a company that is anchored to the company’s value. As the value of the company increases, so too does the stock. As a result, there is some volatility in the stock price. Still, the swings in the value we see in cryptocurrency are not nearly as expected. There are regulations and safeguards to prevent the “boom-bust” daily cycle that crypto may experience. 

The advantage that the traditional stock market has over cryptocurrencies then is stability around minor fluctuations. However, a downside to conventional stocks is that it requires a much more significant investment to see sizable gains. Furthermore, it also takes much longer to see the value and return on the investment. 

 

Alternative Options: Penny Stocks with High Growth Potential

To diversify your investment strategy, you need to include a plan mixed with aggressive investments (such as cryptocurrencies) tied with more stable, long-term assets (such as traditional stocks). One way to make your investments more attractive and potentially secure higher profits in the shorter term is to consider looking at alternative options from the FANG and other blue-chip assets, such as penny stocks or out-of-the-mainstream investments. 

For example, the move from internal combustion engines, gas-powered, to more hybrid and electric vehicles will cause a demand for the various components and materials that make up the eclectic vehicles. Some demand for electric vehicles stems from popular decisions. In contrast, others are generated from governmental action and incentives, such as those recently passed and signed into law by the Infrastructure Bill of 2021.

The bill is expected to have a positive economic impact of over $15 billion for investments and development of EV charging stations, tax incentives, and more. For electric vehicles, that means critical infrastructure is being provided by federal, state, and local government and private industry has more than enough incentives to move away from gas and toward hybrid and fully electric vehicle production.

These developments mean plenty of opportunities for an intelligent investor to find a penny stock with a high ceiling. For example, electric vehicle batteries are made from nickel and other precious metals. As such, nickel mining companies stocks are a hidden gem with tremendous growth potential and should be included in any investment strategy. 

Of course, there is no guaranteed “safe” strategy to investing, but taking a slow approach with a long-term plan is the best suggestion for you to consider, especially as you start. This strategy doesn’t differ from ones suggested for Boomers to Generation Z, but the earlier you begin, the longer you have to accrue and recover from fluctuations in the market toward your investments. 

Debt Provision
ArticlesBanking

New Solution to Taking the Guesswork Out of Bad Debt Provision

Debt Provision

Almost a third (30%) of credit managers ‘guess’ their bad debt reserve requirement 

Less than one in ten (9%) are given any steer/model by their auditors 

Businesses seeking to take the guesswork out of bad debt provision at Financial Year End could benefit from a new free service being provided by Debt Register, a global payment accelerator. 

Loading a company’s five largest outstanding debts onto the automated Debt Register collections platform, with a very high chance of collecting those debts, could significantly improve the accuracy of bad debt provision. This will in turn improve the visibility and accuracy of a company’s true financial position and its bottom line, with all the inherent advantages this brings in terms of access to future lending and credit. 

The proposal follows research that suggests that almost a third (30%) of credit management professionals guess at a figure when assessing the level of bad debt reserve they require at Year End, while less than one in ten (9%) are able to look to any financial model provided by their auditors. More than a third (35%) opt for generic, age-based percentages to arrive at a figure while a quarter (26%) look to their experience of similar debt. 

Gary Brown, Founder of Debt Register, believes the survey proves what he has long thought: that the current process of providing for bad debts is invariably guesswork: “Speaking to firms and accountants, many companies have no clear picture of how collectable or otherwise certain debts are, and make provision simply by taking a best guess,” he says.  

“By passing the five oldest or longest-standing debts through our platform, however, there is a very real chance that those debts will be settled. This means the actual bad debt figure being provided for will be more accurate. because there would be no need to reserve for those invoices at all. 

“Indeed, even if the money is not collected, then that also helps takes the guesswork out of the process and gives the company and the auditor something more tangible to refer to than a vague model. Either way, Debt Register gives companies a tool that supports a more accurate financial position.” 

Real case scenarios with current Debt Register clients have already proven the point and the age of the debt appears not to be a barrier to its collectability. One customer uploaded a debt that was 888 days overdue, and the debt was settled in 27 hours. In a more remarkable example, an uploaded debt that was 1499 days overdue was paid within 45 minutes.  

Debt Register is, first and foremost, a global payment accelerator that enables a business to identify late invoices on their ledger and allow the platform to do the rest. This includes validating the customer contact’s email against a database of some 90 billion addresses to a 93% degree of accuracy. The platform contacts the debtor automatically and in the appropriate language, requesting that the payment is settled, and ensuring the invoice is correct and not in dispute.  

By leveraging its relationships with leading credit reference agencies (CRAs) to report unpaid and overdue debts, debtors are encouraged to settle any overdues promptly to avoid their credit scores being negatively impacted. In short – there is now a tangible and direct consequence for those companies should they continue not to pay an undisputed, overdue invoice. 

Along with shortening the timeframe of remittance, Debt Register provides a series of tools to credit managers including auto-translation for use within multiple territories. The system is intelligent, recognising different time zones, working days and cultural nuances including national holidays or religious festivals, and schedules the dispatch of any communications accordingly. 

To date it has successfully recovered debts in 71 different countries and six out of the seven continents  

“Using the free service means a business has nothing to lose and everything to gain,” Gary concludes, “and converts a guess into something closer to the truth.” 

Card Payment
ArticlesFinance

Navigating Through A2A Payments

Card Payment

Account-to-account (A2A) payments are an evolution of the ever-changing payments landscape. The solution enables to cut out third parties and transfer payments directly from customers’ bank accounts to the merchant. By helping to carry out payments at speed and low costs, the technology encompasses the vast potential for businesses of any size or industry.

The framework’s potential seems to be backed up by the success of Open Banking startups, focusing on refining it further. Although only gaining momentum, A2A payments could potentially greatly reshape the market as we know it—a change payment service providers (PSPs) have to be prepared for.

 

Facilitating customer journey

On the face of it, it is one of the most primitive forms of transferring digital funds. Let’s say, User A has an account in Bank X and wants to transfer funds to User B. When User A agrees to exchange funds for services, provided by User B, they are immediately transferred directly from User A’s bank account to User B’s, hence the name account-to-account.

However, the real potential of A2A payments lies behind the customer’s journey. Let’s go back to Users A and B. Traditionally, in order to make payment, User A would need to first get a hold of User B’s bank details, such as company details, bank account number, sometimes a short code, bank details, an 8 or 11 character code called BIC, SWIFT and a payment reference number, which can either be a number or text, sometimes a bit of both.

The process does not end here—the person then has to log in to his online bank, input all aforementioned details, authenticate, and then—find a way to prove to User B that he has actually made a payment.

Some banks now offer an option to print a completed transaction slip as PDF immediately, others require more effort to get some sort of proof. Usually, these PDFs have no signed authorization by a bank employee, hence, they can be easily forged; unless one goes the paper route, which is a bit on the dear side. Thus, User B will need to log in and verify whether the funds have really hit the banking account.

While local payment schemes like ‘Faster Payments’ in the United Kingdom or SEPA Instant in the European Union provide the convenience of getting the funds virtually instantly, not all banks are part of this scheme, and funds might only arrive 3 hours later, or even the next day; in some cases, such delay could have direct consequences. Hence, a merchant is faced with a dilemma—to trust a PDF, that might be forged, and send the goods or provide services anyway, or delay the service until funds really hit the account.

A2A payments enable to streamline the cumbersome process, and cut off hours of waiting.

 

Rivaling long-standing card dominance

It is no wonder why, for a long time, cards have dominated online commerce. Even though they require a much more elaborate communication mechanism than an A2A payment, it was actually the trust framework, provided by major card issuers and processing centers, that made it so attractive to use.

Card schemes verify that user A has enough funds and instruct the bank to freeze the agreed-upon amount as well as inform User B that they will be deposited into User B’s account. In addition, User A knows that, in case the seller sold something different than was agreed, s/he could get the money back—the dreaded “chargeback”—so user B is kept honest.

Let’s go back to the transaction between User A and B, however, instead of a traditional account-to-account transfer or a card payment, let’s utilize what is called Payment Initiation Service (PIS) in Europe; then, at the checkout page, s/he sees a list of banks rather than fields to input a myriad of payment details.

Once the bank at which User A holds funds is selected, s/he is taken to an authentication page, where login details and authentication is needed. What happens next is the gist of A2A—instead of having to enter details of User B account, User A already sees all details pre-filled, and s/he only needs to verify the payment, which is completed in several seconds.

Since an intermediary—PSP—has guided User A who made a payment, it can confirm to User B that payment has successfully been executed, even if funds have not reached user B account; the same way card schemes do.

Thus, if cards have been working for decades, why the rise of A2A?

 

Benefits for merchants

From a merchant’s perspective, A2A payments can bring tremendous benefits. First and foremost, they are much cheaper. In comparison, card acquiring will set you off at least 0.85% or more, depending on the deemed risk of your operations, while A2A can cost as little as 0.25 EUR, like a typical bank transaction.

Moreover, depending on the product one is selling, card chargebacks can become truly troublesome. If merchant witnesses a case of fraudulent use of cards, and his/hers ratio of chargeback goes over 1%, the seller will automatically be deemed high-risk by card issuers and get completely different rates—or might lose the ability to collect via cards altogether.

With A2A, fraud is more difficult, as one would need to acquire not only the login to an online banking platform but also to the device used for 2-factor authentication, usually a phone and two passwords—one used for logging in and another one for payment authorization. Some banks might still use SMS for a one-time password, but this is getting rare.

Finally, the speed. A2A is a simple bank transfer and 60% of European PSPs have already joined the SEPA-INST scheme, all banks and building societies in the UK have joined the Faster Payment scheme, which means funds sent via A2A usually arrive in seconds. This means funds are available to merchants quicker and, given how difficult cash management might be for a small business, A2A transfers might help avoid costly credit lines or factoring.

 

Drawbacks of A2A payments

From a consumer’s (User A) perspective, there is not much of a difference. One could argue that this is, in fact, the biggest drawback why A2A payments have not replaced traditional card acquiring. In fact, it would be great to see an account-to-account solution that requires fewer steps than paying with a card, especially with the advent of 3D Secure 2.0, a new authentication protocol for online card payments.

A2A has largely been enabled by banks opening up their infrastructure to fintechs due to Open Banking regimes that called for the right of bank users to share their account information with 3rd parties. But the quality and the methods in which different banks and banking groups are providing access to their bank account holders’ information is incredibly diverse, often complicated, and sometimes—simply does not work.

The second biggest drawback is consumer protection. While traditional card schemes have offered almost unparalleled ability to request your funds back at any hint of dishonesty or simply distaste, one will have to prove fraud, or be at the mercy of the merchant, to get an A2A payment reversed. This is due to the fact that standard bank account payments were built with traditional banking in mind—paying salaries to employees or vendors for commonly used services, e.g. carpet cleaning; not something like herbal pills that help to concentrate or sleep better, from a company in Seychelles.

 

Future of A2A and the role of PSPs

A2A payments have a few great advantages over traditional card acquiring for merchants, however, there are a few potential risks to consumers that need to be considered; though, from a consumer’s perspective, the process is about the same. Even though A2A transfers are more difficult to exploit by criminals, users will need to cover additional steps if s/he sends funds to a shady merchant of their own will.

To summarize, the future looks bright for A2A payments—the in-the-works integrations that some banks currently have are bound to become more refined, as the myriad of fintech players keep encouraging them to create a more functional flow. Some big banks themselves are starting to offer A2A collections for merchants, as they do not want to see their profits seeping through the holes of open banking directives. There are markets, for instance, the Netherlands, where A2A payments already dominate and make up more than 60% of all online transactions, so it is not a question of if, but rather when.

Once key players saturate the market, A2A will become a commodity payment and PSPs will again need to concentrate on what matters most—easy and personalized customer experience and value-added services to merchants.

Finance Planning
ArticlesFinance

Top Personal Finance Tips

Finance Planning

Getting your finances in order is important, whether it’s your personal life or business. When it comes to your personal life if you are running out of money or you don’t have your finances sorted you will likely become stressed. Here are some personal finance tips you can focus on to help…

 

Pay off any debt you have

Paying off any debt you have is essential for financial stability, especially if you want to start saving. If you happen to find yourself in a lot of debt you can sort out a plan to pay it off gradually. There are options to take out short term loans in the UK if you find yourself running out of money and you need something quickly. It’s only recommended to use these loans if you’re able to pay them back.

 

Make sure you have a plan

Having a plan is the best way to manage your personal finances and there are now cards readily available that can help with savings. Go for a debit card with a money manager setting, this option will enable you to view your spending and transactions in sectors, so you can see exactly how much you have spent on food, travel, entertainment, and much more over the course of a month. If you want to get more organised with your finances, you can set budgets for each section of your spending.

 

Work on having an emergency fund

You can’t go wrong if you have a backup fund, setting up a separate bank for this is a good idea or you can add a savings account to your current account. There are always unexpected life costs that tend to crop up or something will break and you will need to cover the cost of fixing it.

 

Limit your spending

If you are looking to save you can limit your spending in all sorts of places, food is a good start. Instead of buying lunch every day, you can bring your own if you have time to make it at home. You can also try shopping at cheaper supermarkets to help budget and save. Using a bank that shows you exactly what you are spending in certain areas of your life can be beneficial.

 

Work on investing

Keeping your money in stocks and shares is exciting and can be advantageous in the long run. Depending on the type of stocks and shares you invest in, you can earn back a decent amount. If you are a beginner and you want to get better at investing, there are networking communities you can join to gain human insights statistics to help you make better investment decisions.

 

Following some of these tips will help you with your personal finances and can help you gain more financial stability in the future. Saving money and getting on top of your finances is the basis for leading a fulfilling life. If you can manage to follow some of these tips and are consistent you will have your finances in order in no time.

Life Insurance
ArticlesFinance

Everything You Need to Know About Life Insurance

Life Insurance


Life insurance is a topic we don’t like to think about. We’ll be gone when life insurance is most needed. Most of us leave behind loved ones who will be burdened by whatever obligations we leave behind. Many of us are blessed with leaving no obligations behind. At best, everybody’s death incurs funeral costs that must be paid.

Like other insurance, life insurance spreads the risk insured. Metaphorically, life insurance is a gamble. The life insurance company is betting you (along with all other customers) will live long enough (past actuarial life expectancy) to pay sufficient premiums to cover their payout obligation. Cynically, you are betting you will not live long enough to pay premiums above the insurance payout. Otherwise, you would self-insure.

In any case, the option to self-insure is illusory since if we don’t have the self-discipline to save for death, it doesn’t work. Life insurance has an element of forced savings.

 

Taxation

You will have many questions for which you should seek the advice of an experienced life insurance expert, financial adviser, or estate planner. For instance, is life insurance taxable? Yes and no. You can borrow against your policy without tax. You can withdraw cash value tax-free but only to the extent of premium payments. Any excess is taxable as ordinary income. Payout of death benefits to beneficiaries is taxable.

 

Kinds of Life Insurance

Term Insurance

Term life insurance is the most straightforward insurance policy. There is no investment element to it. It is called “term life” because it covers a specified time period. The proceeds are paid out if you die within that time. One-year term policies require annual renewals.

Term life policies are usually the most affordable since the insurance company is only on the hook for a specified time period. Premiums are typically adjusted as you get older and the insurance company’s risk increases. A term policy has no cash value and, therefore, no investment value.

 

Permanent Life

Permanent life policies have a dual purpose. Like term life, it has a risk-spreading function with the insurance company bearing the risk of loss (your death) for which you are paying premiums. In addition, it has an element of a savings account. Over time, your premium payments accumulate some redeemable cash value.

There are three types of permanent life insurance – whole life, universal life, and variable life.

 

Whole life

Whole life insurance has a static premium throughout the policy life. It is similar to uniform mortgage payments with different monthly principal/interest allocations. During your younger years, the insurance company’s risk of loss is lower, so a greater share of the premium creates a redeemable cash value. The insurance company invests the “principal’ element of your premium in the company’s investment portfolio. That is why insurance companies, like banks, are a major financing source for many industries.

Effectively, you are rewarded for staying alive. After a while, you can borrow against your cash value or redeem it.

 

Universal life insurance

A universal life policy is the same coverage as permanent life but has more flexible access to your cash value. For example, once you have accumulated a sufficient cash value, it can be used to pay some of your premiums.

This is all subject to the caveat that changing the amount or frequency of your premiums can reduce the amount of death benefit.

 

Variable life insurance

Like all other forms, the fundamental element of variable life insurance is to compensate the insurance company for bearing the risk of paying out proceeds at your death. The older you get, the greater the risk to the insurance company and the greater the portion of your premium that the insurance company must reserve for loss.

A variable life policy gives you, the insured, more control over the investment of your cash value (i.e., stocks, bonds, or money market accounts). The better the return on that investment, the greater your cash value accumulation.

On the other side of the coin, your poor investment decisions may reduce your cash value and may even reduce the death benefit. Some variable life policies include a guaranty that your death benefit will never be reduced. You can expect to pay for that guarantee with higher premiums.

Rest assured, like Las Vegas, the house does not lose in the long run.

 

Costs and Fees

Life insurance companies are financial institutions, and, as such, you must expect various charges in addition to the risk costs included in your premiums. Those costs include fees for administration, investment management fees, and charges for optional features.

A self-insurance program via a low-risk savings account requires self-discipline that is difficult to sustain. But such programs do not entail such extraneous costs. Those extraneous costs are the price we pay for a forced savings scheme.

 

Security of Your Cash Value and Death Benefits

While life insurance companies are financial institutions, the FDIC or any other government agency does not guarantee life insurance. Insurers are subject to state and federal regulations. Insurance companies are reported by various rating agencies. You should consult these ratings for comfort as to the insurer’s financial strength to pay your death benefits, cash values, or guarantees.

ArticlesWealth Management

Four Tips to Buy and Sell More Lucratively


So much of wealth and finance is about knowing how to best invest the money you do have to make more of it. Sadly, many people don’t know what they are doing when they are buying and selling an item. Whether it’s a car, a house, a boat, or something more niche, learning the ins and outs of both can help you make better purchases and sales. Below are five tips to buy and sell more effectively.

 

Do Your Research

One of the most important parts of buying and selling things is to do your research. It starts with the buying process. You should understand what a good price for the particular item is. What is the condition? How old is it? The location of a home matters. The miles on a car matter. Whatever the item you are looking to buy, you should spend plenty of time researching what the average price is for an item and how much it should cost in varying conditions. It’s important to have an idea of what you are getting into with a purchase.

The same goes for selling. It’s important to be honest with yourself about the condition of what you are trying to sell, how old it is, and if there is any way to make more money on it. Even if you don’t know the particular field or area of expertise, it’s still imperative to look into it. Do your best to find out information about the item you are trying to make money on. Can you fix it up or certify it to make more? There are plenty of questions to ask yourself depending on the thing you are trying to sell, but the most important thing is to do your research.

 

Have All the Documents in Place

Of course, it greatly depends on what you are selling, but if you are looking to make money on something that requires documentation, then you should see to it that you have all the papers you need, notarized if necessary, and ready to go. Any certifications should be laminated and protected. 

If you are selling a car, you will be signing a title over, meaning you will have to know where it is. Sometimes documents can get lost in file cabinets and attics. Even if you are just thinking about selling something, you should bring out all the necessary documents to know what you have, what you don’t, and what you need to get.

 

Be Honest But Careful

When you are buying something, you should ask a lot of questions. Don’t skip the things that pop into your head because you don’t want to annoy the seller. Especially if it’s a big purchase, you should do everything in your power to understand what you are buying. Be upfront with what you are looking for and be careful not to be duped by a crafty seller.

On the other hand, you should also be honest when you are selling, too. This isn’t to say that you need to tell the buyer everything about the item, including all the bad things that have happened to it, but you should be upfront with them about the things they may encounter. For example, you don’t need to tell them that you were in a car accident if the vehicle has been completely restored and repaired. If they ask, you should tell them, but you don’t need to offer this information right away.

The bottom line is, there is a difference between lying and omitting details, and you should be aware of this when you are both buying something and selling it. You should expect every seller to omit information, as well. That’s why you should both ask a lot of questions when you’re buying and leave out details when you are selling.

 

Understand the Market

Any investment makes understanding the market of that particular market integral to the process. Buying and selling stocks, for example, is subject to all kinds of factors. Whether you are investing in a company, a car, a house, a boat, or something else, understanding the market for that field will help you spend less on what you buy and make more on what you sell.

Buying and selling are pivotal to growing and keeping wealth. You want your money to work for you. To make that possible, you should learn how to buy and sell more effectively. If you know what you are doing, then every exchange can be more lucrative.

Regulatory Compliance
ArticlesGlobal ComplianceRegulation

Regulatory Compliance and its Importance

Regulatory Compliance


It doesn’t matter what a company’s size or industry is, all businesses need to adhere to specific regulations and laws as a part of their operations. Regulatory compliance deals with a lot of guidelines that organizations must follow by law. For example, this might involve ensuring that employees have a safe working environment.

It can help to take a look at a definition of regulatory compliance in order to understand exactly what it is and how it can be different from other facets of compliance.

 

Definition

To put it simply, regulatory compliance is when businesses follow international, federal, and state regulations and laws relevant to their operations. There are even companies that can help with this – such as businesses that help with Amazon FBA customs compliance. It should be noted that specific requirements can and do vary depending on the type of business and industry. 

Adhering to government laws can differ from other aspects of what’s known as corporate compliance – or adhering to specific internal rules and policies. For example, financial market regulations might differ from specific bank policies. While both of them are critical in order to ensure financial behavior, safety, and integrity in businesses, it’s also important to understand the differences. 

 

Regulatory Environment

Since the regulatory environment constantly evolves, the target for compliance is forever moving. You may come to find that just when you’ve achieved total compliance, the regulatory environment shifts in some way and you need to tweak the approach you take in order to remain compliant. Your business has to be adaptable or it can be put in jeopardy. This can make things extremely difficult. 

 

Failure to Comply

If your business fails to comply, it opens the company up to financial liability and even potential lawsuits. This is why compliance is so critical. Regulatory compliance assists you with protecting the reputation and resources of your business. Consider the time it takes for it to build trust with vendors, prospects, and customers. Much of that depends on how the business behaves ethically. 

Compliance is what lays the foundation on which the reputation of the company is built. There are times when all it takes is a single misstep with compliance and you can break the trust that it took years to build. 

If you fail to be compliant, you may even risk the loss of access to certain parts of your customer base. As an example, if you have a medical business and fail to comply with HIPAA regulations, you might lose access to a variety of insurance companies and even risk losing your state license.

Finally, consider all of the time you’ll need for your business to spend following a violation of compliance, likemanaging an outbreak of E. coli linked to a grower you use or a security breach due to someone hacking into your database.

 

Protection

Regulations and rules are there for a reason. They assist with protecting your customers, your employees, and your entire business. Failure to adhere to the requirements for regulatory compliance can leave you open to risks that go beyond simple fines. As an example, regulations regarding security are in place to protect against things like breaches of data, those regarding finances protect against things like fraud, and regarding safety have been created to keep your employees safe.

These types of regulations haven’t been put into place to make the lives of business owners more difficult, even though a lot of the time they do. Instead, they should be viewed as a benefit to your business as well as to external and internal individuals. 

Stock Trading
ArticlesMarketsStock Markets

Six Essential Stock Trading Tips for Beginners

Stock Trading

To anybody new to the exciting world of stock trading, there are vital steps to consider before and during the process. These keys provide a solid foundation for your investment strategy and needs. Instilling a basic understanding is a key overlooked attribute to successful trading. Below resides the key basis for building a successful investment strategy. Implementing these fundamental basics is the structure that can make all the difference in the world of stock trade. 

 

Chart Your Purpose

The first and most important step of investing is to determine why you are investing in the first place. Are you looking to make a quick buck or gradually expand your portfolio through day trading? Conversely, are you in it for long-term investment? Establishing the foundational purpose for buying and selling your assets can be a cornerstone to your success in market trade and can also minimize losses.

Going into stock trading aimlessly, on the other hand, is a recipe for disaster. Investing without a purpose is often the precedent for large losses while having a plan often leads to investment gains. Instead, be sure to set yourself for success by trading — whether it’s buying, selling, or holding — with a purpose.

 

Chart Your Target

Charting your targets means determining the type of industry or the type of technology that you wish to invest in. Your investment targets should center around the type of product or business you believe has the best upside. If possible, aim your investment targets around a category that you’re familiar with.

 

Do Your Research

Research your targets by observing expert projections and opinions in addition to visiting company websites. Carefully perform your due diligence by familiarizing yourself with the company you are considering investing in. One overlooked highlight to observe when researching websites of potential investments is company standards and safety procedures. 

Company safety became a necessary study for investors after the BP oil spill caused a monumental sell-off. Any company that poses a safety risk can be volatile and can quickly find itself being shorted. In turn, any negative news regarding company safety issues causes a sell-off that can leave you holding the bag. Any company website that boasts OSHA 10 safety training or higher is a good indicator of high company safety standards.

Most importantly, however, be aware of upcoming products or press releases that may be of significance to the target company. Being up to date with the company you invest in is what helps you determine when to buy or sell. Never invest in a company you haven’t personally researched or have no knowledge of.

 

Never Buy At the Rise

Buying shares after a stock has risen considerably is the worst time to invest. Unfortunately, this is one of the biggest mistakes people make when they first begin investing. If you’ve seen a stock rise, accept that you already missed the boat — at least for this go around.

When you see a significant rise over a short period of time, do not take the bait. There’s always a fall, usually hard, after this initial rise. Wait for the gains to ride out until its inevitable and sudden decline This is called buying at the dip, and you’ll be extremely glad that you waited, rather than buying shares at their peak price and having a too-high cost basis.

 

Proper Diversification

Properly diversifying your investments helps you avoid the potential for large losses during unforeseen instances of market volatility. That’s why it is important to diversify with a purpose and not just for the sake of diversifying. Spread out your investments across different industry types, but also make sure you’ve done your research on those industries.

 

Never Panic Sell

When you see your stocks decline or plummet, unless justified by company-shattering news that initiated that sell-off, do not make the rash decision of selling off your shares. Remember that the market tends to fluctuate. Such as is the case in life, and there’s always a rise after a fall, just as there’s always a fall after a rise.

Ultimately, a loss is never a loss until you actually close out your position. But once you hit that sell button and get rid of your shares, there’s no turning back. Many people who panic sell end up losing much more than those who were patient and didn’t make impulsive decisions. Not being rash on the sell button can be the difference between monumental losses and monumental gains.

 

The Final Word

Utilizing the fundamentals provided above is an exceptional guide for any beginner getting their feet wet in stock trading. Use discretion while trusting your instincts when buying or selling. Bear in mind you haven’t truly lost or gained anything until you sell. Patience is as much a virtue in stocks as it is in life unless you’re day trading. Get a feel for market numbers and volatility, as this changes by the day — and even sometimes by the hour. 

ArticlesFunds

Online Business Ideas to Start in 2022

If you want to make money without having to spend time at a 9-to-5 job, launching an online business could be exciting and rewarding. As an online entrepreneur, you can work remotely, hire freelancers, and make money from anywhere.

The goal of starting your own business does not always have to be to get rich. You could start your business with minimal cost, make a reasonable profit, enough to cover all your expenses, and still consider yourself successful. All you have to do is choose an idea that matches your skills and interests, and then find a way to make it happen.

Here are some business ideas to consider.

 

Online Retailing

As a niche market retailer, you will offer a range of products to a smaller group of customers, such as people with specific product interests. Starting a niche eCommerce site is an excellent way to build a profitable online business.

Using the right marketing strategy, you can reach a niche customer base and grow your business organically. To get your online storefront up and running, you only need a dynamic website and a web hosting service like WooCommerce hosting, which provides full-service solutions necessary to optimize an eCommerce site.

Once you have set up your store, focus on developing a high-quality delivery service to ensure customer loyalty.

 

Consulting

Here are some popular types of consulting services that pay well because of their subject matter expertise.

  1. Search Engine Optimization Consultant: Are familiar with organic web traffic and have technical skills with tools like Google Ads and Google Analytics? Then you may want to consider becoming a Search Engine Optimization (SEO) consultant. You’ll advise companies and organizations on how to increase their search engine ranking and online visibility. You’ll also scout out the competition and give your clients advice about how to outperform them.

  2. Small Business Marketing Consultant: If you have been an entrepreneur, you may be able to share your experience with people struggling to start their own business. You can market yourself by creating a blog or podcast to offer advice and tips to aspiring entrepreneurs. Taking on the role of an advisor will allow you to use your considerable knowledge and hard-won experience to help others succeed in life.

 

Blogging

You can establish yourself as an expert in your industry by starting a blog. It’s a great way to get your name out there, increase the visibility of your products or services, and drive more traffic to your website.

When you’re writing, keep quality and value for your readers in mind. Sharing your thoughts, opinions, and experiences with the world helps you build a personal brand. You can monetize your blog by selling advertising on your site or promoting affiliate links.

 

Affiliate Marketing

You can generate leads and revenue through affiliate marketing. Often people trust the opinion of a friend, family member, or colleague over an advertisement.

Affiliate programs allow you to link to products and earn a commission for sales so you can make money from your website or social media following. This type of advertising will always be around since it’s one of the cheapest ways to reach customers.

 

Lean Into It

If you’re not ready to make the leap into starting your own online business next year, then lean into it gradually. Don’t quit your day job; just start your online business project as a side-hustle.

Making the leap from full-time employment to entrepreneurship can be a difficult decision because it’s a big change with many risks. However, even just starting a part-time business for passive income can mean not having to work a 9-to-5 job while you pursue your dreams.

Finance risks
ArticlesFinanceRisk Management

Three Financial Risks You Don’t Want To Take

Finance risks

Risky and business are often said together as if they were two sides of the same coin. At some level, all business is risky. You cannot accomplish anything worthwhile without taking a few risks. Marriage is a risk because you might lose your shirt (and end up with a broken heart for good measure). But for many people, it is still worth doing. University is a risk because you might get stuck with a student loan you can’t pay off and a degree that doesn’t land you your dream job. Even so, you would be foolish to avoid going for fear of failure. 

Starting your own business is also risky. Depending on how big you decide to go, you might have to take out a second mortgage and risk your home, your good credit, and your ability to provide for your family in the future. That is a lot of risk to take on, especially considering the percentage of businesses that fail in the first five years. For the record, you should not risk your home for your business. Your family means more than the success of your passion project. There will be other business opportunities. You should know when to retreat and live to fight another day. That is just one risk that is ill-advised. Here are a few others.

 

Passing Up Good Opportunities

There is such a thing as opportunity cost. When you pass up good opportunities to enhance your business, that can be just as bad as leaping at bad opportunities. Knowing the difference is often what separates failure from success. One of the great new opportunities is the addition of smart lockers to your retail outlet. These are just a few of the benefits:

  • You gain a business relationship with the people in your community.

  • You make the community safer by providing secure package pickup.

  • You add a useful service to your businesses with little investment in time or money on your part.

 

Furthermore, customers benefit by:

  • Not having to worry about porch piracy.

  • Not having to worry about missing an important delivery.

  • Having a nearby place to send packages.

 

There are some opportunities that are too good to be true. They almost always are. And there are other deals that are too good to pass up. Many businesses that fail did so because they passed up opportunities that could have helped them succeed. Don’t let fear stop you from taking advantage of good opportunities that come your way. Saying “no” could be even more of a risk than saying “yes.”

 

Failing to Have a Backup Strategy

Do you know why cybersecurity crimes such as ransomware attacks keep happening? It is because they work so well. They work because people keep making the mistake of thinking it couldn’t happen to them. They think it couldn’t happen because they are such small and insignificant targets. The reasoning is very bad, and it gets worse the more you explore it.

Your biggest risk is the failure to have a prevention plan for cybersecurity attacks. Ransomware is a pretty easy attack to execute. It is also pretty easy to thwart. What you need is a good backup of everything that matters so that no one can hold your valuable data hostage. It should be a daily backup of a system that is only attached to the computer long enough to perform the backup. You should also have a cloud backup solution for everything in case your backup gets corrupted. In the security industry, it is said that two backups are really one. And one backup is really none. Failure to have a good backup strategy is a risk you should never take.

 

Never Invest Without Good Research

This one is one of the most obvious and also one of the most ignored rules of investing there is. People who invest on the basis of hot tips lose everything very fast. Another way this happens is through emotional investing. You really like a company for personal reasons so you invest heavily in their stock. This is a recipe for failure. If you don’t have time to do the proper research before the investment window closes, let it close and do better the next time. 

Your business is always balanced on the knife’s edge of success and failure. Avoid failure by taking advantage of good opportunities, engaging a good backup solution, and investing only in well-researched financial products. Failure to do any of these things is a risk you can’t afford to take. 

Financial Health And Wealth
ArticlesFinance

Tips to Improve Our Business’s Financial Health and Wealth

Financial Health And Wealth

As a business it is important that we focus on our financial health and find way to grow our long-term wealth. If we have not built up enough wealth one hiccup can tragically cause us to have to close our business. To grow our wealth, it is important to have a clear understanding of our current finances, understand some of the common trends that are occurring, and be able to respond flexibly when we face challenges.

 

Understanding Our Finances

On a basic level our finances include the difference between how much we own, and how much we owe to others. While we might think of this in terms of if we can pay our bills, it also means understanding if we have the money needed to respond when

something goes wrong. If we can always pay our bills but have no wealth saved up, a simple increase in the price of raw materials could put us out of business. 

No business wants to balance that close to the edge of uncertainty. Often the best way to understand our finances is to do regular audits. These audits might look like general financial audits or doing a FedEx audit to see if we can get a better contract with our shippers. The better we understand our own finances the better we will be able to plan for future wealth growing opportunities.

 

Using Financial Trends to Plan Ahead

There are several predictions around what is going to occur in 2022. For example, trends in payments suggest that more customers will be making payments on internet based devices such as smart home assistants or smart watches. In addition, trends suggest there will be a need to really be able to target customers based on their buying habits. We won’t be able to simply target everyone in a general demographic and still hope to succeed.

It is important to understand trends because it is easy to lose wealth investing in the wrong infrastructure for our business. We all know of businesses who jumped onto the internet early and thrived and businesses who struggled with changes and slowly faded away because they could no longer reach their customers. We also know of businesses who invested in technology but soon found the type of technology they had invested in was no longer relevant. These kinds of missteps can really impact our businesses financial health.

 

Importance of Being Flexible 

The businesses that can be the most flexible are the businesses that typically experience the most financial growth. There are a whole host of reasons why we need to be flexible if we want to succeed in the long term. We need to be flexible when we face supply chain issues. We also need to be flexible with how we engage with customers. If we can adapt to our customers, we can create stable long term revenue streams that we can depend on and use to create long term wealth.

For example, we may find that creating a subscription is a great way to increase sales.

Shifting to a subscription model has proven to be profitable for many of us and leads to more predictable revenues. One of the reasons such a model works so well is that customers get our products regularly and are automatically charged so we do not have to worry about them forgetting to buy our product or purchasing our product in a manner where it does not have time to get to them before they need to use it. 

We all would love to be able to grow the wealth of our business so that we can expand and reach even more customers. To do so it is vital that we understand our current financials and where we can make cost adjustments. We also must understand trends in wealth management and finances. Finally,we must be flexible so that we do not fall behind. 

Today more than ever before it is challenging to turn around a business if it starts to fall behind. If we hope to be a thriving business, it is important that we make sure to stay on

top of our finances. In addition, if we can build up our wealth, we can consider using some of that wealth to help support meaningful community programs that help others.

Asset Management
ArticlesFunds

Seven Critical Ways to Help Protect Your Financial Assets

Asset Management

Protecting your financial assets can mean many different things. It can mean that you want to keep as many of your assets as possible in the event of a divorce. Protecting assets could also mean ensuring that your assets go to the right place in the event of your death. But in this case, let’s talk about how to protect your financial assets in the here and now. There are hackers, identity thieves, and even people looking for opportunities to get some of your money. Here are the easiest ways to protect your financial assets in your everyday life.

 

Keep Your Address Up to Date

You’d be surprised at how much of a risk you’re at when you don’t keep your address up-to-date. While it can be a hassle to get all your addresses changed on your bank accounts and all your investments, it’s easier than ever before to do a change of address online after you move to a new location. If you don’t do this and your account information gets sent to an old address, you’re at risk of people stealing this information.

 

Don’t Give Your Information to Untrustworthy Individuals

It’s important to carefully vet your brokers, your bankers, and your accountant to ensure they are on the up and up. These people will have direct access to all your personal and financial information, which can open you up to getting completely liquidated if any of these people are not doing the right thing. It’s okay to interview multiple people before you decide on who will handle your accounts.

Even with the best research and interviews, you can still be at risk, so you may want to account for any possible scenario. Ask them questions about their cyber security and data security, as well. This will help you determine if there are any potential risks with their system.

 

Use Antivirus Software on all Your Devices

When you type in your login information or account information into a computer that’s been compromised with viruses and malware, you’re putting your finances at risk. Hackers can record keystrokes and use that information to log in to your accounts and liquidate your assets. Antivirus software protects you from getting your systems bogged down with viruses and other malware. These sneaky hackers get in through emails, unsecured websites, and even through your wireless connections. Using anti-virus is one barrier you can put in place to protect your assets.

 

Get Liability Insurance

Are you a homeowner or rental property owner? Do you own a business with a physical location? Then having liability insurance is critical. If someone gets hurt on your property or your property harms another, you want insurance to cover everything. Without the right amount of insurance, you’re at risk of litigation that could impact your wealth and finances for decades to come. And if you own rental properties, liability insurance will help you protect your assets if any of your tenants get injured on the property.

 

Don’t Put All Your Eggs in One Basket

One of the risks in investing and keeping your money in bank accounts is that if a breach occurs, or something else ever happens to that company, all your assets are at risk. It’s best to have more than one account at different places to ensure your money is spread out and diversified. Not only should your investment portfolio include more than just stocks at Target, but it should also include accounts in more than one banking institution. In the event of any breach or catastrophic loss, you would still have assets in other places.

 

Have Both a Will and Living Will in Place

Another thing to think about when it comes to your assets and financial future is who will inherit it if you die or have control of it if you are temporarily incapacitated. By considering these things while you are healthy and in your right mind, you can be sure that all your assets go to the right people — or are used in the right ways while you’re not in control. Additionally, it ensures that your wealth doesn’t get liquidated unless you give explicit consent.

 

Are Your Assets Safe?

Protecting your financial assets while you’re alive is important if you want to maintain your wealth. Not only can it keep your money safe, but it can also protect you from other types of financial fraud. You might not think you’re at risk, but with the right safeguards in place, you can help keep your financial assets protected in all ways. 

Transactions
ArticlesFinance

Accepting More Good Transactions: 6 Steps to Prevent False Declines

Transactions

Listen to this and tell me if it sounds familiar: a customer is browsing your online shop, and they’ve decided to buy one of your products. It’s unsurprising; you’ve worked hard across your business to get them to this far — great products, good marketing, and fantastic shopping experiences are no happy accidents. Finally, they type out all their payment, delivery, and personal details, and hit that all-important complete purchase button.

But the payment fails. It hasn’t been authorised. Has it happened to you before?

It’s a more common (and frustrating) problem than you may think. 15 per cent of recurring credit card payments decline, according to Visa and Mastercard. Some industries exceed the 30 per cent mark. Neither you nor your customer can understand why it’s happened; their details are correct and they have credit, why wouldn’t it work? All you’re given is a message such as ‘do not honour’ — there’s really no further action you can take.

Ultimately, your customer walks away disappointed and unlikely to return. Not only have you just lost a sale, but you may have lost a lifetime customer.

The cause of declining a genuine customer is named as a false decline. It’s neither your own nor your customer’s fault, but these types of declines cost UK businesses upwards of £1.6 billion in revenue.

Fortunately, there are six simple solutions to accepting more good transactions and preventing those pesky false declines that are hurting your business. Here, we explore how online payments work and how you can boost your business.

 

1. Provide more data

Issuers authorise or decline payments based on evidence. Providing more merchant-side data to issuer banks and payment companies allows them to better assess the risk of each transaction and determine if they are legitimate.

According to large issuers such as Capital One and Amex, submitting additional data from the merchant-side leads to a one to three per cent increase in authorisation rates and significantly reduces false declines.

This can be achieved with Transaction Risk Analysis (TRA) tools, where fraudulent orders can be filtered out and good orders (enriched with data from the merchant checkout) are sent to the issuer for approval.

 

2. Use quality fraud tools

Managing your fraud rate begins by using your own tools. And there are multiple benefits to using them. Not only will merchants lose less revenue through illegitimate orders and increase confidence in their processes, but they can also help build a reputation with the financial institutions.

Retailers that use machine learning and artificial intelligence to send cleaner traffic to banks reinforce the idea that their orders are more likely to be legitimate. The reverse happens to those who don’t manage their fraud – sending higher rates of fraudulent orders to banks gives the merchant a bad reputation, and bad orders become an expectation. We shouldn’t need to ask which reputation you want to achieve.

 

3. Authenticate payments when required

The way that payments are authorised is changing, particularly for those in the EU and the UK. This is thanks to the introduction of the second Payment Services Directive (PSD2) and Strong Customer Authentication (SCA). It requires customers to prove their identity at checkout to authenticate payments.

The new regulation steps up all orders, considering them as high risk unless they are exempt or excluded from the new authentication requirements. Merchants can ensure there’s less friction at the checkout through intelligent SCA exemptions and exclusions management.

These systems allow customers to have an easier checkout experience with less friction, meaning more orders for your store. Combined with quality fraud protection solutions, your business can build a record of clean transactions. Objectively, banks should become less conservative in authorising payments. High authorisation rates can spiral into even higher authorisation rates. It’s a good cycle to get into.

 

4. Accept digital wallets

You should be discerning when selecting a payment service provider. For instance, be sure you’re able to accept Apple Pay, Google Pay, and other digital wallets. Why? Because they require two-factor authentication to complete their purchases. Not only does this create more merchant-side data, but it’s also more likely to pass through fraud filters.

 

5. Enable card account updater

Many payment processors can automatically update your customer’s saved card details if they expire or are renewed. This stops any awkward declines that may require returning customers to enter new information that would add additional touchpoints to your checkout. Check with your processor and find out if they offer an account updater and that it’s updated.

 

6. Payment routing

Use payment routing solutions to analyse your particular payment ecosystem. It uses historical data to determine the transaction route which is most likely to result in a successful authorisation. Customer payment preferences and behaviours are different all around the world, so this is especially useful if you cater to an international market.

 

 

Merchants should carefully consider their authorisation optimisation strategy. It can make a real difference to your everyday conversions. Better authorisation processes don’t just benefit your business, it creates better experiences for your customers and incentivises future visits to your ecommerce store.

ArticlesFunds

Who Is Eligible for Pre-settlement Funding?

When the negligence of another party causes painful and disabling injuries, the lawsuit and negotiations to get the compensation you need and deserve take time. Staying home from work to recover from your injuries takes a financial toll as you try to find a way to pay medical bills and living expenses while waiting for a settlement.

 Pre-settlement funding provides an immediate solution to your cash-flow challenges. A funding company gives a cash advance against the anticipated settlement of your personal injury case that can be used to relieve some of the financial pressures. There are, however, eligibility requirements to meet in order to receive funding.

 

What is pre-settlement funding?

A cash advance made by a funding company based on its evaluation of the value of your personal injury lawsuit and the likelihood of a settlement or judgment in your favor goes by many names, including:

  • Pre-settlement funding

  • Lawsuit funding

  • Pre-settlement loan

  • Lawsuit cash advance

  • Lawsuit loan

  • Litigation financing

These and other names describe the same product, which is an offer of a cash payment representing a portion of what a funding company believes your lawsuit settlement or judgment to be worth. The money advanced plus the fees charged by the company are repaid from the proceeds of the judgment or settlement.

Unlike bank loans that are based on your creditworthiness and ability to repay the debt, pre-settlement funding entirely relies on the funding company’s evaluation of the lawsuit. Your income or ability to repay the money advanced is not a factor in determining whether you are eligible for pre-settlement funding.

The advance and fees are repaid from the settlement or judgment from the lawsuit. If you lose the case, the lender absorbs the loss. The typical pre-settlement funding arrangement does not impose on you any personal obligation to repay the money.

 

How do lenders determine eligibility for pre-settlement funding?

Each company that offers to advance money against the outcome of your lawsuit has the ability to set its own eligibility requirements as a result of limited government regulation of the industry. Some of the most frequently encountered eligibility requirements include the following:

  • Existence of a lawsuit: You may apply for a cash advance at any stage of the case, but a lawsuit must be pending in court at the time you submit it.

  • You must have a lawyer handling the lawsuit: Funding companies obtain the information needed to evaluate your case from the lawyer representing you.

  • Type of case: Personal injury cases and other types of lawsuits likely to end in a judgment or settlement awarding money to the plaintiff. For example, a lawsuit seeking an injunction or other type of non-monetary relief would not qualify for funding.

Underwriters for the funding company look at the extent of your injuries and the evidence proving that the other party was at fault to evaluate the value of the claim and the likelihood of the lawsuit ending in a settlement or judgment in your favor.

 

Learning more about pre-settlement funding

Get advice from your personal injury lawyer about whether a cash advance against the outcome of your lawsuit would be a good option for resolving current financial challenges. If it is, compare the rates and terms offered by different pre-settlement funding companies before submitting an application.

Finance Planning
ArticlesFinance

3 Times to Spend Money to Make Money as an Entrepreneur

Finance Planning

As a small business owner, it is obvious that your main goal is to make, and save, as much money as possible. Even though, especially in the early years, every penny spent can feel like it is going to be the one that shuts you down, that is not always the case. In fact, in some cases you need to spend money to make money. If you are confident enough in your plan and process to be able to analyze data, look at the numbers, and trust long term projections, you can begin to understand why, in business, sometimes tightening up the purse strings is holding you back.

 

To Modernize Software Solutions

In today’s world, you just cannot get away with some of the primitive business practices that you used to be able to, and still experience growth and prosperity. You might be able to hold steady, or see a slight uptick, but if you want to increase your opportunity for profit and sustainability you need to invest in modern software solutions that best suit your needs. In spite of the fact that technology can be stressful to some, it exists to alleviate that stress, so after the initial period of adjustment and some inevitable growing pains you are likely to wonder why you waited so long in the first place.

Logistics companies understand this all too well. Being able to do things like track vehicles and monitor maintenance issues with human power feels like a pipe dream as consumerism shifts to mostly online entities and the demand for high performing logistics companies increases. Proper software is a way to increase efficiency while reducing costs, in spite of the upfront spending to purchase and implement the program into your business. You can utilize a guide on fuel management systems and how they can increase efficiency and reduce costs, which is something that even the savviest data analyst would struggle to do by hand.

 

To Accelerate Growth

Online businesses especially understand that sometimes you need to spend a little to make a lot, if you want to grow. Starting out from your laptop at your kitchen table can only take you so far. While this is of course how some of the most successful businesses started, allow yourself to think ahead to where they are now, and how you can get yourself there.

If you are growing a retail business, your delivery system is critical in this quest. It can be a delicate balance to determine how and when to spend money in expansion efforts. If you expand too much too soon and the demand for your product does not follow, your overhead will be too high, but if you hold back for too long and your demand significantly exceeds your businesses capabilities then you risk losing customer to competitors who are better equipped to handle the volume. Find a pace that feels just outside your financial comfort zone, enough that it makes a difference but not so much that you’ve put all your eggs into one basket so to speak.

 

To Build the Right Team

Any successful business owner will tell you, it does not matter how smart you are, how good your idea is, how hard you personally work, if you do not have the right team in place to carry out your vision, it’s not going to happen. Your employees are on the ground level, the ones who are championing for your dreams all day every day, and sometimes you have to make significant investments to secure the right people. Money is one of the biggest ways to incentivize employees to do a good job, so that of course is an expense, but what about the other parts of a company culture that can make or break how they feel about how hard they work?

In this example you do not always need to spend thousands and thousands of dollars, but it is essential that you allocate some of your business budget towards employee morale and retention. These efforts can range from investing in desks that convert from sitting to standing, to show that you genuinely care about their health and wellness to randomly gifting gift cards for things like coffee, or meal delivery services, to make their workday experience a little more exciting.

Payment Trends
ArticlesFinance

2022 Predictions in Payments and Fintech

Payment Trends

John Lunn, Founder and CEO of Gr4vy 2022 Predictions

2022 is fast approaching, and with it comes resolutions and predictions for the year ahead. It bodes the question: what may the new year bring? Will Open Banking continue to dominate, and what technology will rise to the top?

 

1. The Rise of Tokenization

Data security will continue to be a struggle for the payments and fintech industries. As a result, we’ll see the further rise of tokenization and tokens to replace sensitive data with a non-sensitive digital equivalent to keep consumer data secure. 

Companies like Visa, Mastercard and Amex will continue to utilize tokenization as a means to protect credit card information. There are also rumors of interchange rate savings for banks, but there could be savings for those who start to use Visa and Mastercards network tokenization products. 

However, it won’t be a one size fits all proposition. Payment orchestration platforms that allow for tokenization and are PCI compliant will be crucial. Retailers and merchants will use these platforms to circumvent having to tokenize through just one payment service provider. Instead, they will opt for payment orchestration platforms that allow them to tokenize in many different places and provide a better user experience. 

 

2. Open Banking will Accelerate in 2022

Interchange rates will increase in 2022. As a result, merchants will face higher costs to accept credit card payments. We’re already seeing interchange rates affect the fintech and payments industry with news of Amazon no longer accepting Visa cards in Britain. 

Before with Open Banking, there was a problem with the user experience, but now the technology and companies offering it have caught up. Payment orchestration platforms have also made it easy to implement and provide open banking options at checkout, so merchants have a strong reason to offer it as a payment option. 

To that end, Open Banking will continue to be a hot topic in the year ahead. And, for merchants, it will be more lucrative with no chargebacks while allowing customers to pay directly from a bank account. Open Banking will serve a whole population of underserved customers who may not have access to a credit card. And when combined with payment orchestration, it will provide a better retail checkout experience. 

 

3. Cloud Native Solutions will Help Retailers Stay Competitive

Digitalization or moving to the Cloud has accelerated during COVID-19, driven not only by the considerable growth in online shopping but also by the ability of in-house teams to run infrastructure when working from home. 

This shift toward cloud-hosted solutions and headless commerce will continue its momentum. When you couple this with the massive skill gap developing due to the lack of cloud engineers, you see the increasing need for no-code solutions that are cloud native. 

2022 will be the year of headless commerce backed by no/low code backends that will allow today’s retailers to scale and innovate at the speed they need to in order to remain competitive.   

 

4. Alternative Payment Types will Gain Prominence in 2022

2022 will be the year Bank to Bank Payments, Wallets and other payment types rise to prominence. Credit cards’ share of checkout will continue to decline at an accelerating pace driven by increases in interchange rates, as well as consumer preference with millennial and GenZ consumers. 

 

5. Payments Are Getting More Complicated – It’s Time Retailers Take Note

A big trend in 2022 will be around embedded banking or embedded finance. For example, being able to embed credit card applications and creating checking accounts within other people’s apps.  

Consumers, however, are expecting more, and everything is getting more complicated. It used to be that merchants could offer just one or two payment methods at checkout, such as credit card payments. With the rise of ACH payments, wallets, Buy Now Pay Later, and more, customers demand alternative ways to pay and greater flexibility. 

 

Retailers will need to shift in 2022 and offer various payment options and experiences at checkout. As a solution, I expect we’ll see payment orchestration take center stage with retailers adopting payment orchestration platforms that are no-to-low low code to add new payment methods quickly. Alternatively, merchants will be able to utilize the ability to offer greater payment options at checkout as a marketing tool while also increasing customer loyalty by delivering customers the payment options they desire.

Stock Trends
ArticlesCapital Markets (stocks and bonds)Markets

The Top Stocks to Watch Out For in 2022

Stock Trends

Maxim Manturov, Head of Investment Research at Freedom Finance Europe  

 

The global economy is gradually rebounding back to its pre-pandemic state, but with 2022 just around the corner now is the time to be researching and identifying the stocks that are most likely to perform well in the coming year. Since the start of 2021, the S&P 500 Index is up another 21.3%, but while most industries are showing signs of recovery, there are many businesses that have started to deliver promising double-digit growth.

Trying to navigate the investment path and settle on which of these high-growth companies will yield the greatest return can often be a difficult task. With this in mind Freedom Finance Europe have outlined three of the top stocks to watch out for in 2022.

 

Meta Platforms (FB)

Facebook currently remains the largest social media group in the world, with more than two billion active users a month interacting with each other via its many apps. Facebook announced its third quarter results on 25 October, and for this reporting period, revenue rose 35% year-on-year to $29 billion. In addition, net profit was $9.2 billion. Facebook’s digital advertising business still continues to grow steadily, which is partly to do with the soaring demand from small businesses, retailers and entertainment venues such as restaurants. In addition, the meta-universe – a market expected to reach $280 billion by 2025 – represents explosive growth potential over the long term. The average target price is at $405 (about 21% upside).

 

Visa (V)

The opening of the global economy will have undoubtedly been a boom for the credit card company Visa as consumers began increasing their spending on travel, holidays and restaurants. However, even though there are now more competitors within the field, Visa still has a significant market share. Visa’s shares are relatively lagging, but this creates an attractive entry opportunity. The company is also taking steps to stay ahead of the curve by acquiring a number of smaller financial technology companies to help expand its presence in digital payments. There is also talks of Visa even experimenting with cryptocurrency payments. The average target price is at $275 (about 30% upside).

 

Alibaba (BABA)

Alibaba has an excellent business and a large market capitalisation. However, the biggest risk comes from Chinese regulators. The company currently has a market capitalisation of $457bn which is down more than 50% from its peak in the fourth quarter of 2020. This being said that doesn’t seem entirely reasonable, as nothing has fundamentally deteriorated at Alibaba. The Chinese government’s actions are difficult to predict, so Chinese derived companies may bear more risk. However, now, at these prices, this risk can be factored into the price, which looks very attractive, and if regulatory hurdles disappear next year, perhaps Alibaba shares will come back to life and continue to rise. The average target price is at $240 (about 97% upside).

Blockchain Tech
ArticlesMarkets

Blockchain Technology Delivers ‘Scalable Efficient CBDC’

Blockchain Tech
  • Eesti Pank and Guardtime research project confirms role for digital bill money systems in CBDC deployment

  • KSI Cash per transaction energy use is just 70 µWh (micro-Watt hours) compared to 0.1 Wh for Visa and 1 MWh for Bitcoin

 

Blockchain technology can play a key role in the development of Central Bank Digital Currency  CBDC) platforms worldwide, a joint research project by Estonian Central Bank Eesti Pank and leading European deep tech company Guardtime has found.

The study set out to investigate the technological and operational frontiers of blockchain technology and its use in the context of CBDCs using KSI Cash, a digital currency technology based on the KSI Blockchain.

Testing confirmed that digital bill-based money systems are linearly scalable and highly efficient delivering end-to-end payment times of 0.6 seconds based on speeds of up to two million bill transactions per second.

Crucially it delivered a much smaller carbon footprint and lower energy use than current instant payments platforms – per transaction energy was just 70 µWh (micro-Watt -hour), compared with 0.1 Wh (Watt hour) for Visa and 1 MWh (Megawatt hour) for Bitcoin (1 Megawatt hour is one trillion micro-Watt hours).

The summary report written by Rainer Olt and Tiit Meidla of Eesti Pank and Luukas Ilves and Jamie Steiner of Guardtime says:

“The CBDC platform we deployed proved to perform well. The system was tested at speeds of up to two million bill transactions per second, where it operated with faster transaction times, lower energy use, and a smaller carbon footprint than current instant payment platforms.”

Central Banks worldwide are considering the introduction of both retail and wholesale CBDCs with countries including China with the e-Yuan and the Bahamas with the Sand Dollar launching or making retail versions widely available. The European Central Bank had decided to proceed with more intense investigations into a retail digital Euro while the Bank of International Settlements says 86% of Central Banks are conducting research or pilot schemes.

Eesti Pank and Guardtime’s research demonstrated its CBDC platform can integrate with existing e-ID schemes, making Know Your Customer checks easier and onboarding users into the system. Privacy preserving architectures can be made compatible with analytics needed for anti-money laundering monitoring.

Digital bills provide the privacy and programmability benefits of tokens but can also be held in account-like wallets, while the custodial layer used in the test enabled compatibility with conventional payment infrastructures.

KSI Cash’s security model delivers cryptographic verifiability of system operations without compromising privacy and the system proved to be resilient and resistant to insider and

outsider attacks. It also provides resistance to quantum attacks.

The project measured resource load during testing and an indirect assessment of the carbon

footprint of the system showed emissions of 32 tonnes of CO 2 per year, assuming a 14kW

power requirement.

Energy needs of one bill payment were estimated at 0.000000070 kWh (70 microwatt-hours) which is equivalent to 0.000016 g of CO 2 (16 micrograms). The table below shows the comparable figures for Visa and major cryptocurrencies.

 

Table: Comparison of per transaction energy use (given in Wh per transaction. 1 MWh = 1,000,000,000,000 µWh)

 

Bitcoin

Ethereum

Visa

Algorand

KSI Cash

1 MWh

170kWh

0.1Wh

36 mWh

7 μWh

 

Women in Business
ArticlesBanking

Metro Bank Reveals How the Pandemic Has Made the Loan Process More Accessible for Women

Women in Business
  • Lack of funding, mentoring & child care key issues for women in business

  • Metro Bank reveals how the pandemic has made the loan process more accessible for women

  • Metro Bank’s Investing in Women Code helping to transform women’s businesses

 

The Government wants to increase the number of female entrepreneurs in the UK by 50 percent by 2030 – the equivalent to nearly 600,000 businesses led by women. This target followed the 2019 Review of Female Entrepreneurship which reported on the barriers faced by women starting and growing businesses in the UK.

The three key barriers to growth were identified as women being unaware of funding available; a need for more local mentoring and networking and greater family care support.

The UK’s community bank, Metro Bank, has a dedicated team tackling funding, mentoring and networking for female business leaders.  The team is reviewing all aspects of the Bank’s products and services to make them more accessible to women across a range of backgrounds.  Drawn from colleagues across the business, the team has also worked with external bodies to ensure they are maximising the opportunities for women in business and encouraging start-ups to get off the ground.

“We know from industry research that not only are fewer businesses led by women​, but also female-led businesses receive less funding at every stage of their entrepreneurial journey and are less likely to scale up in size and turnover,” explains Kerry Reynolds, head of Metro Bank’s investing in women committee.  “We are specifically trying to address these issues by targeting female-led industries and providing more opportunities for women to build businesses skills and increasing our business networking events to help women meet advisors and find mentors.

Metro Bank is working to ensure colleagues have a greater awareness of the issues that women running businesses face including running education events led by female business owners and presentations from external bodies like UK Finance.  Ironically the pandemic also helped.

As Kerry Reynolds explains; “We quickly realised that by being forced to short circuit the loan process when we supported the Government’s pandemic Bounce Back Loan scheme – women found using our 24/7 portal more convenient, less formal and scary. We are now looking to offer this short circuited process going forward, cutting our reliance on the more formal face to face meetings and presentations of old.”

Each Metro Bank store has a dedicated local business manager to support all local businesses and start-ups in its community.  The business managers give practical support for business customers – be that the complementary use of an office in the store to conduct business meetings or advice on the business. Lisa started Daisy’s Dog Empawrium selling accessories for dogs. When the pandemic hit, her Metro Bank local business manager, Kelly helped Lisa get funding to switch her business model to online and she hasn’t looked back since.

Raising money for growth is a key issue facing lots of business owners.  Metro Bank offers an invoice finance lending facility – literally as a company raises an invoice they can borrow against it, before the invoice has been paid.  This proved to be the perfect solution for Debi Scott based near Exeter.  Debi was experienced as a logistics recruiter and in 2012 bought part of a franchise from Driver Hire which helps businesses find the help they need.  Debi soon realised she would be infinitely more profitable if she owned the whole franchise, but as a single person with sole responsibility for her mortgage, was not keen to take on any more traditional debt.  Debi approached a number of banks, but found Metro Bank the most innovative and responsive.  “By borrowing against the invoices I raise, my business presents a more diverse, less risky portfolio and invoice finance lending also circumvents gaps in cash flow helping me to keep the business on a more even keel.”

An established publican based in Liverpool, Fiona Hornsby decided to launch a new pub right in the middle of a pandemic at the end of 2020.  “Not an ideal time to launch a pub I grant you, but the site came up and it was too good an opportunity to miss.  Metro Bank has always been very supportive and whilst I managed to fund the purchase without taking on any more debt with the bank, I knew their continued support would make growing the business easier as I have an excellent working relationship with their local business manager.”

Metro Bank business customers also receive free membership to Enterprise Nation. Enterprise Nation provides access to its 100,000 members with networking advice and support through blogs, webinars, business news and services. Blogs include advice on everything from how to impress a lender, how to successfully speak in public to the five tax mistakes to avoid as a company director. A full calendar of webinars includes everything from how to start up a business with no start-up funds to pricing your products and services.

Christmas Shopping
ArticlesFinance

5 Things Shoppers Need to Know When Using Klarna for Their Christmas Shopping

Christmas Shopping


The Buy Now Pay Later sector has grown rapidly in the last year with millions of people across the UK using firms such as Klarna and Clearpay to spread the cost of their online shopping. While they can be a useful tool for those who want to manage payments, they can form a very slippery slope for those who don’t fully understand what they’re getting into.

Although it has been in talks for the last few months, the sector still remains unregulated so consumers have little protection when compared to regulated products such as credit cards and overdrafts.

Holly Andrews, Managing Director at KIS Finance and personal finance expert, outlines five things that shoppers need to know about the UK’s biggest BNPL service, Klarna, while using it for Christmas shopping this year.

 

You will pay interest with their financing option

There are different payment options when it comes to using Klarna, and it’s very important to fully understand which method you’re using and the implications of doing so.

Klarna will often be advertised as interest-free, which is true if you use their ‘pay in 30 days’ option. This is a form of invoice which gives you 30 days to pay off the full balance, and for this you won’t be charged any interest or fees. This is also true of their ‘instalments’ option which allows you to pay in 3 equal instalments over 60 days.

However, if you use their financing option to pay in monthly instalments, then you will be charged interest on this. If you are eligible for this option, you can pay for your shopping in equal instalments over 6 to 36 months, and you will be charged a maximum APR of 18.9%.

Before you purchase anything using Klarna, you must read the terms and conditions so you know exactly what you’re getting into. Make sure you also take the interest into account when you’re calculating how much you can afford to borrow and pay back.

 

It can affect your credit score

If you use either Klarna’s ‘pay in 30 days’ or ‘instalments’ option, only a soft credit check will be carried out. This will not affect your credit score and other lenders will not be able to see this on your report. Klarna says that your credit score will not be affected even if you fail to pay within the specified timeframe.

However, using Klarna’s financing option will mean that a full credit check will be undertaken. This can affect your credit score as it will be classed as a ‘hard search’ and other lenders will be able to see this on your report when you make future credit applications. Your credit score may also be negatively affected if you fail to keep up with the monthly payments.
Again, make sure you read the terms and conditions so you know the full implications of which option you’re taking out.

 

Debt collectors can be called

Whichever payment option you use, debt collectors can be called upon if you repeatedly fail to pay under the specified payment terms.

Klarna says that they will do everything they can to avoid this. They will send you multiple reminders about your payments and they will do what they can to find an alternative payment arrangement. But if you ignore their reminders and the debt remains unpaid after several months then this will be passed to a debt collection agency.

You must remember that when you use a BNPL service, you are entering into a legally binding credit agreement. If you do not take it seriously and continue to let your debt build up then there can be very damaging consequences, including affecting your ability to obtain a mortgage in the future.

 

You may be charged fees for using a credit card with BNPL

Some users have been charged fees by their bank when using a credit card with Klarna’s ‘instalments’ option. Tesco Bank, Halifax, and Bank of Scotland have been named specifically for doing this.

This is likely because the bank is classing the Klarna transaction as a cash advance, and therefore applying cash advance fees. This is because you’re not paying the retailer directly.

This fee is not charged by Klarna and they are unable to prevent it, so it’s important that you watch out for this and change the card that you’re using if you are charged fees.

 

What to do if something is wrong with your order

If you receive a product that you didn’t order, or a product that is faulty or broken then you can pause your Klarna instalments. You need to sort the issue with the retailer, but you also need to let Klarna know that there has been a problem. You can do this on the Klarna app.

By doing this, your payment plan will be paused until you resolve the issue with the retailer, and then they will inform Klarna if any refunds need to be made.
If you are unable to resolve the issue with the retailer directly, then you can provide the information to Klarna who will then investigate further. This can take 30 to 50 days before a decision is reached.

Net Worth
ArticlesWealth Management

Why Is It Important to Know Your Own Net Worth?

Net Worth


For most people, figuring out their net worth doesn’t seem particularly essential. As long as you know you can afford your bills, you might not be too worried about how much you’re deemed to be worth from a financial planning perspective. However, the reality is that knowing your net worth could be more important than you realize.

More than just a descriptor of what you have in your wallet and your bank account, your net worth refers to the amount by which your assets exceed any liabilities you have. In other words, it’s the difference between how much you own, and how much you owe. If your assets are more valuable than your liabilities, this means you have a positive net worth. Alternatively, if you owe more than you have in assets, your net worth is negative. This can be more common than most people realize.

 

What Does Net Worth Actually Tell You?

Calculating your net worth isn’t just about seeing how much debt you’re in or making yourself feel bad about your current financial situation. Rather, your net worth gives you an overview of your financial situation at any point in time. If you calculate your net worth now, you’ll be able to see the full result of what you’ve earned and spent until now.

Sometimes, the figure you get when you calculate your net worth is a shock, and this could mean you need to take note of your current budget and figure out how you’re going to improve your financial standing going forward. Alternatively, if you’re doing well, you might find that you can confidently continue living in a way similar to what you know now. When you calculate it on a regular basis, your net worth can essentially be seen as a financial report card which allows you to check how you’re doing from a financial perspective.

 

What Are Assets and Liabilities

To calculate your own net worth, you’ll need to consider the full value of your liabilities, or your loans, and what you owe, and the full value of the things you have. For a lot of people, assets can be difficult to define. For instance, if you found yourself in a difficult financial situation and you needed to access money fast, would you be able to figure out where you can look for money?

While some people will immediately consider things like bank accounts, investments, and brokerage accounts as assets, there are other things to consider too. You can check out a full guide here on how to choose the right life settlement company for selling your life insurance. If you’ve already paid a significant amount of cash into your life insurance policy, then that policy is an asset to utilize that also contributes to your net worth.

Your liabilities, on the other hand, can fluctuate, including everything you owe money on. This includes both ‘good debt’ like mortgages, and other loans, like personal lending, credit cards, loans for your vehicles, and so on. Sometimes it can take a lot of time and effort to understand your entire net worth completely. Remember, even your student loans are included.

 

Knowing Makes You More Mindful

Although calculating your net worth can take some time and effort, it’s actually quite valuable in the eyes of most financial advisors. Regardless of what your financial situation looks like now, knowing your net worth can help you to build wealth throughout your life, plan for your future, and improve your standing long-term. Ultimately, as you get older, and pay off more of the liabilities connected to your name, the value of your net worth should grow. The most important thing to remember is knowing where you stand financially should help you to become more mindful of your spending, so you’re better prepared to make sound decisions with your finances.

Once you know your net worth, if it’s negative, your aim should be to get rid of your loans as quickly as possible. A negative net worth doesn’t mean you need to buy more valuable assets. Rather, you should look to get out of debt as soon as you can, so your assets begin to outweigh what you owe. If your net worth is positive, you can begin to think about other ways of continuing that growth trajectory in a positive way. Either way, this could mean you decide to talk to a financial advisor.

Investment Increase
ArticlesFinance

Hidden Costs When Investing and How Not to Get Hit

Investment Increase


By Annie Charalambous, Head of Communications at
ETX Capital

According to recent figures, Brits plan to increase their investments by almost a fifth in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic – with Gen-Z traders most keen to jump on the markets.

But are those looking to boost their profits paying over the odds without realising? A recent study claims UK investors often pay up to six times more in fees than advertised, costing some traders up to tens of thousands of pounds long-term.

ETX Capital is committed to shining a light on common hidden fees that can trip up new traders. Here’s how you can avoid feeling the pinch.

 

Taxing times

New traders are often unaware that profits made on their stocks and shares are subject to tax, in the same way they pay tax on salary earnings.

If your investment earnings are over £12,300 in a single year, you will have to pay Capital Gains Tax. This will either be 10 or 20 percent, depending on your annual income tax band.

However, married couples can ‘pool’ their tax-free allowance – meaning they can collectively earn up to £24,600 in trading profits each year without contributing Capital Gains Tax.

Some alternative savings vehicles also offer a larger tax-free allowance. For example, you can stash up to £20,000 each year in an ISA and earn interest on your cash.

For those looking to diversify their portfolio, many gold and silver coins are also exempt from Capital Gains Tax as they are technically legal British currency.

 

Commission costs

As with any commercial service, fund managers and platform providers that help traders set up and manage their investments will charge fees for their service.

However, the size of these costs can catch out unsuspecting investors. According to research, commission costs average 1.03 percent in the UK – around double the equivalent fees in the US.

While these costs are unavoidable for those who need support managing their investment funds, it is possible to reduce them. Research investment platforms and fund managers to ensure you find the most cost-effective commissions for your assets.

Alternatively, you may be able to avoid commission if you have the knowledge of the markets and are comfortable with the risk. If so, there are plenty of accessible platforms that will educate you on how to manage your stocks, forex, commodities and more. Although, keep in mind that you’ll likely have to pay fees to trade on these platforms.

 

Not that Stamp Duty

All stocks bought in the UK valued at £1,000 and over are subject to Stamp Duty Reserve Tax (SDRT). At 0.5 percent of the asset price, this can soon add up.

This tax is usually absorbed as part of a total fee charged by a fund manager. However, if you manage your own investments, you’ll need to submit details of your assets to the government in good time to skip late payment fines.

While SDRT marks a relatively small fee compared to the rewards on offer for successful investors, many may still wish to diversify their portfolios to avoid mounting tax bills. A common example is adding corporate bonds, which are exempt from SDRT.

 

Farewell feels

Many budding investors starting their trading journey simply aren’t thinking about what happens when you withdraw funds or transfer them to another platform. And for some, this means getting hit with unexpected ‘exit fees’.

These charges are typically written into the terms and conditions of an investment service and while many platforms and brokers have recently agreed to waive exit fees, there are still plenty leaving traders with a shock when the time comes to withdraw cash.

Exit fees are usually charged as a percentage fee of the withdrawn sum, which can represent a significant cost for longer-term investors.

It’s important to check for exit fees, which may also be referred to as ‘redemption fees’, before signing up for a platform or partnering with a fund manager. And those looking to escape these charges should look for providers that simply don’t apply them in the first place – or at least check the expiry date.

ArticlesFinance

Majority Say National Insurance Hike Will Change Their Financial Behaviour

7 in 10 Brits set to adapt spending habits
The 1.25% increase in National Insurance contributions from 6 April 2022 will cause seven in 10 Brits to change their financial behaviour, according to independent financial comparison website NerdWallet.
Of those set to alter their financial habits, half of respondents said they are already making a change, while the other half will wait until the National Insurance hike comes into effect before taking action.
The National Insurance hike itself is not the only financial hurdle Brits are facing in the new year: high inflation and rising energy prices are all contributing to the nation’s anxiety about its bottom line.
And with 67% already struggling to stick with their household budgets, there are a number of actions people are considering to curb the impact on their take-home pay.
Most of the changes involve essential expenses, such as fuel and food shopping. For example, 48% of respondents said they were looking into switching energy providers, with 16%  stating they are definitely changing providers as a direct result of their reduced take-home pay.
Nearly a quarter (24%) of Brits will be shifting where they shop due to the hike, while half (50%) are considering a change.
People were also evaluating potential changes to their non-essential spending, including cutting back on meals and take-aways (21%), social activities (16%), gym and club memberships (9%), and holidays (13%).  
The festive period, which is traditionally an expensive time of year, is also being reconsidered – with over one in 10 intending to buy less this Christmas.  
NerdWallet spokesperson Connor Campbell commented: “Deductions to the bottom line will always be unpleasant. But, before panicking, we recommend calculating the actual cost of the 1.25% hike on your net salary.
Our research showed that four in 10 respondents did not know how much they currently spend on National Insurance. However, if you calculate how much you pay, and deduct the increase from your current budget, you will have a better idea of how it will impact you directly. For example, at a salary of £30,000 a year, you will pay an extra £21.30 a month.”
“It’s always good practice to review your outgoings and spending habits, especially when there are changes to your circumstances such as rate movements, new expenses, tax increases or an adjustment to your salary. In the case of the National Insurance hike, working out exactly how much extra you will pay a month will give you a better perspective on which financial habits, if any, need to be altered ahead of April 2022,” added Campbell.
NerdWallet has put together a guide to the new National Insurance rates, how much more money will end up coming out of your wage packet and what you can do to help manage any changes to your personal finances.
Payment Market
ArticlesFinance

4 Payments Industry Predictions – What Will Disrupt the Market in 2022?

Payment Market

 
The most prominent disruptive forces, that are going to impact the payments industry in the upcoming year.

Having dealt with the initial pandemic aftershock, this year the key areas of focus for businesses were building economic resilience and improving customer experience. With the new year just around the corner, Marius Galdikas, CEO at ConnectPay, has commented on the main forces that will be shaping the payments market in 2022 as well as what payments market players should keep an eye on.

 

Internet of Payments

It is estimated that by 2025, there will likely be more than 27 billion Internet of Things (IoT) connections. The growing number of IoT devices is rapidly shaping the everyday habits of consumers, including the way they choose to pay. This led the financial world to coin a new term—Internet of Payments (IoP)—which refers to a phenomenon that enables payment processing over IoT devices, for example, smart home assistants, like Amazon Alexa, or smaller everyday accessories, such as Apple Watch. IoP is currently at a nascent stage, however, as the market is becoming more saturated with IoT-driven devices, payments market players need to develop a blueprint on how to take advantage of this disruptive force.

“The merge of IoT and payments brings consumers extraordinary convenience with reduced friction,” commented Galdikas. “As Open Banking enables third-party providers and fintechs take on the roles of IoP providers, this opens up an entirely new area for innovation. Also, IoT creates the opportunity for businesses to gather more data about the consumers, which will help to elevate user experiences.”

 

BaaS continuing to thrive

Banking-as-a-Service (BaaS) allows embedding financial services into any company. This gave rise to a number of new market players, which took advantage of the Application Programming Interface (API) driven platforms to enter the financial services industry. The BaaS market, valued at $356.26 Billion in 2020, is now projected to reach $2,299.26 billion by 2028.

“BaaS enables companies to leverage market-tested infrastructure without the regulatory overhang, saving a significant amount of organization’s resources. As the pandemic led many to redistribute their budget, outsourcing banking infrastructure became an even more appealing choice—leveraging banking-as-a-service enables them to direct more resources towards product innovation, rather than framework building. Therefore, BaaS providers will continue to fly high,” Galdikas commented.

 

Hyper-personalization

The need for personalized experiences followed consumers to the online space. While process automation will remain one of the top priorities for fintechs, the key will be finding the balance between providing efficient service and not losing ‘the human touch’. To secure future success, industry experts have emphasized leveraging real-time consumer data to provide personally tailored insights and proactive advice.

“With practically every business pouring investments into upgrading their tech framework, hyper-personalization becomes the main driver helping banking service providers differentiate from their competitors. That’s why refining their approach to be primarily customer-centric as well as proving it at scale will allow gaining a competitive edge,” the expert explained.

 

Focus on CBDCs

Throughout the year, central bank digital currencies (CBDCs) have been gaining momentum, with countries all around the globe, such as Sweden, Norway, South Korea, China, and others pushing the rollout and testing their application in the real world. The interest in government-backed e-money is not wavering, rather the opposite, it spurred new ideas, such as launching multiple CBDC systems, that could potentially cut off billions of transaction fees annually.

“CBDCs could provide a range of benefits, for example, lowering the cost of cross-border transactions, increasing financial inclusivity, and enhancing economic resilience of domestic payments systems. This is a tool that, if implemented thoroughly, could outweigh the offerings of payment service providers, which will have to immensely step up their game,” Galdikas noted. “As for the multiple CBDC network, the main question of ‘how long will it take?’ remains, as developing a united framework seems like a Herculean task, with each countries’ efforts moving at a different pace.”

The payments market is evolving as rapidly as ever, despite some of the challenges it had to face throughout 2021. The upcoming year is looking to bring more efficiency, personalization, and tech synergy, fueling the sector’s growth even further.

Fintech Trends
ArticlesFinance

Five Key Fintech to Watch in 2022

Fintech Trends

In the year ahead, consumer behaviour and early adoption of new technology are set to transform the financial services market. Banks need to adapt.

Fintechs and banks are in a race to innovate and shape the future of financial services. As new technologies emerge, traditional banks will have to adapt quickly to provide their customers with what they expect, and this will lead to the emergence of new business models across the financial services sector. That’s the view of Buckzy Payments, a leading real-time cross-border payments provider and global financial services marketplace.

Abdul Naushad, President and CEO, Buckzy stated: “The ongoing uptake by consumers of new ways to access and use financial services requires a complete rethink from traditional financial providers. Consumers are driving change on an unprecedented scale because of new technology and broader societal trends.

“It goes without saying that the pandemic has changed the way we live, work and buy. This in turn is impacting traditional banks and fintechs alike, who need to identify new solutions to deliver competitive advantage. We see five core trends driving that change as we move into 2022 and beyond.”

 

1. Rise of Digital/Neo banks: Banking has traditionally been a monopoly with high barriers to market entry. But the relaxation of regulations in countries around the world has paved the way for neobanks to take the initiative and attract customers with the promise of lower fees, convenient mobile banking and improved customer experience that removes in-store banking. That’s why the neobank sector was valued at $30+ billion in 2020 and is projected to grow at a Compound Annual Growth Rate  of 47.7% over the next eight years.*  Neobanks are also attracting the unbanked customers with a combined purchasing power of $1.2 trillion. As more of the world’s population get online, expect digital banking to move ahead of in-store services.

 

2. Real-time cross border payments:  Approx. 40 percent of large enterprises in the US have already adopted real-time payments and this percentage is set to rise according to Levvel Research. Elsewhere in other countries and regions, approximately 50 real-time payment schemes are now up and running. Demand is high for immediacy of payment settlement that delivers competitive advantage for businesses, reduced risk for payment failure and highly improved efficiency in cash flow. As domestic schemes become more established and popular, expect real-time capabilities to extend to cross-border payments.

 

3. Open Banking:  During the pandemic our reliance on digital payments and self-service banking confirmed the need for banks to become more digital. Open banking is an API enabled, technology driven approach that allows banks and other providers to seamlessly deliver financial services using aggregated and authenticated customer data. Already, several countries have introduced regulations that have compelled banks to deliver open banking in response to customer demands.** Fintechs everywhere are incorporating open banking standards into their products and services. Banks that don’t embrace open banking will limit their capabilities to better service their clients and also limit their growth opportunities.

 

4. Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML):  Machine learning applications enable the processing of large amounts of data sets and reaching valuable conclusions which, by using its algorithms, can drive effectiveness and  provide efficiencies including time saving opportunities. It analyses patterns in real-time enabling quick decisioning. A range of financial services applications already use AI/ML today for everything from fraud detection, lending approvals, and AML screening, to risk monitoring and investment predictions. Machine Learning is constantly evolving, and Fintech will continue to be one of main industries to benefit from the power of AI/ML.

 

5. Emergence of Banking-as-a-Services: In recent years, Banking-as-a-Service (BaaS) platforms and services have emerged as a cost-effective and efficient way for delivering financial services using open banking concepts.  Banks must adopt to a service-oriented and composable/modular architectural approach in the delivery of new and innovative digital services. BaaS is a critical component for traditional banks and financial institutions on their digital transformation roadmap. Expect many more legacy financial institutions to collaborate with fintechs by using BaaS services to bring innovative tech in-house and enhance their own offerings.

 

“As technologies and markets mature over the next 12 months, these core trends will create an environment for further innovation and the emergence of new business models in financial services. They create global opportunities for banks and fintechs to cooperate and extend their offerings globally in payments, lending, digital banking, instant credit and more,” concluded Naushad.

Payment Trend
ArticlesMarkets

3 Payments Trends for Emerging Markets to Keep Eye On in 2022

Payment Trend

With 2022 just a few months away, the payments industry in Fast-Growing and Emerging markets is already showing the first signs of potential three key trends for the next year.
2021 has seen an immense ongoing acceleration and development of the payments industry, giving a strong overall boost to global e-commerce—it is predicted that e-commerce sales worldwide will reach $4.9 trillion by the end of this year. While popularity of payments trends like Buy Now, Pay Later (BNPL), projected to pass $100 billion in the U.S. alone, is expected to dominate the Western markets in the upcoming year, Fast-Growing and Emerging markets seem to be moving in a slightly different direction for 2022.
Frank Breuss, CEO of Nikulipe, a Fintech company creating and connecting Local Payment Methods to access Emerging and Fast-Growing Markets, identifies three major trends for Fast-Growing and Emerging markets that he sees taking off in 2022.

 

Importance of frictionless experiences

E-commerce and digital services continue to grow in Emerging markets, as well as globally, making frictionless experiences a key element for consumers. Breuss notes that long and oftentimes faulty checkout processes as well as lack of preferred payment methods have long been prevailing problems in these markets that are waiting to be solved.
“Consumers that were hesitant to shop online before have been pushed or prompted by the pandemic restrictions to switch their shopping habits—in most cases, shopping online for the first time. If the experience was positive they are most likely to continue with their new way of convenient shopping. This need for frictionless experiences will only increase in Emerging markets, since e-commerce there, while growing exponentially, is still figuring things out and trying to meet the consumer demands.”
Convenience and safety are likely to remain at the front of the mind for shoppers in upcoming year as well, and prioritizing this could bring increased conversion for a number of merchants.

 

Mobile payments at the forefront

With a sizable number of the population in Fast-Growing and Emerging markets still unbanked, mobile payments are most likely to continue leading the way, when it comes to preferred local payment methods (LPMs). According to Breuss, Africa could come as one of the primary regions where mobile-based payments take the key aspect for e-commerce.
“Africa has one of the youngest and second largest populations in the world—that is why there’s a broad potential for an even larger digital audience,” he explains. “In recent years, internet penetration has also been rising because of the vast expansion of mobile devices, especially smartphones, which led to mobile e-commerce domination of the online shopping scene in African countries specifically.”
The number of e-commerce users in the continent is estimated to reach over 334 million by 2021, and by 2025, it is predicted that there could be roughly 520 million users—supporting the idea that mobile payments could become a prevailing payments trend for 2022.

 

Subscription services could show even higher demand

The more home-focused consumer habits have led to an increasing popularity of subscription services, more notably video-on-demand (VOD) ones like Netflix. Breuss notes that VOD services, alongside music subscriptions, could gain even more traction in the upcoming year, since consumers in Fast-Growing and Emerging markets are putting higher demand on easily accessible and more global ways of entertainment.
“Consumers in Fast-Growing and Emerging markets have been excluded from many of popular subscription-based services due to geographical and payment restrictions for some time now. The lockdowns have only accelerated consumer demand for these services. The global subscription e-commerce market is expected to reach $478.2 billion in the next three years, and the majority of Emerging markets will be a part of it.”
In South Africa alone there are currently 7.2 million active subscriptions, from which 90% are subscriptions to digital content. The popularity of these services are only predicted to grow and by 2025 could reach 10.8 million. Eastern European numbers for subscription video-on-demand are also expected to rise—by 2026 the number should double to 40,000, compared to 20,000 in 2021.
The three key trends, which could be the ones most prominent in Fast-Growing and Emerging markets for upcoming year, all bring focus on convenience, efficiency, wider accessibility and inclusivity. Frictionless experiences, which also include growing accessibility of subscription services as well as preferred local payment methods like mobile payments, seems to be a driving force behind the Emerging markets’ payments landscape in 2022.
Private Equity
ArticlesEquityFunds

Bite Investments Launches Private Markets Portfolio

Private Equity
  • Bite Investments is launching its first ever commingled private markets product to meet the needs of high-net-worth investors and wealth managers

  • The fund is a one-stop solution offering a diversified strategy mix to support wider portfolio objectives

  • By expanding access to private markets, Bite solves an acute problem in wealth management

Bite Investments, a digital asset manager and fintech company specialised in alternative investments, launches the Bite Private Markets Portfolio, offering investors the opportunity to access a diversified allocation to alternatives with one investment.

From this week, investors can get diversified exposure across investments strategies, geographies, and fund managers in one ticket. The Bite Private Markets Portfolio will allocate capital into 8-10 underlying top-tier funds, assessed and selected by Bite Investments’ expert investment team. The minimum investment size is $100,000 and the core sectors are: Healthcare, Information Technology, Software, Business Services, Financial Services, Consumer, and Industrials.

“The promise of alternatives is excess of returns in comparison to risk. For far too long, individual investors have not been able to capitalise on this. Through technology, we are now pleased to offer them exceptional access to the best parts of private markets via a single ticket investment”, says Henry Talbot-Ponsonby, Co-Founder and President at Bite Investments.

 

Companies are staying private longer

There has been a profound change in the way companies grow and raise money, by staying private. Their eventual success may never actually be accessible via public markets. This means investors who ignore private markets now, may be limiting their potential for the future.

Not only has there been a growth in in the number of private firms, but since 2000, buyout asset value has grown 3.5 faster than public equity market capitalisation, according to Bain’s Global Private Equity Report 2020.

“Historically, individual investors have neither had access to top fund managers, nor have they been able to reap the benefits and value created as companies stay private for longer. Tomorrow’s unicorns may never even go public”, says Anna Barath, Investment Director at Bite Investments.

 

Technology removing barriers for growth investing

Private equity has been one of the best performing asset classes globally over the last 3 decades, according to McKinsey’s Global Private Markets Review 2020. However, due to a combination of high fees, high minimum investment amounts, and lack of access to top funds, wealth managers, RIAs and IFAs have not been able to access this investment strategy. As a result, high-net-worth investors are under-allocated as compared to other investors.

“By making alternatives more accessible to our clients, we are helping them diversify instantly. Using technology, we enable individual investors to access, unlock and invest bite-sized amounts into some of the most exciting private markets strategies out there”, says Henry Talbot-Ponsonby, Co-Founder and President at Bite Investments.

 

The growing market for private equity

Estimates predict that private investment markets will grow. A Deloitte Insights article forecasts global PE assets under management to reach almost US$6trillion in the next four years and it has shown great resilience to recent downturns, including the Global Financial Crisis of 2007-09 and the Covid-19 pandemic of 2020-21, as shown in McKinsey’s Global Private Markets Review 2021.

“With the public markets not generating alpha to satisfying levels and the current low-interest rate environment, investors are turning to the private markets. Our new Private Markets Portfolio is suitable for clients looking for long term capital appreciation with alpha outperformance potential provided by co-investments and venture capital strategies”, says Anna Barath, Investment Director at Bite Investments.

 

A seasoned team

All funds are assessed by Bite’s investment committee before being offered to investors. The selection basis includes, but is not limited to, underlying fund market opportunity, team, track record, fund terms and fit with Bite’s investor base.

The investment team has advised on over $13 billion of capital raises and conducted in-depth due diligence on over 100 funds and co-investments. Fund and direct commitments made across private equity, private credit, and real assets are in excess of $4.2 billion total.

Stocks
ArticlesMarketsStock Markets

Five Explosive Stocks from the Past Year

Stocks


By Dáire Ferguson, CEO at AvaTrade

The traditional rhyme commemorating Bonfire Night begins, “Remember, remember the 5th of November”. This Bonfire night, we remember five explosive stocks from the past year.

 

Tesla

The electric vehicle manufacturer’s shares have exploded so far this year, more than doubling in the last six months alone. Tesla’s market capitalisation has whooshed past $1 trillion, making this figure nearly 1.5 times more than the combined market capitalisation of the next five largest automakers. 2021 has been a strong year for the company, with Tesla putting plans in place for its foray into India, one of the largest emerging car markets in the world, while demands for its cars are booming. For example, the Model 3 is the top-selling premium sedan in the world and it is currently the best-selling vehicle in Europe. Nevertheless, shares are significantly higher than fundamentals suggest they should be. While the company currently has momentum, the bubble could burst at any point – is a crash back down to earth at some point inevitable?

 

Macy’s Inc

The price of Macy’s, the major American department store chain, has skyrocketed this past year. Shares are up considerably over 100% since the start of the year, with the company managing its post-pandemic recovery expertly. Macy’s management team significantly reduced expenses on a permanent basis and increased the emphasis on its digital sales channel. With these moves, it’s apparent that management has acted decisively to ensure the business is in a strong position to ride out the current economic uncertainty, causing Macy’s long-term profit margins to soar like a firework. The burning question on the mind of many traders is whether the trend will continue or fizzle out.

 

Royal Dutch Shell

Royal Dutch Shell has sparkled. The stock plummeted after the initial outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, but the oil and gas giant has recovered over the course of the past year, reporting revenue figures of over $200 billion. What’s more, the recent oil and gas shortages around the world caused energy prices to skyrocket, which has also contributed to the increased share price of Royal Dutch Shell. But these shortages are not here to stay forever, so will this stock continue to rise?

 

American Express

American Express has seen its shares light up the sky with an increase of over 40% since the start of the calendar year. In terms of its quarterly performances, the credit card services company beat analysts’ forecasts by 70% and 68% respectively in the first and second quarters of 2021, and once again exceeded predictions in the third quarter. AmEx putting a greater focus on new and younger customers that may use their products for years to come has also contributed to its stock dazzling and whizzing into the top of the charts. Traders are asking themselves if this trend is sustainable.

 

Citrix Systems

For Cirtix Systems in 2021, its share price has fizzled, falling with a bang and a puff of smoke. There are a number of factors which have contributed to this fall. This includes the Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) provider’s CEO, David Henshall, surprisingly stepping down with immediate effect last month, as well as poor financial results for all three quarters so far this year, leading to a sharp decline in the company’s profits. Will the company be able to halt this drop off, or will this downward spiral continue?

Press releases

Wealth & Finance Magazine Announces the Winners of the 2021 Fund Awards


United Kingdom, 2021-
 Wealth & Finance magazine have announced the winners of the 2021 Fund Awards.

Our 2021 Fund Awards programme is designed to recognise and award those businesses and professional individuals who have not only provided excellent products and services but have also provided unbeatable commitment and dedication towards their clients and customers. The industry is constantly transforming

Now running in its sixth year, the programme is never subjected to just one particular industry. Our awards programme covers a range of financial sectors from Banks to Insurance companies and Family Offices. The Fund Awards acknowledges those who have reinvented fund services with their experience and expertise and continue to do so to serve their customers with nothing less than the best.

On the success of the winners, our Awards Coordinator Steve Simpson has stated: “I am proud of all the winners of this year’s programme as we have strived to acknowledge all those who have worked effortlessly this year to provide their customers with outstanding services. I wish them all the best for their future endeavours.”

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

ENDS

Note to editors.

About Wealth & Finance International

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

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

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Digital Asset
ArticlesFinance

ADDX Launches First Crypto Product, With Listing of Institutional-Grade Digital Asset Fund by Trovio

Digital Asset


The fund, which aims to offer a reliable option for crypto investing, recorded a net return of 215% in 2020 and 205% in the first ten months of 2021

Private market exchange ADDX has launched its first cryptocurrency product, with the listing of a digital asset fund by investment manager Trovio Capital Management (TCM). The fund aims to provide accredited investors with a reliable option for crypto investing and has put in place institutional-grade safeguards in relation to the trade execution and custody of the fund’s underlying digital assets.

The TCM Digital Asset Fund takes a diversified approach to crypto investing. On top of core positions in Bitcoin and Ethereum, the fund invests in a set of seven other top-performing cryptocurrencies that are identified and reviewed regularly through a proprietary method of quantitative analysis. The fund recorded a net return of 215% in 2020 and 205% in the first ten months of 2021.

Relying on an institutional-quality infrastructure, the fund has an independent administrator, auditor and custodian. It is among the first digital asset funds to be audited by KPMG. Custody and trading services are provided by the Nasdaq-listed Coinbase. Investors on the ADDX platform can subscribe to or redeem units each month with the fund manager. The fund’s minimum investment size is US$10,000.

Founded in 2017, the Australia-based Trovio Group is led by veteran bankers Jon Deane and Bob Tucker. Trovio CEO Jon Deane has more than 15 years of experience managing large complex risk positions for investment banks, including JP Morgan and UBS AG. He was Managing Director and Head of Asia Commodities Trading at JP Morgan from 2014 to 2018.

Mr Deane said: “It has been a fantastic experience bringing our flagship fund to ADDX’s MAS-regulated platform. We are continuing to witness significantly wider adoption and appreciation of digital assets as a standalone asset class in a diversified portfolio. ADDX’s platform is enabling investors to seamlessly access these asset classes, whilst reducing friction often experienced via traditional channels. We look forward to working with the ADDX team on launching our other products over the coming months.”

Oi Yee Choo, Chief Commercial Officer of ADDX, said: “Cryptocurrencies are very likely the digital gold of our age. There is robust demand among investors for exposure to these digital assets. The traditional world of finance tried to keep a cautious distance initially. But today, major financial institutions either have a crypto offering or are seriously considering one. We believe the time for discussing whether cryptocurrencies have a place in an investment portfolio is all but over. The more relevant question now is around how one should manage the risk of crypto investments, from an asset custody as well as a price volatility standpoint. Professionally managed crypto funds with a good track record can potentially address these risk concerns for investors.”

Ms Choo added: “ADDX is pleased to work with Trovio on this first crypto offering to investors on our platform. The team led by Jon Deane has deep expertise in both traditional finance and the crypto space, and this is reflected in their rigorous approach to conceptualising and bringing to market this institutional-grade fund. As Singapore establishes itself as an important global hub for regulated crypto activity, ADDX seeks to make a positive contribution to the crypto landscape of the city, by adding to the rich diversity of high-quality offerings available to investors.”

ADDX, previously known as iSTOX, is a full-service capital markets platform with Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) licenses for the issuance, custody, and secondary trading of digital securities. Launched in 2017, the financial technology company raised US$50 million in its Series A round in January 2021. Its shareholders include Singapore Exchange (SGX), Temasek subsidiary Heliconia Capital and Japanese investors JIC Venture Growth Investments (JIC-VGI) and the Development Bank of Japan (DBJ). Individual accredited investors using the ADDX platform today come from 27 countries, spanning Asia Pacific, Europe, and the Americas (excluding the US).

Stock trends
ArticlesMarkets

The Safest Way to Invest: A Guide for Generation Z

Stock trends


By Hamzah Almasyabi, CEO at MintedTM, an investment platform which allows individuals to buy and sell precious metals.

The pandemic has caused financial concern for many, but particularly for the younger generation, who are now facing uncertain career prospects and the rising cost of living. With more than ever to consider financially, the need to save and invest for the future has become even more apparent. Taking financial security into their own hands, Generation Z have turned to modern technology to make smart investments.

Cryptocurrencies and app technologies are changing the way people manage their money, by offering a more accessible and modern route into investing. Research undertaken by precious metals savings app, Minted, found that 71% of 16–24-year-olds are investing their money, compared with only 35% of those over 55. When looking at the financial difficulties so many young people are currently facing, this statistic comes as no surprise. Up against a higher cost of housing and rising national insurance costs, Gen Z has been left with no option but to think tactically about their future, which has led many down the path and investment. The pandemic added to this need, prompting over 60% of 16–24-year-olds to start saving more and over half to start investing. With precious metals, stocks and shares, and cryptocurrencies amounting to almost 60% of total investments for this age group, it’s clear they are not afraid of exploring differing investment options.

Social media has also played a large part in the increasing number of young investors, with terms such as bitcoin and dogecoin regularly featuring on trending pages. Platforms such as Twitter, YouTube, and Reddit are useful sources of information for younger investors looking to get started and there are a number of ‘how to’ guides readily available.

Gone are the days when a physical bank is needed to support investing habits and a rise in fintech companies has seen a number of smarter investing and banking solutions hit the market, app investing being one of them. Offering users low entry costs and starting amounts, young people can delve straight into building their investment portfolio using just their smartphone.

On a mission to offer a safe and convenient route into investing, Minted is encouraging more young people to invest their money where it matters. Investing should be a viable option for the everyday person, whether they’re looking to boost their bank account, or building an investment portfolio of precious metals and cryptocurrencies.

However, as with any form of investment, a certain amount of knowledge is crucial. Proper research and education into investment routes is vital to mitigate against any potential risks. Users must be aware of the ever-changing financial landscape and that markets can be volatile, which was evident when the value of bitcoin dropped approximately 15% after Elon Musk tweeted that Tesla would no longer be accepting the currency as a form of payment back in June.

Each investment has different levels of risk. For example, cryptocurrencies, such as bitcoin can be considered particularly high risk, due to their volatility. Investments into more traditional stocks and shares, or precious metals, such as gold or silver, which hold their intrinsic value, could be considered the safer option. Ultimately no matter where the money is invested, proper research and understanding is still pivotal.  

Investors relying on modern technology, such as apps, should begin by undertaking thorough research into the platform of their choice. Users should ask themselves what they are looking for from their investments and what their long-term goals are. Is it to make money quickly, or invest slowly over time for a more gradual financial growth? Are they looking for a physical product, such as gold? Establishing these goals can help ensure that the investor is making smart financial decisions that will benefit them and which suit their situation.

Looking at the credibility of platforms is also crucial; users should research how established the company is and what has been written about them online. This will give users an idea of how reliable the platforms are and whether or not they are the right option for them. Being aware of any additional fees, details of the terms and conditions, and what exactly the app is offering, is essential in preventing any nasty shocks further down the line.

For young people taking their first steps in investment, starting slow and building up experience can be beneficial in the long-term. It is generally also good practice to spread risk by investing in different asset classes and industries. Setting up a range of smaller investments, rather than one large sum, ensures that users are better protected against substantial loss and able to build a wider investment portfolio. Being realistic around affordability is another key factor to consider, as this will prevent against any financial difficulty. Markets can change quickly, so not reacting rashly to a changing landscape is vital if a portfolio is to be managed effectively.

As investment apps and cryptocurrencies continue to rapidly diversify, no one can say for certain what is on the financial horizon. Whatever the future holds for investment, it is certain that the younger generations have a significant role to play in popularising new and developing platforms, as well as challenging the stereotypes of what people invest in, and more importantly, how.