All posts by Patrick Doherty

Transactional and Investment Banking

Symphony Communications Doubles Down on Automation and Global Community Growth at Annual Innovate Asia Conference

Launches Symphony Market Solutions to Address Growing Industry Need for Automation

Appoints Mrs. Queenie Chan as New Head of APAC

Symphony Communication Services, LLC, the leading secure team collaboration platform, is doubling down on investment in workflow automation and global growth. Ahead of its annual Innovate Asia Conference, and alongside the concurrent announcement of its latest Series E fundraise of $165 million, the company today revealed:

  • The launch of Symphony Market Solutions to address the growing need in financial services for system integration, digital transformation and workflow automation
  • Reaching a milestone 1,000 unique bots created and running on the Symphony platform
  • Appointing Mrs. Queenie Chan as the new Head of APAC to lead growth in the region

“Symphony, trusted by over 405 companies and 450,000 users, has already proven that its unique security and compliance model is indispensable to companies who care about data security and sovereignty. With the foundation of our business solidly anchored we are now focusing on how we can deliver the deepest benefits of our platform to our global community, who rely on the Symphony to perform mission critical work every day,” said David Gurle, founder and CEO at Symphony. “Deep value, for us, means providing users better and faster ways to work. Doubling down on workflow automation with Market Solutions is the first step in achieving this vision.”

Further information and demonstrations regarding today’s news will be shared live at Symphony’s annual Innovate Asia Conference, held in Singapore on June 13, 2019. 

 

Symphony Solves Complicated Workflows With Launch of New Market Solutions

Symphony today launched Symphony Market Solutions to address the growing need for workflow automation in financial services and other sectors.

Symphony Market Solutions is a suite of standardized, licensable software solutions purpose-built to simplify and automate complex and time-consuming workflows. Market Solutions will include: financial services workflow tools purpose-built for automation of trade life-cycle, enhancing client services across banking and wealth management and more; and enterprise integrations and workflows for IT, operations, sales, HR, developers and more. Symphony customers are already using these Solutions to achieve business outcomes including improved client experiences and employee productivity.

Specific Market Solutions available for customers today include a new workflow tool called SPARC, which lets Buy-side and Sell-side traders seamlessly shift from real-time conversation to RFQ negotiation, all in the same chat room; and other solutions such as integrations for Salesforce, ServiceNow, Confluence, Jira and GitLab. 

Since introducing its Software Developer Kit (SDK) in 2018, Symphony clients have developed more than 1,000 unique bots operating on the platform today. This number indicates the growing interest within the financial services community to leverage Symphony for key workflow automation initiatives. With Market Solutions, Symphony is now taking this to the next level by offering customers packaged and licensable solutions for the most requested workflows and automations.

“When we looked at the sheer number of bots that customers were developing, and we began to see patterns emerge when customers talked about the use cases they were looking to solve with them. This led us to identify the need for a standardized set of workflow automations that could be deployed across the Symphony community – as opposed to bespoke development of proprietary bots,” said Goutam Nadella, EVP of  Symphony Market Solutions. “Our Market Solutions can help alleviate the pain of the most complex, time consuming activities for our customers, while also helping them enhance the services they provide to their own end customers. Symphony customers will be able to install turnkey workflows to automate the completion of RFQs or even resolve a trade break, so that our users can better focus on what they do best: making the strategic decisions that their client depends on.”

All Market Solutions are built, licensed and supported by Symphony. Additionally, as part of the Market Solutions offering, Symphony also provides a wide range of licensable third party applications to enhance and facilitate customer’s digital transformation and workflow automation initiatives.

Symphony Names Mrs. Queenie Chan as Head of APAC to Lead Regional Growth and Development

In her new role as Head of APAC, Queenie Chan, formerly Head of North Asia, will lead Symphony’s expansion in this key region. Symphony is already well-established in the region: it hosts offices in Singapore, Hong Kong and Tokyo and 32% of its users are located across eight key APAC countries including China, Japan, Singapore, Malaysia, the Philippines, Australia, India and Hong Kong. 

“After having spent 15 years in Capital Markets in Asia with banks including CSLA, Barclays and Goldman Sachs, I wanted to join a high growth technology firm. Symphony was definitely the right choice as it has offered me an incredible opportunity to grow myself and the business,” said Chan. “I am very proud and grateful to the global Symphony team, and of our accomplishments to date in Asia.  I can’t wait to embrace wholeheartedly the next opportunities as we introduce Symphony Market Solutions to the market.”

Banking

Those living ‘unbanked’ and what that means for financial inequality

Those living ‘unbanked’ and what that means for financial inequality

Inequality is a major issue around the world. However, it is even worse amongst those who have no access to banking. The World Bank estimates that about three-quarters of the world’s poorest are unbanked. If the world is to solve the problem of financial inequality on a global scale, there is a need to ensure that there is basic access to banking services.

 

What does it mean to be unbanked?

 

An unbanked person is one who does not hold an account at a formal financial institution. As a result, such a person cannot access basic global financial services such as a savings account, credit, money transfers, and much more. To access these services they use informal means.

 

Who are those that live unbanked?

 

FairPlanet’s researched further. The unbanked are mainly:

  • Those in households with unstable or low incomes
  • Those in less – educated households
  • Younger households
  • More female than male
  • Disabled households of working age

Some of the reasons why these groups are unbanked are:

  • There is not enough money to open or maintain an account
  • Avoiding financial institutions gives them more privacy
  • They do not trust banks
  • Accounts fees are unpredictable or too high
  • Problems with credit, ID, or former accounts
  • Banks do not meet them at their point of need
  • Inconvenient hours and locations

 

What does this mean for financial inequality?

 

There is a high correlation between global statistics on the unbanked and poverty. For one, 75% of all unbanked people are poor. Besides that, they are unable to access basic social support services. In the developing world, it means things are much worse for women. There is a majority of ubanked women – 55% women compared to 46% of men.

 

For the unbanked, access to any financial services comes at an extra cost. For instance, they have to account for the cost of travel when they need financial services. This takes away crucial hours that could be used to earn. Besides that, they are left at the mercy of loan sharks who charge exorbitant prices for loans; this only serves to drive them further into poverty.

 

The technology advances that might help

While the unbanked don’t have bank accounts, credit cards or loans – they do have smartphones. Globally, six billion people around the world have access to a mobile phone – which includes at least half of the world’s unbanked population. The mobile money market is making great headway in developing countries.

The hyper connected digital world of today’s commercial environment is one where participants are required to have a bank account to send and receive payments both at home and abroad. Services like Venmo, Paypal, and Payoneer aren’t compatible with the unbanked population, and services that are, such as Western Union and Ria, are exploitatively expensive.

With the advent of blockchain technology, the unbanked will have access to digital payments and remittances. One promising technology that could help to provide banking services to those with no or limited access to the banking industry is the blockchain. Blockchain technology is a decentralized, distributed and public digital ledger that is used to record transactions across many computers so that any involved record cannot be altered retroactively, without the alteration of all subsequent blocks.

 

This way, they will have the information needed for them to set up bank accounts and go on with their lives using this technology. The digital and verifiable profile, which is secured by the blockchain, will allow former refugees to access loans and build business wherever they go. In the process, it will be a step towards helping to solve the issue of global poverty. While most poor people do not have access to financial services, they do have smartphones and these can be used to capture their details digitally.

 

FairPlanet, a non profit platform concerned with human rights issues, is launching SatoshiPay on their site, an innovative micropayment solution. With a free $10 to donate, they are a perfect example of a company taking the right steps to a financially inclusive world.

Derivatives and Structured Products

How switching to online purchasing can save your business hundreds of pounds… per item!

Dave Brittain, Senior Manager from Amazon Business UK

A huge expense to all businesses that is often overlooked is the cost of those essential day to day items. While many purchasing departments simply contact suppliers in order to replenish items such as pens, paper or ink, they often use multiple providers for these types of basic products, making the process more disjointed and far less cost-effective than it ought to be.

So how can businesses streamline the process and save money at the same time?  The answer lies in digital procurement.

Online marketplaces help businesses to locate and purchase multiple items in one place and can tailor themselves based on previous purchasing behaviours in order to improve and simplify the process. Having access to hundreds of millions of products from various suppliers drives transparency and at Amazon Business we’ve noticed that this can lower the cost of procurement by up to 70%.

Product search and offer comparison

Business customers that use an online marketplace have access to an extensive range of products from office supplies, laptops and keyboards, to industrial goods and janitorial items. Having different variations of similar products allows consumers to compare and review options from different brands and suppliers to evaluate what products are the best value for money, all within one marketplace. Buyers can compare products from different sellers in seconds, and the website algorithms will recommend items with the best delivery times, features and price to make the selection process more streamlined.

Supplier selection and qualification

Most businesses build strong relationships with their suppliers which are based on knowlegde of the services they provide and trust that has been built over the years. For this reason, many companies stick with the same suppliers and do not explore alternative options, which could generate huge savings in the long run. For those looking into these types of savings, online marketplaces reduce the time spent on supplier selection by pooling multiple suppliers together and recommending them based on reputation, services offered and customer reviews. This reduces the costs of qualifying suppliers and creating individual supplier records. The service is also particularly beneficial for start-ups which may not have the budget to select suppliers through trial and error.

Approval workflows

Procurement time can also be significantly reduced, as employees can make product purchases themselves. Some online marketplaces offer approval workflows which allow employees to trigger an automatic approval process with a single click. This allows for a quicker turnaround for purchasing without losing control and visibility of outgoings. Detailed business analytics are also available post-purchase, allowing business owners to identify which departments are incurring the highest expenses.

Reconciliation and invoicing

A huge benefit of using an online marketplace for orders is that all purchases, and therefore invoices, are obtained from a single source. Business customers can easily access detailed delivery times, product and supplier information for each order, and reviewing previous purchases is made simpler. This means that there is a reduced number of invoices sent to finance teams making it easier for them to reconcile payments.

Overall, although there will always be a place for traditional procurement, making the switch to an online marketplace can significantly reduce business expenditure, while simultaneously reducing time spent on product acquisition and providing a more detailed review of the business’s outgoings.

Stock Markets

How digital is disrupting the world of early stage investing

 By Oliver Woolley, CEO, Envestors

 

The landscape we have today is the same landscape we had fifty years ago. We’ve got investment networks, clubs, incubators and accelerators, all of whom actively help investors to find opportunities and scale-ups to secure funding – but they are all closed and separate. Our vision for the future is one in which all these groups connect to one another, without sacrificing control or independence. We’ve built a software platform to do just that. Using an aggregated approach, we can bring the world of early-stage investing together in a way that benefits all of those involved.

 

For scale ups, it means working with one party and gaining wide exposure rather than promoting a deal through a number of disparate networks. For investors, it means having access to a near unlimited number of deals, all filtered according to interest and managed in a single location – regardless of network of origin. For investment facilitators, it means a greatly improved experience for their investors and decreased operational overheads.

 

 

Results – immediately!

 

We live in an age of instant gratification. This spans across all areas of our lives – from instantaneous validation on Twitter and one-hour Amazon delivery, to 24-hour news at our fingertips. So why should the investment experience be any different? If I can find out about anything in the world from wherever I happen to be, why should I – as an investor – wait for a pitch session to find out about investment opportunities?

 

ROBO: a behavioural change

 

Borrowing a term from the retail industry, ROBO (Research Online, Buy Offline) reflects a broad behavioural change. People no longer head to a shopping centre to browse for an item, they go online and find what they want and then go down to the store to get it. In many cases, they opt not to go to the store, satisfied with the information they have found online, and make an immediate purchase. This behaviour isn’t particular to consumers: a study, by Forrester Research, found that 68% of business to business buyers researched online independently and a further 62% say they go as far as developing a selection criteria and vendor list based on digital content.

 

So, why is it different with investing? When people prefer to get information instantaneously and independently, why do we ask them to wait for a pitch event? Using digital, information on potential investment opportunities and any relevant details can be ready for investors to read at their leisure. Further to that, information can be interactive. Potential investors can ask management teams questions – using online channels – and get answers in real time.

 

Achieving diversity

Digitisation has fuelled the unprecedented growth of start-ups in the UK.  This has produced a vast – and occasionally overwhelming – array of opportunities, resulting in a trend showing networks are becoming more niche and sector specific. While regional investment networks have long been part of the landscape, they are joined by networks specialising in – for example – Greentech, MedTech or women-owned businesses.  This is not a bad thing, but it has caused further fragmentation.

 

Experienced investors know, that if they are to get the best chance of a return on their investments, a diverse portfolio is a must. However, such specificity throws diversity out the window, leaving investors only one option – joining multiple networks and doing a lot of leg work to build and manage their portfolios.

 

Digital to the rescue. With an aggregated platform, regional and niche networks can connect to one another and share deals at the click of a button. This allows networks to protect their greatest asset – their investors – while offering them a broader array of investment opportunities without doing all of the vetting and admin.

 

Responding to uncertainty

 

By mid-2018, the impact of a looming Brexit was already starting to be felt across the industry.  With predictions of economic troubles in the UK in the short term, many investors tightened their purse strings, becoming increasingly selective over which investments to make. Yet, at the same time, reports show that foreign investment is at an all-time high: in 2017, a whopping £6bn was invested over the course of the year, with 396 of these deals involving at least one investor from abroad.

 

This is another opportunity that could be capitalised by digital. With a digital platform, deals can flow across borders – giving investors the ability to further diversify their portfolios, while giving businesses a better opportunity to find investment.

 

The benefits of using digital are clear so it is time for the investment sector to make changes. Some key players are already on board (for example, The SetSquared Partnership and Britbots).  I’m sure that more will be following and gaining the benefits.

Cash Management

What can cryptocurrencies offer during political upheaval?

Commentary by Ana Bencic, founder & CEO of Nexthash

The political and economic climate within the UK has been uncertain in recent months. The value of the pound has been turbulent and it has been rising and falling in response to political events, such as the Brexit vote and the recent departure of the prime minister. Investors who have been taking notice of the unpredictable nature of fiat currency’s’ value in relation to political events, as well as the near-constant rise in the value of several cryptocurrencies, will be looking at what makes cryptocurrency a viable alternative to traditional currency.

 

After experiencing a 4-month slump due to Brexit insecurity, the pound rose back up to $1.2710 shortly after the Theresa May’s announcement of resignation. Unfortunately, the recovery was short-lived and the pound almost immediately lost 3% of its value in the following days. Now, traders are showing concern that the next prime minister may seek a tough Brexit deal, which may hurt the value of the pound more than before. With more uncertainty than ever in the market, including the inability to hold above 1.27, the pound, it is clear that the value of pound sterling is predicated on political factors.


In stark contrast, cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin appear to be unaffected by political upheaval. The value of Bitcoin recently exceeded $8000, after a period of sustained growth over several months. Investors who are wary of traditional currencies will be attracted to the fact Bitcoin does not rely on any financial institutions or third-party entities. Bitcoin is a decentralized currency that uses peer-to-peer technology, which enables all functions such as currency issuance, transaction processing and verification to be carried out collectively by the network. While this decentralization renders Bitcoin free from government manipulation or interference, the flipside is that there is no central authority to ensure that things run smoothly or to back the value of a Bitcoin. Bitcoins are created digitally through a “mining” process that requires powerful computers to solve complex algorithms and crunch numbers. They are currently created at the rate of 25 Bitcoins every 10 minutes and will be capped at 21 million, a level that is expected to be reached in 2140.

Additionally, Bitcoin effectively increases efficiencies, adds security to transactions and eliminates traditional methods of fraud. Some economic analysts predict a big change in crypto is forthcoming as institutional money enters the market. Moreover, there is the possibility that crypto will be floated on the Nasdaq, which would further add credibility to blockchain and its uses as an alternative to conventional currencies. Some predict that all that crypto needs is a verified exchange traded fund (ETF). An ETF would definitely make it easier for people to invest in Bitcoin, but there still needs to be the demand to want to invest in crypto, which some say may not automatically be generated with a fund.

 


Cryptocurrencies are increasing in popularity with each passing day, as traditional investors & traders start to use it more often and several major first-world nations pass legislation in support of cryptocurrency trade and investment. At this point in time, there are 14 million Bitcoins in circulation. Countries with underdeveloped infrastructure and nations experiencing devaluation of their national currency can seize the advantages of cryptocurrencies- for the simple reason they are able to move money across their country’s borders with far greater ease than traditional currency. Cryptocurrencies exist outside of the control of central banks, where traditional accounts can be garnished or frozen. In fact, cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin exist outside the regulations and laws that allow this to happen, it’s very rare to be unable to access your coins.





 

 

Funds of Funds

Rural communities receive a significant boost from The Prince’s Countryside Fund

In June, The Prince’s Countryside Fund has awarded half a million pounds of grant funding to 26 grassroots, community-led projects across the UK, which will benefit people living and working in rural areas.

The Prince’s Countryside Fund awards grants to local organisations, and since 2010 has distributed over £10 million. The Fund’s mission is to help ensure a vibrant rural economy with a thriving and resilient farming sector at its heart, and its grant programme is a major focus of activity to achieve this.

The broad range of successful projects will create locally-delivered solutions to the ever-pressing challenges facing rural communities – from farmer mental health support in Wales, to rural skills training in the north east, and the creation of rural hubs in Northern Ireland.

The Rural Four programme supported 13 of these projects with thanks to players of People’s Postcode Lottery. Rural Four aims to tackle isolation in rural areas and is funding projects including social hubs in Norfolk and rural transport schemes in Northamptonshire. It is helping rural communities in Norfolk and Cheshire to improve their digital connectivity by installing high speed broadband in a central hub, which is open to all, and to provide digital skills training in Lincolnshire.

Announcing the grant recipients, Claire Saunders, Director of The Prince’s Countryside Fund said: “It is great to see so many organisations coming up with unique ways to combat the challenges that are facing rural communities and to know these projects are key to making a difference. From funding a community brewery in East Anglia, to a mentoring and land access programme for young entrants to agriculture in Northern Ireland – The Prince’s Countryside Fund is committed to improving the quality of life, in all aspects, for all people living and working in our great British countryside.

“This has been our most competitive round of grant applications in Fund history, with nearly 300 applications requesting £10 million of funding. The applications were all of a very high standard and we are delighted to be working with the 26 successful beneficiaries.”

The Fund will be open again for grant applications in January 2020. More details can be found at www.princescountryside.fund.org.uk/grants.

Cash ManagementFinanceSecuritiesTransactional and Investment Banking

What is next for cryptocurrency?

The rise of cryptocurrency is to be seen as a democratising force within the global economy. For example, secured token offering, has emerged as a true competitor to the traditional Initial Public Offering (IPO) for growing businesses. Judging from the growing acceptance of cryptocurrency by countries and companies, it is predicted that institutional investors will move towards secure cryptocurrency investments over the next decade, if not earlier. Ana Bencic, President and Founder of NextHash explores this phenomenon in more detail.

 

Uber Technologies Inc.’s large initial public offering launched in May and the ride-hailing app has run into some trouble. Uber proposed to go public with a $120 billion valuation, to be pitched by financiers at Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs ahead of its IPO. Nonetheless, the company eventually listed with a $75.5 billion market cap. The New York Times elucidated that institutional investors, many who privately owned Uber stock, would not purchase additional shares at a higher price. Uber had received in excesses of $10 billion from institutional investors and private equity firms, among other investors, according to the report and many bought their Uber shares at valuations below $61 billion.

 

The ride-hailing giant priced its IPO on Thursday 9th May at $45 a share, raising a minimum of $8.1 billion and putting Uber’s IPO well behind some of the other, large offerings on the U.S. market in recent years. Facebook Inc raised $16 billion its offering in 2012, while Visa Inc. raised close to $18 billion in 2008 and Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. brought in around $25 billion in 2014.

 

Initial Public Offerings can offer companies the prospect to raise new equity capital; to monetise the investments of private shareholders such as corporation founders or private equity investors and to enable simple trading of existing holdings or future capital raising by becoming publicly traded enterprises. 

 

Nevertheless, for companies looking to list, there are potential drawbacks. Foremost, there is the risk that the required funding will not be raised. Additionally, the cost for accounting, marketing and legal professionals to get to the point of an IPO can be sizeable. It might also necessitate a significant amount of time and effort from the management team, potentially disrupting them from their primary task of running the business. Furthermore, as in Uber’s case, there is a. While no promises can be made in these circumstances, many may be looking at the recent state of these tech unicorns (privately held start-up enterprises valued at over $1 billion) such as Uber and even Facebook may have people pondering if the next big thing will follow the same path. 

 

Aside from financial sacrifice, the time and effort to get to the IPO stage and the administration required once a company has gone public or floated, is considerable. For companies at the front-line of technological advancements, time is of the essence. According to Street Directory, an IPO typically takes between six and nine months. In some cases, this procedure can take up to 18 months. For high-growth businesses, this kind of interval may well bump potential unicorns off their path to a £1 billion valuation and present their rivals with a huge advantage. So what other prospects do highly scalable businesses have? 

 

The cryptocurrency market provides distinctive opportunities for businesses in need of access to vital growth finance and for investors desiring access to potential unicorn businesses at an early stage. This is made likely by cryptocurrency platforms’ capacity to operate across borders, an advantage that isn’t possessed by conventional markets.

 

In April, the French parliament permitted a ground-breaking financial sector bill which aims to encourage both cryptocurrency traders and issuers to set up in France. Organisations looking to issue or trade both existing and novel cryptocurrencies will soon have the option to apply for official accreditation.  The scheduled certification process exhibits a degree of official acknowledgement of the cryptocurrency marketplace. Bills like this enable French investors to trade and invest cryptocurrencies, as well as facilitating businesses to be traded as a Secured Token Offering which would give investors, traders, and entrepreneurs a way to trade and exchange tokens for cryptocurrencies, bringing the ecosystem into the cryptocurrency world. In exchange for charging tax, France is laying the foundations for the Europe-wide adoption of cryptocurrency trading.

France is pushing for the European Union to adopt a regulatory framework on cryptocurrencies.

 

There has been a largely positive attitude towards cryptocurrency by several countries. Malta, Slovenia and France are strong examples of those who are encouraging the implementation and use of cryptocurrency for trading and investment. The ability to invest or trade freely and across borders is an attractive prospect for businesses, who are able to receive financial investment from foreign parties.

 

New technologies are allowing businesses that are not in a jurisdiction that has cryptocurrency regulation in place yet to be included in the new, second generation of scaling business investment. 

 

With Brexit on the horizon for the UK, economists are making their forecasts about how the worth of the pound will be affected. Due to the interdependence of the pound and euro, some have claimed that in either of the potential outcomes- there will likely be some loss in value to these traditional forms of currency.  Cryptocurrencies offer an alternative to traditional, fiat currencies for both consumers and companies, due to their unique advantages of being decentralised, transparent and wholly unaffected by the Brexit situation

 

With incongruent regulation and legal frameworks throughout the globe, platforms that empower a corporation or investor in one jurisdiction to trade or exchange tokens or currency with another trader in another country with a different statute could open the doors to potential unicorn companies to thousands of family offices, hedge funds and institutional investors in a matter of years. In the medium term, platforms that give businesses access to global growth finance could help developing countries and the wider global economy grow at a truly competitive rate to their Western counterparts. 

 

CONCLUSION

 

Cryptocurrencies have spent the last few years in a stage of growth and maturation. The emergent importance of blockchain-based cryptocurrencies is easy to grasp today. From the snowballing rate of adoption of Ethereum and Bitcoin by conventional institutions, the instituting of digital-assets trading platforms and the implementation of cryptocurrency-specific legislation by numerous countries both inside and outside of the EU- cryptocurrency is seeing far greater adoption by both institutional and private traders/investors. With the ability to invest in a corporation from anyplace in the world, quicker than by traditional means and with a far greater potential for a swift return on investment, cryptocurrency offers manifold unique and substantial advantages that have fortified it a lasting place in society.

 

 

Infrastructure

The skills needed to become an independent non-executive director

By David Selves, Broadcaster and Business Advisor at The Selves Group

Authorised Fund Managers (AFMs) across the UK are scrambling to fill up to 480 independent non-executive director vacancies to comply with new legislation released by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).

 

As part of the legislation, the FCA requires that all AFMs must have a minimum of two independent directors on their board by Monday 30th September 2019. So, with just three months until the deadline, AFMs are actively looking for suitable professionals to fill this gap, but who are the desired candidates and what skills do they need to possess?

 

Essentially, the primary role of a non-executive director (NED) is to impart a creative contribution to the board by providing independent oversight and constructive challenge to the executive directors. Assigned to question the status quo of an organisation, NEDs typically do not engage in the day-to-day management, but are involved in policymaking and planning exercises.

 

Ideally, NEDs should not be from the industry in question, thereby enforcing impartiality in the best interests of the company stakeholders. In addition, they should either be worldly – which may mean simply having a vast experience of life in general across numerous disciplines, rather than senior roles in another industry – or be what is referred to as an ‘expert customer’; a person who potentially might use the product or service offered.

 

Regardless of industry experience, NEDs must be independent thinkers and question strategy, management techniques, performance and standards of ethics and conduct. Predominantly, they should always take an independent view on the promotion and external appointments of senior executives.

 

NEDs also need to understand the workings of the company before they accept a position because they will have exactly the same responsibilities in law as executive directors. Whilst they should be given sufficient industry training to be able to effectively challenge the executive directors, they must also ensure that they have the time to keep up to date with ever-changing industry standards.

 

For progressive businesses, the value of a NED is that they bring a broader perspective. Companies often appoint NEDs for their contacts, particularly in the bigger cities, but that can be a dangerous route. The idea of a NED is not to facilitate wheels within wheels, but in fact quite the opposite. A NED should act as a centre of influence to ensure the company contacts the right external groups. Moreover, smaller companies are increasingly finding that the relatively low cost of NEDs is a very worthwhile investment.

 

In short, NEDs need to bring a host of skills to the table. AFMs want someone who has a wide experience of life, is independent of thought and deed, acts impartially, and is a well-rounded and respected individual. While on the job, the ideal NED should provide constructive challenge both strategically and operationally, offer specialist advice where qualified to do so, and never be afraid to hold management to account.

David Selves is a business advisor at The Selves Group. He has enjoyed an eventful 50-year career as a seasoned broadcaster, entrepreneur, publican and hotelier. Making his name in business hospitality by purchasing struggling hotels and turning them into award-winning venues, David has built a reputation as a respected and highly regarded businessman. He was also the former Regional Chairman and National Board Member of the Small Business

Banking

Open banking: Threat or opportunity?

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

Redefining banking in a financial services market where your biggest competitor may be Amazon or Google, not a traditional bank.

 

Open banking may not have made much of an impression on consumers yet. But it’s a topic that the industry cannot afford to ignore. Tier one UK banks are already bound to grant licensed startups access to transaction-level data, and smaller banks are likely to have to follow suit in the near future. The potential impact on the banking landscape is profound.

 

Today, the standard business model for retail banks is to build strong relationships with their customers by offering free current accounts and other incentives. These services are a net cost to the business, but they help the banks win trust and provide a channel for marketing more profitable products, such as mortgages, loans and wealth management services.

 

Open banking threatens to sweep this business model away like an avalanche. Agile fintech companies are already developing apps that aggregate all the financial services that a customer receives from any provider, creating a single point of control.

 

This will certainly improve the banking experience for most consumers. But it will also add a new layer between banks and their customers. All communication with the customer will happen via the app – and the app provider will control that communication channel, not the banks.

 

According to market analysts, this poses a real threat. If a bank can’t upsell high-value services to its customers, it may be left with a thin share of the market. Banks could be drowning in current accounts while app providers skim the cream of profitable loans and investment services off the top. Bain & Company point out that similar disruptions in industries, such as music and travel, have seen incumbents’ profits fall by 10% to 20%, often within fewer than five years.

 

Threat or opportunity?

 

While the stakes are high, the odds are still in the banks’ favour – at least for now. For decades, they have collected data on millions of customers and billions of transactions, across the whole spectrum of financial services. This data is a priceless source of insight that banks can use to create customer experiences that their data-poor fintech competitors simply can’t match.

 

For example, instead of just helping customers make payments or check their balance, a new generation of banking apps could provide users with much more relevant, personalised advice. By comparing individual spending patterns with the behaviour of a wider population of users, they could pinpoint topics that users really care about –reducing utility bills, for example, or paying off a mortgage – and suggest helpful strategies for meeting their financial goals.

 

Serious competition

 

Banks aren’t just worried about competition from fintech startups. There’s also a risk that other data-rich companies could make a beeline for the financial services market. Amazon, Apple, Google and other tech giants already have enormous quantities of information about consumer spending habits, as well as some of the world’s most talented data scientists, UI and UX developers. If they want to build the world’s best banking app, they seem to have all the right tools already. What’s to stop them from seeing financial services as their next market to dominate?

 

Again, the answer is that banks still have the advantage, at least in the short term. There is more to a user’s personal finances than just online shopping habits. And banks have a much more complete picture of how people borrow, spend and invest their money across mortgages, loans, credit cards, savings accounts, stocks and funds.

 

More importantly, customers trust their bank to manage both their information and their money. As a heavily regulated industry, banks simply cannot afford to play fast and loose with their customers. Meanwhile, barely a week goes by without another scandal about an internet company selling, losing or misusing customer data.

 

So while you probably trust online retailers to deliver your shopping, you might still have a few qualms about letting them manage your pension.

 

That said, customers’ trust and loyalty are finite commodities. If banks don’t act on their advantage now, they will lose it little by little. An outstanding user experience can easily seduce customers. And if you can’t provide one, your competitors certainly will.

 

On your marks

 

In short, the race to build the killer banking app is on – and banks, fintechs and other players are all in the running. Whoever gets there first will win it all, leaving the others scrambling to redefine their role in a banking industry that bears little relation to today’s world.

 

The difference between winning and losing, as we’ve already hinted, will be in the data. If banks can mobilise the treasure trove of data they already possess and harness artificial intelligence and machine learning to bring insights closer to the point of customer interaction, then they will be in a powerful position to lead the next stage in the evolution of financial services.

 

And that’s not just wishful thinking. Take a look at our case study with ICA Banken. SAS solutions are helping ICA Banken analyse customer behaviour online and combine it with historical banking data to create a fully personalised and customised user experience. While customers browse the ICA Banken site, intelligent algorithms automatically assess their needs and display helpful information and relevant offers in real time, resulting in a tenfold increase in conversion rates for the bank’s campaigns.

Funds

How to understand and learn to love your business accounts

By Jonathan Amponsah CTA FCCA, The Tax Guys

Business owners need to understand the language of numbers if their business is to succeed

Let’s looks at how to understand your year-end or management accounts, what you need to know and red flags to look for. The aim is to take away the fear of accounting and help you connect with your numbers.

  1. Profit

The first thing to check is whether you’re making profit and if that profit figure makes sense. Do this by looking at the profit and loss account and scrolling down to the bottom which will show a profit (positive figure) or a loss (negative figure).

Then look at the top figure (the sales) and glance through the list of expenses.

Take the bottom figure (let’s assume it’s £15,000 profit). Divide it by the top figure (assume £100,000 sales). This gives you 0.15, meaning for every £1 of income, you’re generating 15p in net profit.

Is this level of profit what you had in mind? Does the 15% net profit margin deliver the right return?  

  1. Is Your Business in a Good State?

Does the business have a positive balance sheet value? The balance sheet statement shows what your business has and what it owes. Note the number at the bottom. It’s normally called capital and reserves. A positive figure means your business has some value.

A negative figure is a red flag. It means if things carry on as they are, you won’t have a business for long.  Take action and start by improving profits.

Reviewing the balance sheet ask simple questions like; is this how much I owe my creditors? is this how much my customers owe me? If the amount your customers owe you is higher, it’s a red flag. Get the debtors list, review and start making calls.

  1. Cashflow

Your profit figure shows £15,000 as above but your bank balance is only £3,000. Where did the £12,000 go? A financial statement called the cashflow statement reconciles your cash to your profit. Even without a statement you can check:

Have your customers paid you late?

Have you drawn more money or dividends out?

Have you paid your suppliers early?

Have you purchased some equipment?

If you answer yes to any of these, then chances are that’s where the £12,000 is sitting.

  1. Using trends

 

Compare the current year or the current month’s figures to the previous year or month to make sure you are making progress towards your milestones and also to spot anomalies.

For example, if your phone costs or utility costs have gone down by, say 30%, compared to last year, ask yourself why. Is this because of the cost cutting decision you made a year ago? Or the change in tariff decision?

  1. Margins

It is very important to know your Gross profit margin. The next time you get your accounts, take the direct costs of sales or direct expenses (variable costs) from the revenue. Divide that number by the revenue. This is your gross profit margin.

Say your revenue is £100,000 and your materials or direct labour or direct expenses cost £70,000. The difference of £30,000 divided by £100,000 revenue gives you a margin of 30% i.e. every £1 of sale, you’re making 30p in gross profit. This tells you how profitable you are at the gross margin level and whether your business model works or not.

Two red flags: if you’re making £30,000 in gross profit but your fixed costs are say £35,000, something needs to change if you’re to remain in business. Also, if your margin is far below the industry average, you need to understand why and take corrective action.

  1. Breakeven

Breakeven is the point where your total income equals your total costs.

The reason you need an idea of your breakeven number is so that you know how much income to make to cover all your costs.

How do you get this number from your accounts? You will first need to know your total fixed costs; the costs that do not change regardless of the amount of sales you make e.g. rent, admin team costs, rates, fixed line contracts. In your profit and loss account, it should be most items listed under admin expenses – although do watch out for any variable costs that find their way under admin costs.

You then need the gross profit margin. You divide the total fixed costs by the gross profit margin and this tells you the amount of sales you need to make at any given period to cover all your costs.

Let’s assume you have calculated the margin as 30% and your fixed costs as £35,000 as per the example above.

£35,000 divided by 30% gives you a figure of £116,667. Remember the income is currently £100,000. This tells you that your business needs to grow its income or review its costs if you’re to stay in business. Armed with this number you’re in control rather than flying blind.

  1. What’s Your Business Worth?

You now know how to get and make sense of your profit figure. You also know what to look out for when you review your balance sheet and the meaning of the balance sheet value. And how to look out for the cash drain in your business. Did you know that these give you a starting point in measuring the value of your business?

Healthy profits, good cashflow and positive balance sheet values are signs of a valuable business. Of course, there are many other factors to consider when valuing your business and other key drivers of business value. However, understanding your accounts will help you make the right decisions for building the value of your business.

 

Conclusion

Numbers are the language of business. It’s important that you or someone skilled in accounting interprets them.  That way you’ll understand the story the numbers are telling you and can use this to inform your business decision-making. I hope the areas discussed here are helpful. Remember to keep talking to you accountant regularly as there are other key numbers to review.

Cash Management

Financial tools for budget-conscious freelancers & small businesses By Inna Kaushan, Solna

Running your own business can be high-pressure and expensive. With inevitable juggling of tasks, it is easy to leave financial management on the back burner. However, getting your finances organised and under control doesn’t have to be difficult, time consuming, or dull. You just need the right tools with the right automation!

 

Fortunately, there are plenty of free (or low cost) tools to give you a helping hand.

 

  1. Expensify: Expense management

 

Anyone working for themselves knows the pain of sorting through a pile of receipts: you promise yourself you’ll keep your receipts organised, but it can be boring, time-consuming, and even difficult to manage. A train ticket, a coffee, expenses soon mount up and find you have six months’ worth of expenses to go through.

 

Expensify is great for people who pile up receipts. It offers receipt scanning, next-day reimbursement, GPS mileage tracking, and tax tracking. You can allocate costs to specific jobs, set up unlimited categories, and import your credit or debit cards so that everything sits under one account. It consolidates all your expenses and makes them easier to manage.

 

It even comes with a virtual assistant driven by AI: Concierge. This reminds you to submit receipts, review reports, and automates things for you.

 

How much does it cost? Individual plans are £3.99 a month and group plans start from just £4 per user/month.

 

  1. Monese: Personal and business banking

 

‘Next-gen’ banks using smartphone technology have gone above and beyond to improve our banking experience. Their apps allow you to manage everything remotely, online, and in the cloud.

 

Monese provides freelancers and small businesses with a UK-based bank account that can be set up within hours. It is completely mobile, so you can manage all your banking needs using the smart mobile app that has been especially designed to provide flexibility and easy transfers.

 

If you pay for your Monese account, you can use your card anywhere in the world with no fees! You can also manage your account in 10 different languages.

 

How much does it cost? If you’re a freelancer, you can use Monese’s free account that will give you access to all the features, but will charge you for cash machine withdrawals and payments abroad. You’ll even have to pay a fiver to get your card delivered. The two paid accounts cost £4.95 and £14.95, where you’ll get a free card and will be able to access some or all those features for free. There’s also a business account (£9.95 a month) where you get a two-in-one Monese Business and Monese Plus personal account. You’ll be able to separate your business and personal spend with free dedicated debit cards and manage both seamlessly from one place!

 

  1. Emma: Budgeting and savings

 

If you want to be good with your money, Emma is a handy little tool that lets you effortlessly manage your cash flow and gives you the control you need over your finances. Thought to be the UK’s answer to Mint, Emma’s main goal is to improve the financial situation of its users. It works by aggregating your bank accounts and credit cards to give you a full picture of your finances.

 

Emma acts as your personal finance adviser by keeping track of all your spending, subscriptions, and even alerting you on any overdrafts. Emma can also help you keep track of debt repayments and it even prompts you to save money by suggesting what you can afford to save at the end of each month. Yes, it’ll spot if you’ve been buying too many flat whites!

 

How much does it cost? Emma is free to use but users also have the option to upgrade to Emma Pro for premium features including custom categories, unlimited budgeting, and data exports

 

 

  1. Solna: Invoicing

 

For some freelancers and small businesses, getting paid means sending email attachments, mailing pieces of paper, sending chaser emails etc. While it might sound simple, it can often all end up being a massive admin job without the right help.

 

If you want to get paid on time, smart invoicing is the way to go — Solna is packed with smart features to protect freelancers and small businesses whether they’re new to the game or not, and it makes invoicing quick and easy. 

 

With Solna, users can create, customise and send invoices in seconds. It also sends automatic payment reminders to those annoying late payers and lets you track every invoice until it’s in your account. Invoices also come with read receipts, so no more chasing random accounting people either. It will help you get paid faster.

 

You can also get a better view of who you’re doing business with and make the best decisions when setting payment terms using Solna’s credit check facility. It’s an invoicing tool with brains.

 

How much does it cost? You can sign up to Solna’s free version that provides access to invoice templates and customers’ credit scores for a limited number of customers. The paid packages give you invoice tracking, recurring invoices, advanced reporting in addition to more customers and templates.

 

  1. Stripe: Payments

 

As a freelancer or small business, maintaining your cash flow is crucial, so it’s in your best interest to avoid long delays between the time of sale and getting paid. Offering your customers multiple payment options is one way to avoid this — the more payment options you offer, the fewer excuses your clients will have to delay payment: online, mobile or contactless.

 

Stripe is your one-stop-shop for everything you need to get paid. Used by millions of businesses, Stripe is secure and easy for your customers to use and allows you to accept online and in-person payments from anyone in any country.

 

 

How much does it cost? Stripe charges a standard 1.4% transaction charge plus a 20p per transaction fee for European cards and 2.9% plus a 20p fee for non-European cards. There are no setup, monthly or hidden fees and you only have to pay for what you use.

 

Equity

eFounders and Yousign join forces to build the European leader on the eSignature market

Yousign, a major player on the French eSignature market, and eFounders, the startup studio at the inception of successes like Aircall, Front, and Spendesk, have joined forces to build a leader on the European eSignature market. eFounders has taken a substantial stake in Yousign by bringing its expertise and its international experience in order to build a European leader alongside American competitors.

The market for eSignatures has grown beyond $1 billion in 2018, and is expected to grow by 30% each year for the next 10 years. Europe, via the eIDAS regulation, and the USA, via the ESIGN Act, have adapted their legislation to make eSignatures legal and recognised. The obvious advantages have firmly established electronic signatures in the day-to-day processes of businesses across the world and across industries. Yousign’s customers include Cisco, Admiral Group, and Chrysler reflecting this diversity.

Launched in 2013 and certified at EU level, Yousign has thousands of clients in France using their app and API services. Yousign raised $3.3 million in early 2018 to fund its triple digit growth.
Founded in 2011, eFounders is a startup studio. Together with entrepreneurs, eFounders has launched 20 SaaS startups and is now taking on a new challenge by partnering up with an already established team.

“We’re used to building companies from scratch. Entering an existing company is new for us. We’re thrilled to be able to join the Yousign adventure and work with them towards a shared objective. We met Luc and Antoine 4 years ago when we were considered working in that space. We followed their progress and kept in touch until this summer when the opportunity to work together presented itself. “

— Thibaud Elzière, founder @eFounders

Both companies bring complementary assets to the table. Yousign has assembled a great team, deep understanding of the market, a large customer base, as well as a solid technical infrastructure. eFounders brings product and marketing expertise as well as international experience in SaaS.

“We immediately hit it off and knew from the get-go that we both had plenty to gain from relying on our complementary expertise.”

— Antoine Louiset, founder @Yousign

“The market is huge, and hugely competitive. We decided to partner up with eFounders to aim for the next level. We’re hoping that with their experience and expertise we can turn Yousign into the European eSignature leader. “

— Luc Pallavidino, founder @Yousign

After launching in France, Yousign is now entering Germany, the UK, and Spain. European countries are all subject to the same legislation, but Yousign will adapt to local cultures and markets in a way that it’s US-based competitors have not been able to.

“eFounders has focused on creating tools to help SMBs in their digital transformation and we consider eSignatures to be a key part of that transition. Our desire to position ourselves on this market and Luc and Antoine’s vision on how to address it compelled us to join forces with Yousign and to deliver our know-how and our resources. We’re excited by the challenge ahead and for the journey we will be taking together with Yousign’s founding team.”

— Quentin Nickmans, founder @eFounders

Articles

50 years of GDPR

José A. Rodríguez Ruiz, Global DPO at Cornerstone OnDemand

The one-year anniversary of GDPR is here and there is currently a lot of talk about GDPR’s first ‘birthday’. Although the legislation only came into effect last year, data protection laws have been around since 1970 — that’s almost 50 years.

The first ever national law dealing with privacy and data protection was the German Bundesdatenschutzgesetz in Germany, passed by the federal state of Hessen in 1970, and was the first data protection act that governed the exposure of personal data. The first German federal data act came into force in January 1978. The UK followed shortly after with the Data Protection Act 1984. This was then taken further with the Data Protection Act 1998 which implemented the EU Data Protection Directive of 1995.

One year on

Since then the GDPR, drafted to ensure EU citizens had more control over their personal data in an increasingly digital world, has been implemented across Europe. But the GDPR is not something new.  For example, within the six data processing principles of GDPR, transparency is the only new principle. Though there is a new obligation, accountability, which outlines that the data controller is responsible for, and must be able to demonstrate, compliance with the other data protection principles. Businesses now need to provide full transparency on where employee data is stored, how it is protected and how it is processed.

The primary changes that we see with GDPR are the amount fines. While in the UK there haven’t been any fines to date (is still too early), several enforcement letters have been delivered to companies under the ‘new’ Data Protection Act, and the industry is holding its breath waiting for the first fines to arrive.

The impact of GDPR

Although we haven’t seen any fines in the UK yet, the GDPR has made everyone more aware of data protection and its importance, and it has certainly sparked a need for clear data regulations and transparency. It’s raised awareness of the importance of protecting people’s data and companies are now considering how employee data flows around the organisation.

Employee data protection is not new, however GDPR takes it one step further and pushes hard for compliance, threatening high penalties if companies don’t observe the new regulation. This brings balance, giving employees and organisations, like trade unions, a strong leverage in case organisations do not respect these rights.

Scandals such as the Facebook/Cambridge Analytica crisis or the Marriott hotel data leak have also made us reflect on the need to protect data adequately because, ultimately, data protection is not about protecting the data, but about protecting the people, the primary goal of the GDPR and the Data Protection Act 2018.

The challenges

Even a year after GDPR, businesses are still facing challenges implementing the regulation. Many organisations, particularly in advertising and publishing, are still struggling with the ‘opt-in’, ‘opt-out’ process. Often, the options are confusing and end up catching people out. Furthermore, some websites are still facing challenges with GDPR compliance. For example, the US’ eighth-largest newspaper, the Chicago Tribune, is still inaccessible to people in the EU. It is clear that we are all still learning how to apply GDPR for specific cases.

Looking ahead

GDPR has already become a benchmark for many regions and organisations. Japan, Brazil, India and California in the US have all passed new privacy laws, demonstrating the significance of the ‘fundamental right to privacy’ and the need for companies to be transparent in how they use personal information. Similarly, organisations around the world are implementing GDPR-like principles and processes even if not required by law.

And even if most organisations have already made the basic changes needed to comply with GDPR, data privacy will continue to be a huge focus for organisations across Europe – and beyond! Data Protection is a process and a mindset, not a point-in-time activity.

As we move forward we will see a stronger focus on compliance and a natural selection process between providers based on their levels of GDPR compliance: in this modern, cloud-based world, the compliance of vendors is equally as important as a company’s own organisational compliance procedures.

GDPR is not a brand-new legislation, in fact its premise is over 50 years old, but it is complex and organisations, even one year on, are still trying to wrap their heads around how to fully comply. Fortunately, by focusing on creating more efficient data handling processes and being transparent about the use of people’s personal data, there will be less risks of fines and penalties plus, employees will be safe in the knowledge that their data is protected and secure.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Global Compliance

Samuel Knight expands its US presence with new hire and plans for Chicago

Leading energy and rail recruitment firm, Samuel Knight International, has announced plans to extend its US operations with a new head office in Chicago as the need for rail infrastructure talent in the city looks set to grow.

With a strong track record in supporting some of the world’s most exciting engineering projects in over 30 countries, the £16 million pound turnover business plans to extend this expansion across Boston, California and Atlanta to support employment as demand for niche energy and rail professionals increases in the States.

The firm has also welcomed a new Chairman to help drive this growth. James Barbour-Smith joins the agency, bringing with him a wealth of experience in working with numerous fast growing businesses to develop and implement their growth strategies. Drawing on almost twenty years in private equity investment and portfolio management involving over 50 companies in a broad range of sectors, James also has an extensive background across the US and European markets.

Commenting on this latest news, Steve Rawlingson, CEO of Samuel Knight and President of Samuel Knight Corp, said:

“We know from experience that the States offers a wealth of opportunity for rail, energy and infrastructure recruitment and as we’ve seen demand for our services increase in the US, expanding our physical presence across the States made complete sense. Now really is the time for excelled growth for us which is why we’re investing in these four new offices – with the potential for more to be opened further down the line.”

James Barbour-Smith added:

“There’s huge investment in offshore and onshore energy in the US at the moment. Given the firm’s global experience in attracting niche talent in these fields, Samuel Knight is undoubtedly well placed to support business across the States and deliver the results that reflect this investment. I look forward to working with the team as Chairman in this exciting period of growth.”

Private BankingPrivate ClientStock MarketsWealth Management

Ashfords LLP Launch Digital Legacy Service

The death of a loved one is a traumatic and difficult time. Dealing with an estate can often result in unnecessary cost, time and upset when trying to trace assets and meet the wishes of the deceased. Assets can be misplaced, forgotten about or even diminished in value before you get the chance to deal with them. Law firm, Ashfords LLP, has developed and launched a new and innovative digital legacy platform for private individuals to make executor’s lives easier.

Digital legacy enables users to keep a secure record of their accounts and assets (whether it is a bank account, shares or even the existence of social media accounts), leave messages for loved ones, set out funeral plans and wishes and help ensure that the process of dealing with their estate following their death is as easy and as cost effective as possible.

On the death of the individual the system is unlocked for executors in a read-only format to ensure that a clear audit trail between the wishes of an individual and the administration of the estate is maintained. The primary purpose of the system is to facilitate executors to know what exists so they can ensure all assets are accounted for and all accounts are closed.

Executors also have the option to open up a memorial book where friends and family can send in memories of the individual which can then be used at the funeral, executors can also send details of funeral plans through the Digital Legacy system if they wish to.

Michael Alden, Head of Private Wealth at Ashfords said: “We want to help individuals keep track of their estate and in turn help ensure that following a bereavement, families are able to close down any online accounts quickly and efficiently making the process less stressful, and potentially reducing the cost of administering estates. We are excited to launch our Digital Legacy service and hope this will be a real benefit to its users and their families.”

Garry Mackay, CEO of Ashfords commented: “Digital legacy is a further example of the firm adapting to the ever-changing needs of our clients. As lawyers, we have a responsibility to constantly look at innovative ways in which we can make things easier and more cost effective for our clients whilst continuing to provide the highest level of advice. Digital legacy is just one of a number of products we have in development for our private and business clients.”

Articles

Director Redundancy – What does this mean for you?

It is a common misconception that limited company directors are unable to claim redundancy pay as a result of liquidation, along with other statutory payments such as holiday pay and notice pay. In the run-up to liquidation, your business may be experiencing a rocky patch due to creditor pressure, HMRC debts, and poor cash flow. It is only natural for income and business expenditure to fluctuate as customer behaviour changes as a result of mitigating factors. This can include the likes of climate change, sector trends, festive holidays and political events. As a result, your balance sheet may take a nosedive, causing reasons for concern.

If your limited company is edging closer to liquidation, the early signs should be enough to warrant an enquiry into director redundancy pay. There are strict rules in place which govern what constitutes as an eligible claim for director redundancy pay, so it’s important to act fast, writes Gary Addison of Redundancy Claims UK.

Am I eligible for director redundancy?

It is possible for a limited company director to claim redundancy pay if the business has entered into liquidation or administration.  If you voluntarily liquidate the company, this nullifies you from being eligible for director redundancy as this has been strictly designed for directors which have been forcibly put out of work – not voluntarily. The average claim in the UK is £9000 and the maximum cap is £14,670 if you were made redundant on or after 6 April 2017.

In order to qualify for director redundancy, you must be able to prove your employment with the company, such as through your record on the payroll register.

Alternatively, if you resort to dissolution, also known as striking off from the Companies House register; you will not be eligible for redundancy pay.

When is the best time to claim redundancy pay?

The best time to claim redundancy pay is as soon as you become aware that the business is set to enter liquidation. The earlier you prepare, the better your chances of claiming successfully. Although you are able to claim for redundancy pay prior to the actual liquidation and post-liquidation, the rules are strict, as leaving it too late could hinder your full entitlement. You should seek redundancy pay within 12 months from the date the company entered into liquidation, but in order to maximise your chances, the six-month mark is recommended.

What is the timescale of the process?

The director will typically receive payment four to six weeks after the creditors meeting has taken place. This is subject to receiving the necessary paperwork and evidence to back up your claim.

What proof is required to back up my claim?

The following proof will be required in order to back up your claim for redundancy pay:

  • Proof of employment, such as a contract. In some cases, this is not necessarily written, it can be verbal. If your role consisted of the same responsibilities as an employee and you were paid through PAYE, you will typically be classed as an employee
  • The director is required to have worked a minimum of 16 hours per week
  • The company should have been incorporated for a minimum of two years
  • The director should have played an active and ongoing role in the day-to-day running of the company

 

Where will the money come from?

Director redundancy payments are issued from the National Insurance Fund which is the pot in which all National Insurance Contributions are put into. Redundancy pay is claimable from the government’s redundancy payments service (RPS).

Dissolution Vs Liquidation

Dissolution – When a limited company is facing inevitable closure, there are many routes it can take, including dissolution and liquidation. Dissolution is the act of dissolving a company, resulting in strike off at Companies House, ceasing in legal existence.

A business can only be dissolved after creditor affairs and outstanding debts have been settled. If you knowingly fail to do so, creditors will have the right to petition for the reinstatement of the business at Companies House, making it visible once again on the public register. If you resort to dissolution, it invalidates your right to claim for director redundancy.

Liquidation – During a compulsory liquidation, the assets of the business are valued and sold in order to raise money for creditors. The company is then struck off the Companies House register. As part of the liquidation process, the insolvency practitioner will settle affairs with creditors, removing any chance of the business being reinstated. Although the cost of liquidation is greater than the cost of dissolution, you are protected from creditor appeals and you will be eligible for redundancy pay.

Put simply, dissolution can leave you in debit, whereas liquidation can leave you in credit as you could be eligible for director redundancy.

Common reasons for rejection

Claims for redundancy pay are often rejected due to the following reasons:

  • Company was incorporated for under two years
  • You left the business before the liquidation process commenced
  • Employment was transferred using TUPE regulation

 

If you are successful in your claim for redundancy pay, this is extra capital which can help put you on the road to financial recovery. The funds can be put forward to boost your career and to pay off any remaining debts you may have accumulated over the years.

 

Redundancy pay is essentially compensation for the loss of a job position in a situation which is typically out of your control. Along with this, limited company directors may also be able to claim notice pay, holiday pay and unpaid wages. By debunking the common misconception of limited company directors being unable to claim the above, you open the doors to further compensation which you may be entitled to.

MarketsStock Markets

Navigating challenging markets in the investment industry

By Wael Al-Nahedh, CEO at Spearvest

The global economy has been experiencing unprecedented uncertainty in recent years. Political, economic and social challenges have meant that businesses and individuals are incredibly cautious about where they place their money, particularly for long-term investments.

The overall concerns in the US market topped with the UK’s difficult political situation around its planned departure from the European Union is making investors sit tight and hold back on plans until the future is clearer. With market uncertainty, it is crucial that investors realise it can bring with it great opportunities that only those who are forward thinking will be able to capitalise upon and improve their returns.

The US is a very complicated market for investors. For a fourth straight quarter, CEOs say they are less optimistic about the market which is highlighting a broader trend of concern around corporations at their peak time of profitability. As well as this, the inverted yield curve is producing warning signs of a recession and recent data shows a clear weakness from housing and retail sales and customer sentiment.

The UK market is producing quite negative predictions for business investment. A recent poll from the British Chambers of Commerce has predicted that UK business investment is set to decline in 2019 by 1 per cent – making it the worst year since the financial crash of 2008. Economic growth reports have also predicted that 2019 will be at 1.2 per cent, the lowest in a decade. This is a concerning position for the UK to be in and its certainly clear that the estimations are corresponding together with the uncertainty around Brexit. However, we must make it clear that these are only forecasts for now and they are likely to change, either negatively or positively to reflect the developments. Once the final outcome of Britain leaving the European Union is made, the market should steady itself and these predictions may be updated.

Interestingly, China’s growth has set to be lower this year too due to trade tensions. It is also set to have slower growth in consumer spending and a tighter hold on global liquidity. Despite this prediction, China’s government are attempting to stimulate the economy through fiscal, monetary and regulatory measures to help growth levels match targets.

Thanks to the challenging markets, it has never been more vital for an investor to monitor their current portfolio and look at where investment is needed. For businesses, they must insist on having a clear view of the market before committing to long-term and costly investments. Despite the need for clarity, it should be noted that with uncertainty, brings fantastic opportunity for investors to get ahead when many are being overly cautious. There is often an opportunity to strike a better deal, provided it is the right investment for the individual or business that will give long-term success.

Although volatile markets can be incredibly successful for some, one must be able to withstand the rapid change in market values and the associated possibility of loss. This means advice given to investors is extremely important to get right, particularly on the topic of what they should be holding onto throughout a dip in the market versus what should be simply let go of.

To stay ahead of the curve, investors should look at diversifying their wealth on a global scale and turn their heads towards value-focussed funds which is ultimately investing in unpopular stocks that have seen some significant growth in the past but not as popular as the higher growing stocks.

It is apparent that economic uncertainty, driven by current political circumstances in the US and UK, is a real concern for investors. When political uncertainty is prominent, we often see emerging markets profit from the situation and I think this is what we will end up seeing here. Investors should look at markets that would not usually have their attention and look at potential commodities that have previously taken a backseat.

To have a better view of how a portfolio is performing, technology can be implemented. It is becoming increasingly important for each custodian of wealth to be digitally connected, and to feed live data into a secure platform. This helps to provide investors with a full view of their whole portfolio in real-time – an important insight for uncertain markets. This type of technology will rely on independent market pricing and the reporting process must be objective and accurate in order to give the necessary and correct data. By having this, an investor can properly assess their portfolio performance and make smarter and better-informed decisions. Although, it’s not all about performance. Obtaining a fully consolidated view of wealth means it is easier to mitigate risk, allowing an investor to recognise potential issues and take action before they become a bigger problem.

Whilst political uncertainty remains a concern for all investors, it should not equate to an end of an investment portfolio. When looking to invest in difficult times, it is important that those looking to distribute their wealth are given advice that is well-informed, unbiased and profound from those who are closely watching the markets and can provide strategic and tactical guidance. As we see more individuals shying away from making investments, this is when fantastic opportunities open up for those looking to take more of a risk for a higher return down the line.

ArticlesCorporate Tax

Why Brand Image Is More Important Than Ever

If you want to be a leading business in your market, you must have a reputable brand. Brand awareness is one of the most significant factors that contribute to the successful running of a business. You want to make a great first impression that will last if you have aims to increase your consumer base and become a thought-leader in your sector.

Within this piece, you’ll learn more about what your customers think and what you should be doing in the future. 

Implementing change

For many businesses, uniforms are a main element. You need to ensure that your employees are identifiable to customers and this can only be achieved by designing a uniform that stands out; while catering to each type of individual that works for you (considering religions etc).

Corporate wear represent your business – so you must design them in the correct way and prioritise employee comfort to ensure you receive the best delivery from them.

Above all that, skill development is core to any future success. This should cover ways that they interact with consumers of all kind (race, religion, disability) and offer the most efficient service possible to show that you’re a reputable brand. On top of this training, you should also make your staff aware of any new products or services that you begin to offer so that they can give customers all of the information that they require.

You must consider other areas internally too. Research has suggested that customers will spend up to 13 minutes in a store — so it’s important that you deliver an exceptional service. Queues are notoriously long here in the UK and can be the biggest contributing factor to a customer’s walk-out. To combat this, why not look at queue management software and point of sales service?

What your customers think

More people believe that the in-store experience is more valuable than the product. Although you should also be prioritising the quality of your products (to reduce returns and negative reviews), you should be constantly reviewing your current customer service methods and continually think of ways that you can improve the overall service.

Although you should always be confident with your service delivery, know that there’s always room to improve internal strategies. According to one study, 80% of businesses already believe that they deliver a superior service to their consumers – but only 8% of shoppers actually agree with this statement.

Loyalty is key for retail businesses, and if you offer a quality service from the start, customers will appreciate that.  Not only that, but if you’re looking to increase your consumer acquisition rates – this is a good avenue to go down. 84% of people make a purchase because of a referral; so if your first impression is worthwhile, it could lead to additional business.

Are you prepared to make the changes necessary to ensure success?

 

Sources:

https://www.lucidpress.com/blog/25-branding-stats-facts

https://www.crowdspring.com/blog/successful-branding-for-entrepreneurs-statistics/

https://www.thebalancesmb.com/retail-uniforms-good-or-bad-2889981

 

 

Capital Markets (stocks and bonds)MarketsStock Markets

What Game of Thrones stocks and shares do you hold?

By Alister Sneddon, Genuine Impact

 

 

It is hard to believe that the Game of Thrones (GoT) saga is coming to a close and we’ll soon find out who’ll win and take the Iron Throne.

 

Finding a winner relates to the quest to pick stocks and shares too.  Just as we’ve analysed the characters in GoT, and made our assessment of their strengths and weaknesses, we can assess a stock by looking at its Quality, Value, and Momentum.

 

Based on these three criteria, here are some stock picks for three favourite GoT characters:

 

Jon Snow

Jon has a lot of backing and support from the public. He has also proven he can withstand even the most unexpected of events. There is a spark of innovation to be found: joining forces with the enemy of my enemy turned out to be an excellent move against the Night King’s army, but is it a cursed alliance joining forces with Daenerys?

 

Paddy Power Betfair PLC

Paddy Power and Betfair now operate as a single company having joined forces in 2015. Coming together brought them back from infighting to concentrate on ruling.

 

Paddy Power Betfair is an excellent Quality stock. The company has a strong balance sheet and plenty of cash. Jon isn’t cash rich, but he has resources: endless people to call upon when required. Paddy Power Betfair’s cash reserves, make them resilient to any new gambling regulations or other changes.

 

A company’s value is based on today’s price per share, versus how much money the company generates. The higher the value the cheaper it is to buy this company now compared to how much money it’s bringing in i.e. the money being generated will grow into bigger profits (and returns) in the future. Paddy Power Betfair scores highly for Value. They bring in a lot of revenue compared to the stock price today. If they can convert this money into bigger profits there’ll be higher returns for investors. If you’d invested in Jon before you knew about his true heritage, you’d be collecting rewards now!  Investing in Paddy Power Betfair has potential for more to come.

 

Finally, a company’s Momentum. Momentum takes views from industry experts, e.g. big banks and financial institutions, and aggregates them. Do the experts believe this company will barely beat expectations or perhaps completely exceed everyone’s wildest dreams? Paddy Power Betfair is very average in terms of future Momentum. They’re hitting or beating their targets. The industry feels positive, without expecting anything amazing soon.

 

Assessment

Quality Score: High

Value Score: High

Momentum Score: Low

 

 

Arya Stark

Arya is a force to reckoned with, she is still human and makes mistakes, but there is no doubt she will keep on going.  While Arya might not want the Iron Throne, she is capable of taking it. Thankfully she is happy with her own path and continues to influence the world around her.

 

Taylor Wimpey PLC

One of the largest house building companies in the UK, Taylor Wimpey is often used as a barometer for the Brexit impact. Like Arya, Taylor Wimpey is a force unlike anything else.

 

Taylor Wimpey is no stranger to scandals or scraps. Unlike Arya however, Taylor Wimpey has the cashflow to make its problems and challenges negligible. Regarding the Quality score Taylor Wimpey has a lot of purchasing power, but housing market regulation is prone to change and Brexit has shaken us, so they are keeping an eye on their war chest.

 

What about Value – the future potential based on what you pay today? Taylor Wimpey scores extremely well for Value; the company generates a lot of income compared to its current share price. If it can convert the incoming revenue into higher margins the results will be impressive.

 

For Momentum, the industry experts seem to agree. There is plenty of potential upside in the future. Once the Brexit air clears it will be business as usual, and like Arya, Taylor Wimpey will show up ready to fight.

 

It’s a promising outlook across the board, however starting from such a strong position means it’s tough to exceed expectations.

 

Assessment

Quality Score: High

Value Score: High

Momentum Score: High

 

Night King

Terrifying, unyielding, and never-ending. There has never been a threat as serious and all-consuming as the Night King and his army of the undead. It doesn’t matter how many you kill or how far you run, he will always be there.

 

Sports Direct International PLC

Very much like the Night King, Sports Direct picks up dying companies and recruits them into the Sports Direct family, giving them new life

Buying up assets and companies on the cheap is still expensive. So, Sports Direct doesn’t have the happiest of balance sheets. The Quality score is very low, cash in the bank is not the strategy here. It’s spending money to make money.

In terms of Value there is potential. Sports Direct’s current share price is lower than expected when compared to the amount of revenue and income they generate. The Value is lower than expected, but not enough for this company to be labelled a deep value long term buy and hold.

With worse than expected accounts, even with the company being offered “at a discount” (medium Value) experts don’t have high hopes for the future.

However, Sports Direct has proven they’re experts at navigating the unknown. The ratings are more a reflection of the feeling that there will be hardships for the time being.

Like the Night King, Sports Direct hasn’t given us an incredible show yet but hopefully, unlike the Night King, it’ll be part of our lives for many years to come.

Assessment

Quality Score: Low

Value Score: Medium

Momentum Score: Low

 

Disclosure, Alister does not hold positions in any of the stocks mentioned.

Corporate GovernanceMarketsStock Markets

Sectigo Delivers Record Quarter of Growth Underpinned by More Than 35% YoY Enterprise Sales Increase in Q1 2019

Addition of Top Brands, Along with New Email Encryption and Digital Signing Product, Drive Sales for World’s Largest Commercial SSL Provider

Sectigo (formerly Comodo CA), the world’s largest commercial Certificate Authority and a leader in web security solutions, today announced a larger than 35% year-over-year (YoY) increase in enterprise sales during the first quarter of 2019, fueled by the adoption of the company’s Certificate Manager, Private CA, S/MIME, and IoT Manager enterprise solutions. Sectigo also kicked off 2019 with an expanded partner program, the release of its Zero-Touch Deployment S/MIME product, a new strategic IoT alliance, and receipt of numerous awards.

Sectigo’s record quarter follows a breakthrough year and a complete corporate rebrand in November of 2018. The company has experienced rapid growth since expanding beyond TLS/SSL certificates to offer solutions that protect enterprises of all sizes from increasingly sophisticated web-based threats across websites, IoT devices, internal infrastructure, and cloud services.

“After delivering a strong 2018 where Sectigo’s growth was more than twice as fast as the overall market, we have accelerated our efforts by doubling down on addressing the enterprise’s most pressing needs through product innovation,” said Bill Holtz, CEO, Sectigo.

“Enterprises are embracing automated certificate management to facilitate discovery, installation, and renewal for their vast inventories of private and public certificates across diverse use cases and operating systems. These capabilities are essential to securing our complex enterprise environments and their increasing use of virtualization, containerization, mobile devices, IoT, and DevOps. Certificate automation enables strong identity in these complex environments and protects against costly outages caused by unexpected certificate expirations,” Holtz added.

Sectigo highlights in Q1 2019 include:

Enterprise growth – Dozens of marquee brands, spanning retail to technology sectors, enlisted Sectigo as their trusted partner for certificate management. Sectigo Certificate Manager provides enterprises with complete visibility and lifecycle control over any public and private certificate in its environment all from a single portal.

Product innovation – In February, Sectigo introduced the industry’s first Zero-Touch S/MIME solution to combat business email compromise (BEC) and other spear phishing attacks and increase compliance with regulations like HIPAA/HITECH, GDPR, and the U.S. Department of Defense’s DFARS. The innovation modernizes email security and encryption by using automation to deploy digital certificates across every desktop, tablet, and mobile device in an enterprise.

Expanded IoT ecosystem – Sectigo and Kyrio, a subsidiary of CableLabs, formed a strategic alliance to provide the expertise needed for IoT projects to be designed, architected, built, and deployed with security in mind from day one. Multi-vendor ecosystems, including the Open Connectivity Foundation (OCF), CBRS WInnForum, and SunSpec Alliance, have already chosen Kyrio and Sectigo to manage their global PKI deployments.

Industry awards – Sectigo won five company awards and received three executive honors in Q1.
Cyber Defense Magazine’s InfoSec Awards – CEO Bill Holtz was named the Most Innovative Chief Executive of the Year, Sectigo Certificate Manager earned the Hot Company Identity Management Award, IoT Manager was selected for Publisher’s Choice IoT Security, and Zero-Touch S/MIME won the Next-Gen Deep Sea Phishing Award.
2019 Info Security PG’s Global Excellence Awards® – Sectigo IoT Manager was awarded bronze in the New Product or Service of the Year category, and CMO Jonathan Skinner won gold for Marketing Professional of the Year.
2019 Cybersecurity Excellence Awards – Sectigo won silver for Most Innovative Cybersecurity Company, and gold for Cybersecurity Marketer of the Year (for CMO, Skinner).

Channel expansion – Sectigo unveiled a revamped Channel Partner Program, enabling partners to grow into new cybersecurity market segments. By teaming up with Sectigo, resellers develop their product portfolios and learn best practices for optimizing the customer experience. After collaborating with Sectigo, ICANN-accredited registrar Uniregistry, saw 53% of users who expressed interest in their UniSSL products complete purchases.

Thought leadership – Sectigo launched Root Causes: A PKI and Security Podcast to frame public conversations and discuss key issues, breaking news, and major trends in digital certificates and PKI. Co-hosted by Sectigo industry veterans Jason Soroko and Tim Callan, Root Causes is now live on iTunes, Spotify, Google Play, SoundCloud, Blubrry, and Stitcher.

Issues

Q2 2019

Welcome to the second issue of Wealth & Finance International Magazine for 2019. As always, we are dedicated to providing fund managers, institutional and private investors with the very latest industry news in the traditional and alternative investment landscapes. This issue we are looking forwards. More specifically, at how to secure the future, whatever the coming years may bring.

With that in mind, we have spotlighted a number of firms and practitioners who are in the market of protecting the future – whether that be through providing financial advice, security solutions, or future-proof banking services. On the cover of this month’s issue is Azizi Bank, who have swiftly become one of Afghanistan’s largest commercial banks. We spoke to Dr. (Prof) Mohammad Salem Omaid, CEO of Azizi, who discussed the bank’s mission, vision and plans for the year ahead.

Elsewhere in the issue, we sat down with Christian Holland, Director of FACET, who offered some insight into the firm’s investment management services. As independent wealth managers, FACET have forged an impressive reputation through an ability to cater to the needs of their clients, providing impartial and unbiased advice that achieves results.

Finally, we profiled Redwood Bank to discover how they are revolutionising traditional banking services to cater to British SMEs.

Here at Wealth & Finance we sincerely hope that you enjoy reading this month’s issue and look forward to hearing from you.

Laura Brookes | Editor

[email protected]

+44 (0) 20 3970 0082

Global ComplianceWealth Management

Sparta Global announces appointment of Andy King as Managing Director

Sparta Global, a leading provider of technology and business services, today announces the appointment of Andy King as its new Managing Director. Andy joins Sparta Global following the opening of its new Head Office at 125 London Wall and £4m equity investment from Private equity house Key Capital Partners (KCP) to support its continued growth and expansion.

With his new position as Managing Director at Sparta Global taking full effect from 10th April 2019, Andy will assist with the attraction, training and deployment of highly skilled graduates in blue chip organisations – reporting to David Rai, Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Sparta Global.

As former UK & Ireland Managing Director of FDM Group PLC, Andy and his team were responsible for a total revenue of £106.7m (circa 52% of total group revenue) and more than 1800 consultants deployed with clients across the UK. Additionally, he was responsible for overseeing and implementing new academies across the UK. Before his 10-year tenure at FDM Group PLC, Andy was the Global Head of Testing at Barclays Wealth for 5 years.

David Rai, Co-Founder and Chief Executive of Sparta Global, says; “Attracting someone of Andy’s calibre, track record and growth potential to Sparta Global is incredibly exciting. Andy is a highly motivated individual with extensive experience managing and leading global teams across sectors such as investment banking and the public sector. His proven track record in sales, graduate recruitment, training, mentoring and programme delivery – combined with a positive attitude and passion to drive a successful team – makes him an ideal fit for Sparta Global.”

Of his appointment, Andy King says; “I am hugely excited to be joining Sparta Global at such a key stage in its growth and development. Sparta Global has built a strong platform in the UK with Academies in London, the Midlands and North of England, fulfilling the growing UK-wide demand for diverse, highly skilled and dynamic technology professionals. I look forward to working with the exceptional team at Sparta Global and giving our clients the tools to power technology projects across a diverse range of industries”.

Markets

Atradius Announces Top Five Promising Emerging Markets

Leading trade credit insurer Atradius has revealed its most promising emerging markets for businesses.

Bulgaria, Indonesia, Vietnam, Peru and Morocco have been shortlisted within the Promising Emerging Markets Economic Research Report as having the most potential for new trade opportunities this year. The top five are predicted to shine in 2019 thanks to their strong growth prospects and limited vulnerability to global headwinds. They boast a mix of trade diversification, strong investment growth and dynamic domestic markets and offer opportunities in consumer orientated sectors as well as within manufacturing and infrastructure.

Luke Giddings of Atradius, said: “As the global economy loses steam in 2019, the risks in the traditional emerging markets are coming to the forefront. Economic policy uncertainty, a greater-than-expected slowdown in the Chinese economy and more volatile commodity prices are bringing pressure to bear. However, despite increasing global pessimism and uncertainty, there are still bright spots for global trade.

“We have identified a number of promising markets that show a favourable combination of attributes to make them appealing destinations for international trade. Stable or accelerating growth, favourable business conditions, robust payment behaviour are critical factors and what’s more, the markets identified can offer growth opportunities across several sectors.”

♣ Bulgaria: The Eastern European market has a positive economic outlook, fuelled by domestic demand and fixed investment. Household incomes are increasing, supported by higher wages and low domestic interest rates which is leading to a rise in demand for exports. Opportunities for exporters are ample in the consumer durables and the food and beverage sectors. Imports have also sharply increased in the machinery sector while the chemicals sector is also well supported. In agriculture, an increased output will create higher demand for fertiliser imports.

♣ Indonesia: This ASEAN member has high and stable growth rates, underpinned by a stable political situation and strong fundamentals. Rising incomes, coupled with job growth and higher public spending should continue to underpin private consumption growth. Promising sectors include consumer durables and food and beverage. Growth in e-commerce is contributing to rapidly increasing demand in the chemicals and plastics sectors. Alongside expansion of the petrochemical and fertiliser industries, there is also significant demand for infrastructure. High construction activity for electricity and transport development will also continue to drive import growth in the machinery sector.

♣ Vietnam: With 6.7% GDP growth forecast, Vietnam has a population of more than 95 million and is home to Southeast Asia’s fastest growing middle class – representing an important market for foreign goods While it is heavily exposed to US-China trade tensions, it stands to gain from rising tariffs. Diversification of trade away from China could offer opportunities for Vietnam’s textiles sector, forecast to grow 15% this year. Vietnam’s young population with a tendency for eating out make an attractive potential market for food and beverage businesses. With robust economic growth, an upsurge in infrastructure and construction activities and strong demand for fuels across transportation, aviation, and residential sectors, Atradius also expects continued high growth in the chemicals sector, especially fuels.

♣ Peru: A stable market with a regionally high growth rate of around 4% with a government track record of prudent, business-friendly policymaking. Notable growth prospects can be found in Peru’s primary industry sector with enlarged anchovy fishing and higher hydrocarbon production expected to drive growth. The development of new mines and major infrastructure projects are boosting the construction sector. A large domestic market characterised by more than 30 million people with rising incomes and high consumer confidence gives attractive growth potential to the food and beverage and consumer durables sectors.

♣ Morocco: While the Middle East and North Africa is experiencing subdued growth, Morocco is bucking the trend with GDP growth forecast at 3.3% thanks to a cyclical upturn in agricultural production, as well as stronger non-agricultural growth, especially in the manufacturing sector. With close proximity to European markets and heavy investment, the export-oriented manufacturing industry – especially automotive – has high growth potential. There is also strong potential in the growing tourism industry; supporting travel and supportive industries such as food and beverage and services. With good infrastructure, Morocco’s energy sector is also seeing strong growth, with potential opportunities for imports – with targets to significantly increase its reliance on renewables.

Luke Giddings continued: “With intelligent insights and experts on the ground around the world, Atradius is well equipped to help businesses spot the opportunities for international trade as well as mitigating the associated risks. We act as a trade partner for businesses, facilitating trade and supporting sustainable and robust business growth.”

For more information on Atradius, visit www.atradius.co.uk or follow @AtradiusUK on Twitter and AtradiusUK on LinkedIn


AccountancyValue Chain Management

Guidant Global announces new leadership line-up to drive further international expansion

Guidant Global, part of Impellam Group, is delighted to announce changes to its executive team as the global leader in talent acquisition and managed workforce solutions continues to make rapid progress in expanding and transforming its portfolio across international markets.

Former Senior Vice President of Global Solutions, Karen Gonzalez, is stepping into the newly created role of Chief Sales Officer where she will become immediately responsible for overseeing global sales across North America and in the UK.

For over 25 years, Gonzalez has dedicated her career to helping clients find better ways to manage their workforces. She was appointed to her former role, overseeing the company’s sales organization, in 2015. In her first year she led the sales team to achieve more than $650 million in spend under management, a figure which has now risen to more than $1.5 billion.

Commenting on her expanded remit, Karen Gonzales, Chief Sales Officer at Guidant Global, said:

“I am delighted to be stepping into this new role which is firmly aligned with Guidant Global’s long term objectives through enabling a more holistic approach to international sales strategy. I’m incredibly excited by what can be achieved, both in the short to medium term and as we continue to expand into new geographies.”

Former President of the Americas, Brian Salkowski, meanwhile, has been elevated to Chief Operating Officer where he will lead the implementation of the brand’s strategic vision and its operational delivery.

Dedicated to changing the dynamic of MSP services by championing a better, more forward-thinking approach, Salkowski has 20 years’ experience in the workforce management industry and was a key figure behind the coming together of Bartech and Guidant Group, which marked the inception of Guidant Global in 2018.


Commenting on his new role, Brian Salkowski, Chief Operating Officer at Guidant Global, said:

“I am honored to step into this role at a time when the organization continues to grow its portfolio across international markets. The creation of Guidant Global enabled greater sharing of best practice, best people and operational accountability for the workforce solutions business and through the creation of a Chief Operating Officer role we are able to bring greater synergy across implementation, operations and account management.”

Simon Blockley, CEO of Guidant Global, added:

“I’d like to congratulate both Karen and Brian on their new positions and I have no doubt that both will excel in their new roles. The alignment of our key teams is integral to success in expanding our global reach and this new leadership structure is indicative of our commitment to finding better ways of working in order to meet our organizational objectives.”

Articles

Excel’s International Team Continues To Grow

Excel Networking Solutions – the copper and optical fibre cabling infrastructure provider – has appointed a new Sales Manager in France. Hinda Mourali joined the business on 1st April 2019, beginning with a two week induction programme to familiarise herself with the Excel Networking team.

Hinda joins the team with over ten years’ experience in working with distribution and installation sales. For the past eight years, she has been working with one of our Excel Distribution Partners in France. Her appointment with Excel is key to support the business growth and development in the French region, with particular focus on working with existing partners and developing new business opportunities throughout the country.

Aurelie Pernin, Excel Country Manager – France, commented, “I am delighted to welcome Hinda on board. She has a wealth of experience in the industry, and her knowledge and confidence will be pivotal in helping Excel to secure more market share in the French region.”

She continued, “Hinda will be working closely with our existing international team. She will be the driving force behind enhancing our communication and activities throughout France to help promote the Excel System Offering to new contacts.”

Speaking of the role, Hinda commented, “I am looking forward to facing the challenges of this role with Excel Networking. I am confident that I can use my experience in the industry to promote the Excel product range throughout France to support the existing international team.”

Hinda continued, “I am looking forward to working closer with Excel Networking to identify new opportunities to support the business’s future growth.”

For further information about Excel Networking, please visit the website at www.excel-networking.com.

Foreign Direct InvestmentHigh Net-worth Individuals

Puzzel receives growth investment from Marlin Equity Partners

Puzzel, a leading European omni-channel cloud contact centre software provider, today announced the completion of a majority recapitalisation and growth investment from Marlin Equity Partners (“Marlin”), a global investment firm with over $6.7 billion of capital under management. Puzzel’s best-in-class, multi-tenant cloud contact centre as a service (“CCaaS”) platform allows clients worldwide to manage and optimise their customer interactions across voice, email, chat and social media platforms.

“Puzzel’s leading position in the market, knowledgeable employees and pioneering technology platform positions us well to successfully scale our business,” said Børge Astrup, CEO of Puzzel. “Marlin has a proven track record of supporting and partnering with high-growth software businesses and we look forward to working with them to execute our strategic plan to accelerate growth, bring new and added functionality to our customers and expand into new markets.”

“In Puzzel, we saw a business with a comprehensive omni-channel CCaaS solution that is both scalable and flexible, and designed to support contact centres of all sizes,” said Mike Wilkinson, vice president at Marlin. 

“The company has experienced tremendous growth across Europe that is being further fuelled by feedback and advocacy from market-leading customers. We are excited to partner with an exceptional management team to seek new partnerships, invest in new opportunities to enhance the product suite and expand the company’s geographic presence.”

About Puzzel
Puzzel is a leading cloud-based contact centre software provider and one of the first pioneers to develop a cloud-based contact centre offering. Today, Puzzel combines its omni-channel technology with artificial intelligence capabilities to provide comprehensive, end-to-end customer interaction solutions in an age of digitisation. Puzzel was named a Challenger in the 2018 Gartner Magic Quadrant for Contact Centre as a Service, Western Europe, Report 2018 for the fourth consecutive year for its strong growth, functional capabilities, strengths in standards and compliance, customer service and support. The company is headquartered in Oslo, Norway, with offices in six European markets including the U.K. For more information, please visit Puzzel.

About Marlin Equity Partners
Marlin Equity Partners is a global investment firm with over $6.7 billion of capital under management. The firm is focused on providing corporate parents, shareholders and other stakeholders with tailored solutions that meet their business and liquidity needs. Marlin invests in businesses across multiple industries where its capital base, industry relationships and extensive network of operational resources significantly strengthen a company’s outlook and enhance value. Since its inception, Marlin, through its group of funds and related companies, has successfully completed over 140 acquisitions. The firm is headquartered in Los Angeles, California with an additional office in London. For more information, please visit Marlin Equity

Cash Management

Sphera Acquires Chemical Data Management Software Company SiteHawk

Sphera, the largest global provider of Integrated Risk Management software and information services with a focus on Environmental Health & Safety, Operational Risk and Product Stewardship, announces the acquisition of SiteHawk, a leading software and services provider for Safety Data Sheets (SDS) and chemical data management solutions.

 

Sphera acquired SiteHawk, a Smyrna, Tennessee-based software company, to advance usability and capabilities for chemical management and managed regulatory content. The SiteHawk product accelerates Sphera’s next phase of product integration for Product Stewardship into SpheraCloud, the Software as a Service (SaaS) platform that was launched in 2017. 

 

SiteHawk’s chemical management products are used in many of the industries that Sphera works with, including manufacturing, Oil & Gas and chemical manufacturing.

 

“The acquisition of SiteHawk not only expands Sphera’s cloud-based solutions, but also extends Sphera’s Product Stewardship content, services and markets while extending our leadership position in the Product Stewardship space,” said Paul Marushka, Sphera’s president and CEO. “As the industry leader, we believe it is critical to continue innovating and expanding our portfolio of cloud-based and content solutions while also enhancing our world-class, on-premise products. We also want to welcome SiteHawk’s current customers and colleagues into the Sphera family.”

 

These deals underscore Genstar Capital’s commitment to investing in Sphera to enhance their product breadth for their global customers. This marks Sphera’s fourth acquisition, following deals to acquire Rivo Software in 2017, sparesFinder in 2018 and Petrotechnics earlier this year. 

 

“Genstar is committed to growing the Sphera brand through strategic investments,” said Geoff Miller, principal at Genstar Capital. “The SiteHawk acquisition will serve to enhance Sphera’s industry-leading solutions in the Product Stewardship space as part of a comprehensive Integrated Risk Management strategy for chemical management.”

 

Sphera is a portfolio company of Genstar Capital, a leading middle-market private equity firm, which acquired the OERM business (now Sphera) from IHS Markit in June 2016. Vaquero Capital acted as financial adviser to SiteHawk during the transaction. SiteHawk is backed by Level Equity. Financial terms of this transaction were not disclosed.

Cash ManagementTransactional and Investment Banking

Aryaka Raises $50M to Accelerate Global Managed SD-WAN Expansion

Series F, Led by Goldman Sachs, Enables Company to Quickly Grow Revenues, Headcount & Global Footprint

Aryaka®, the global leader in managed SD-WAN, today announced it has closed a $50 million Series F round of funding led by Goldman Sachs Private Capital Investing. This brings Aryaka’s total funding to $184 million. Additionally, it was announced that Matthew Dorr of Goldman Sachs will join Aryaka’s Board of Directors as a Board Member, and Michael Kondoleon will join as an observer. Goldman Sachs will be joining existing investors including Trinity Ventures, Mohr Davidow Ventures, Nexus Venture Partners, InterWest Partners, Presidio Ventures, Third Point Ventures and DTCP.

The funding will be used to scale business operations, grow revenues and hire exceptional talent, as Aryaka continues to see larger deal sizes and global customer expansion.
“We’re constantly evaluating the market for high-growth companies that are leaders in their space. Our research shows that Aryaka offers a compelling solution for the SD-WAN market that continues to grow exponentially including increased adoption of SD-WAN managed services,” said Matthew Dorr, vice president at Goldman Sachs Private Capital Investing. “We decided to invest in Aryaka because of their highly differentiated offering, strong customer base, global footprint and their experienced management team.”

“We are pleased to receive this investment from Goldman Sachs. This new investment allows us to further accelerate our business momentum and endorses our growth strategy,” said Matt Carter, CEO of Aryaka. “We are extremely well positioned to help our customers drive WAN transformation and their multi-cloud and application performance initiatives; all while being delivered ‘as-a-service’.”

In the last twelve months, Aryaka has continued to accelerate business growth, which has resulted in thousands of globally managed sites and significantly larger annual recurring revenue (ARR) streams. The Company has also brought in seasoned members to its leadership team, established new go-to-market partnerships and continued to build out a best-in-class global network of points-of-presence (POPs). These POPs have been supplemented with global Network Operations Centers (NOCs) and 24X7 support.

As multi-cloud requirements have grown, Aryaka has cemented partnerships with the leading public cloud providers including AWS, Microsoft Azure, Google, Oracle and others. These partnerships allow Aryaka to offer the industry’s best managed cloud connectivity options and deliver a true, multi-cloud solution. In addition, through partnerships with Palo Alto Networks, Symantec and Zscaler, Aryaka brings a full-fledged security solution to the edge.
Aryaka’s continued innovation around its orchestration platform, connectivity solutions, edge devices, WAN optimization and security software all combine to form the most integrated solution in the industry. Aryaka is the only SD-WAN platform that has both the technology stack as well as a highly available global network that offers managed services at scale. This platform provides customers a seamless solution and delivers the best possible end-user application experience. Aryaka currently has more than 800 global customers, including JAS Worldwide, HMSHost International, Makinohttps://www.aryaka.com/press/sd-wan-revolutionizes-manufacturing-it/], [Pilot Freight, Element Solutions, Allegis, and City & Guilds Group.

For more on Aryaka, please visit: https://www.aryaka.com/
Visit the Aryaka blog: https://www.aryaka.com/blog/https://www.aryaka.com/blog/
Follow Aryaka on Twitter: @AryakaNetworks
Visit Aryaka on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/aryaka-networks/

OffshoreWealth Management

How to choose the right country for opening a company

How to choose the right country for opening a company 

The world we live in today has made it quite easy for most of us to start our own company. The Internet has created a lot of new business opportunities and ideas which can be successfully put to use and to the benefit of others. With so many options, choosing the country to set up a business in is one of the most important challenges.

Selecting the country to open a company depends on the money one is willing to invest, the industry or the profession of the business person and, of course, the legislation in that particular country. Plus, one also needs to consider the many frauds which have developed along with the appearance of the Internet. One must always consider asking for legal advice from a criminal defence lawyer, if confronted with a possible fraud.

Let’s see what one should consider in terms of country of choice when deciding to start a business.

Taxation is essential when opening a business

Most business persons consider taxation as one of the most important aspects when choosing a country to start a business in. There are onshore and offshore destinations, if we are to categorize countries from a taxation point of view; however, there are also countries which provide for low taxes just as offshore states. For example, large companies can decide to set up subsidiaries in Labuan, one of the most important offshore jurisdictions in Malaysia, while benefiting from a very good taxation system.

Offshore jurisdictions are still preferred by many investors

Offshore countries remain among the preferences of many foreign entrepreneurs who consider they can reduce their taxes and ensure a higher degree of confidentiality if they decide for such a jurisdiction. Let’s take Seychelles, for instance: setting up an offshore company in Seychelles will definitely offer a good protection when it comes to the assets of the owner, if one chooses this business form. Investors can also decide to open onshore companies and complete activities just like in any other onshore jurisdiction.

Going for traditional country

There are also entrepreneurs who decide to go the old-fashioned way and settle their companies in traditional countries with well-established regulations. These are usually European countries, such as Germany, France, Spain and Italy which have evolved a lot in the last few years, especially in accommodating the needs of the new generation of investors which rely on new technologies. Those who decide to operate in Italy, for example, are advised to use the services of a local law firm in order to integrate their businesses under the legal requirements of the authorities here.

No matter the country one decides for setting up a business, what matters in the end is for that country to answer the needs of entrepreneur, while his or her products or services answer the needs of the clients in that country.

Corporate Finance and M&A/Deals

APSCo Announces Trade Delegation to US and Canada

The Association of Professional Staffing Companies (APSCo) has announced it’s much anticipated five day Trade Delegation to New York and Toronto beginning on the 11th November 2019, following successful visits to Singapore, Brazil, Japan and China in previous years.

The event, which is kindly sponsored by Saffery Champness and Squire Patton Boggs, marks the second time the trade association has travelled with members to North America, after a delegation of 28 visited New York and San Francisco in 2017. Feedback from the previous cohort was extremely positive, with Chris Jackson, Founder Director of Understanding Recruitment commenting, “I collected a huge amount of information to take away and am now in a position to make a good and educated decision on whether we’re going to hit the States over the next 12 months”.

During the trip, delegates will receive privileged access to key contacts across the sector, briefings from specialists about business opportunities and market trends and practical advice from experienced recruitment leaders operating in the region.

The delegation will be led by Ann Swain, Chief Executive of APSCo, who commented:

“With a $133bn turnover, the US staffing market is the largest in the world, while Staffing Industry Analysts forecasts that the Canadian staffing market will be worth CAD 9.7bn in 2019. This strength, together with low barriers to entry has made the United States and Canada target destinations for ambitious firms looking to expand their global footprint and diversify their growth strategies.

“If you are looking to develop your business across the pond, or simply want to ‘dip your toe in the water’ this trip is an ideal way to make a cost-effective assessment of the opportunities available.”

Delegates will visit New York on the 11th and 12th of November and Toronto on the 14th and 15th of November, with a day travelling in between.
For further information and to book your place, please email [email protected].

ArticlesCorporate Governance

How important is online branding and marketing for your business?

Branding and marketing and the effects on a business

 

Can we bring short-term sales goals and long term value together through brand-building and marketing?

 

Known as Thomson Holidays, the holiday company decided to undertake a total rebrand, becoming TUI, in 2017. CMO Kate McAlister explained that upon rebranding, their brand awareness increased by 36% in under one year. 

 

As indicated in the graph, 2017 saw a boom in stock prices and google searches. Furthermore, this is a perfect example of the positive effect branding can have on a business’ stock price and google search.

Branding and marketing is a consistent combination of several factors that come together to create a company’s image. The cold Coca Cola you’ve been craving, or the newest Apple iPhone upgrade. Brands, brands, brands. We recognise these immediately – we trust them.

“Strong brands performed 20% better than weaker brands.”

 Digital marketing is also an essential part to build whether it be B2C or B2B.

 

Statistics show that 32% of businesses plan one year ahead, with consideration for the ways in which the marketing industry will change through digital technologies.

 

Text Local researched the ways in which customer satisfaction was affected by mobile marketing and general mobile readiness.

 

Bringing together real-life data and hidden data, Text Local have been gathering information about the levels of mobile website speed of various businesses and the positive effects it had on customer happiness.

When it comes to customer satisfaction there are many platforms for online reviews. Online reviews not only give potential customers a snapshot of the quality of your product or service, they are also very beneficial to your search rankings and search page visibility.

Comparing business success metrics, we can conclude that online branding and digital marketing is something to consider for 2019 – improving customer satisfaction, business efficiency, Google rank and a boom in revenue.

 Sources: Google, Text Local

Banking

UK banks must collaborate with fintechs to transform payments industry

New Research Reveals Disruptive impact of technology needed to harness new payment opportunities

https://irishadvantage.com/white-paper/paytech-reinventing-transactions/ 

The UK payments industry is undergoing an unprecedented transformation, driven by the twin engines of growing adoption of technology and changing consumer expectations. This has led to a race to launch innovative new payment products, services and business models to meet growing customer demand.

This is according to new research, Paytech: Reinventing Transactions. Commissioned by Enterprise Ireland, the second largest investor in fintech companies in the world by deal count. The research demonstrates traditional banks are being increasingly disrupted, as technology-enabled businesses carve out a completely different payments ecosystem. The result is a proliferation of new opportunities, as banks, long the cornerstone of the payments sector, are both challenged by – and themselves embrace – new digital payment options.

The customer demand and business case for an improved payment experience is clear. The UK market, in the past 10 years, has seen a 33% decline in the number of cash payments.[1] 2018 alone representing a 15% drop.[2] The changing consumer preference in the UK is further exemplified as the UK ranks higher than every other EU market for cashless payments. In addition, a consumer survey[3] showed 82% of respondents were dissatisfied with the service received from incumbent money transfer operators and banks, citing slow, complex, non-transparent and inflexible traditional payment options.

Due to the slow pace of innovation over the years, incumbents are seen to lack the agility and capabilities needed to enable a seamless transition to more open, intuitive and secure methods for card-based payments, cross border payments and account-to-account payments. However, according to J.F. Clarke, Fintech Market Advisor at Enterprise Ireland, collaboration between the traditional banks and fintech companies is essential.

“In an environment where smart phones are ubiquitous, consumers have come to expect payment solutions that are seamless and available 24/7 across different channels. The UK market is no different. The pace of life in the UK has changed, consumers are more cash-rich and time-poor than ever before and businesses must adapt effectively to maintain their customer base. Traditional forms of banking have become almost obsolete, particularly across the younger generations who are far more familiar with digital software like Apps than cheques. UK banks must employ fintechs to modernise their systems and ensure the Paytech industry is striving for greater stakeholder collaboration and creating a more unique, innovative and competitive solution for customers.”

Enterprise Ireland client, Webio, The Conversational Middleware Company, recently launched WebioPay which enables enterprises to take payments directly within conversational messaging streams such as SMS, Messenger and Whatsapp; across 120 Payment Service Providers. “It makes perfect sense to combine the explosion in messaging apps with the revolution that’s now taking place in the payments industry.” Said Cormac O’Neill, CEO of Webio. “British consumers are more comfortable conversing with brands via messaging so why not empower them to make payments within the same conversation? That’s what WebioPay does, it’s an exciting opportunity for businesses and consumers alike”. Webio are currently deploying WebioPay in some of the UKs leading brands in Retail, Utilities and Financial services.

The research also outlines how recent mandatory regulations such as PSD2 and GDPR and their impact on the payments industry, will encourage the use of technology, such as Machine Learning, Artificial Intelligence, Big Data Analytics and Blockchain.

“As the global payments industry undergoes unprecedented transformation, Irish innovation is helping to reinvent payments around the world. This is due to the expertise that has emerged in Ireland, as an internationally acknowledged global fintech hub” added J.F. Clarke.

“Implementation of advanced technologies such as machine learning, artificial intelligence and big data analytics facilitate automation and predictive analytics; applications based on these capabilities add value across multiple functions. Innovative products, services and business models create new growth opportunities and increase agility of enterprises,” said Adrian Drozd, ICT Research Director at Frost & Sullivan and author of the new research.

[1] Telegraph, 2018

[2] UKTN, 2018

[3] Amdocs Consumer Survey, 2016

 

Cash Management

Protecting your family legacy in a digital age

By Alex McCready, Head of Reputation and Privacy at Vardags

 

“It’s the family name that lives on. It’s all that lives on...” (Tywin Lannister, Games of Thrones)

 

We all care deeply about our family and want to ensure that whatever we pass onto younger generations stands the test of time. This concern is particularly acute for prominent families. When the older generation passes on a corporate dynasty to the younger generation – it is not only business assets and wealth they are passing on, but the family’s reputation and legacy.

 

The reputation of a family can be one of its greatest assets, but it is something that needs to be protected and cultivated. The line between business and personal is often blurred. For example, a business closely linked to a prominent family is particularly vulnerable, as any damaging allegations / controversy about a particular family member will have ramifications for the business as well.

 

Family legacy and succession planning is a hot topic and one that any family office or wealth manager will be well versed in. At Vardags, we think safeguarding reputation is an essential part of succession planning.

 

So what steps should prominent families be thinking about in this situation?

 

Knowing what’s out there

 

Despite the rise in technology, many of us don’t actually know what information is out there about us online.

 

One of the most empowering things a family can do is to establish precisely what information is out there about family members and those closely associated with the family. The results are almost always surprising. It will often uncover:

 

  • Private information that they didn’t know was available, such as homes addresses, family photographs and details of planning applications – see ‘Protecting the Private’ below
  • Some of the information might be disparaging – perhaps on blog sites or social media
  • You might realise that the family’s online reputation doesn’t match the family’s values. For example, there is huge amounts of information about a controversial investment or business deal, but very little about the family’s philanthropic work

This information is critical to understanding your family’s current reputation and, importantly, what you want it to be for generations to come.

 

Protecting the private

 

Without being alarmist, prominent families are at a greater risk of being targeted by cyber criminals and identity thieves, as well as kidnap and blackmail attempts.

 

One of the easiest steps a family can take is to minimise the amount of private information available online; for example, residential addresses and other personal biographical data, such as photos or images of homes of your children’s school. Information available on social media also provides a rich source of intel for the unscrupulous. For example, if a family member checks into locations or venues via social media, they can quite literally be creating a map of their movements for members of the press, or worse, criminals. Some basic changes to social media privacy settings can disable these location services.

 

Next Gen’s online legacy

 

It only takes one careless tweet, indiscrete Instagram snap or careless remark to tarnish a family’s reputation.

 

What the older generation did as teenagers is, thankfully, less likely to come back to haunt them and is generally limited to some embarrassing photographs in a friend’s photo album. The risk for today’s Next Gen are far greater, as many are living their lives through social media. The toddlers of today will have a significant online legacy by the time they turn 21 and are looking for a job. It’s already become part of the recruitment process for employers to take a look at a prospective employees Facebook page, and this is only going to continue.

 

A blanket ban on social media is both unrealistic and unnecessary. But education on the risks associated with social media is essential. Basic guidance on privacy settings on sites like Facebook and Snapchat is key.

 

I’m seeing some families even drawing up a family social media policy. This can be as simple as an agreed set of guidelines on what the family’s approach to social media will be. The policy should reflect the family’s values, such as agreeing that overt demonstrations of wealth don’t fit with those values. For example, the family might want to draw a very distinct line between individual family’s members and the family business. Alternatively, the family members might be an intrinsic part of the business and part of the family “brand” – in which case making sure there are clear parameters on what is and isn’t acceptable is absolutely critical. 

 

The aim is to both protect the family and encourage family members to live by its values, whatever those may be.

 

Dealing with disputes

 

Families argue. That’s an inevitable fact of life. But families should do all they can to ensure that those dispute aren’t conducted in the full public gaze and don’t irrevocably harm the family’s reputation and business.

 

We’ve seen one family break-down hitting the headlines in the US recently. The Dorrance family, who have a controlling interest in the Campbell Soup Company, have come under the spotlight following the death of their patriarch and the long-time Campbell chairman, John T. Dorrance Jr. Some family members announced their intention of selling their shares, which led to turmoil at the company and attracted the interest of an activist hedge fund.

 

Having a plan which sets out how family disputes are dealt with is vital. It’s also crucial to give the media as little ammunition as possible should the family end up in the headlines. That is why the steps outlined above are so valuable for minimising the risk of a small story mushrooming into a big one.

Alex McCready, Head of Reputation and Privacy at Vardags
Transactional and Investment Banking

GODWIN OPENS LONDON OFFICE IN LINE WITH UK EXPANSION

GODWIN Group, the UK-based property development and investment company, has continued its growth, recently opening a London office to add to its existing bases in Nottingham and Birmingham.

The new London outpost, based in the heart of the capital in prestigious Mayfair, provides a new base of operations for both arms of the business, Godwin Developments and Godwin Capital.

Godwin is already creating links to Greater London, the South East and South West of the UK and further expanding the geographical scope of Godwin Developments’ commercial and residential portfolios.

The new location will also provide important access to London’s financial network and wealth-raising opportunities for Godwin Capital, the investment arm of the business.

Andrew Mitchell, group investment director of Godwin Group, said: “As a leading international financial centre, London is a key location for Godwin Capital to enhance its corporate profile, provide expansion opportunities and access to one of the world’s deepest pools of capital.

 “The build-to-rent (BTR) sector continues to grow apace; operators are looking to take advantage of improved yields and a wider selection of sites across the UK as infrastructures improve and lower land prices make development lucrative.

“Many of the key players in this market are based out of head offices in London. Godwin Group’s new London office is strategically located to provide this vital link, local contact and expertise for its regional businesses.”

The London office launch comes after a number of high-profile new hires at Godwin Group. Staff numbers have increased by 60% as the firm’s growing number of regional projects has expanded.

Recent successes include planning approval for Godwin’s proposed new BTR scheme of 201 apartments at The Landmark development in Derby, Godwin Capital’s launch of innovative new investment products and the launch of the group’s BTR brand called Core Living – which plans to build up to 2,500 new homes over the next four years.

Stephen Pratt, group land director of Godwin Group, said: “Godwin Group has seen huge growth over the past months. Our new London office will allow us to accommodate further expansion plans and look to reach new markets in our key sectors.

“These are exciting times for Godwin Group and we are looking forward to expanding our network even further with the opening of our London office.”

Visit Godwin Group on https://www.godwingroup.co.uk/

FX and Payment

The 7 benefits of using an mPOS (mobile point of sale) system

Calling all businesses- 5G network is almost here! With over two thirds of payments being by card, it is no surprise that a faster, more efficient network could translate into faster, more efficient sales. If you are a business that has been accepting card payments for a while, you have probably familiarised yourself with a traditional POS system.

 

A traditional POS system is a fixed monitor with a touch screen that often links to your cash register, telephone line and central processing unit. MPOS (mobile point of sale) is the latest trend using a portable smartphone or tablet that functions as a register for taking payments. With contactless payment methods like Apple Pay increasing in popularity, mPOS is for the customers who simply want to tap their phone and go.

 

Want to learn more about the benefits of using mPOS as opposed to traditional POS systems? The business communications specialists at A1 Comms have compiled a list of 7 benefits using a mPOS system. Having worked with leading networks such as EE, 3, 02 and Vodafone, they understand that businesses need a fast, reliable network to secure continuous sales via mPOS systems. That’s why they have been providing business to business communications since 1997.

 

1) It’s more cost effective

 

Traditional POS systems usually have a high upfront cost. Typically, this is around the £1000 mark, plus another £800 a year to continue using updated POS software. For smaller business’s, the idea of a traditional POS system can seem daunting and unnecessary, due to the initial and continuous high cost. The biggest benefit to using an mPOS is that it is much more cost effective. Instead of investing in a fixed, electronic register and baring a big cost, mPOS breaks it down into smaller monthly maintenance payments and relies on a cloud-based subscription. This means that for a small upfront cost, vendors can easily access their customer data from virtually anywhere where there’s WiFi connection.

 

2) Shorter checkout and return lines

 

Say goodbye to boring, time consuming queues and say hello to customer satisfaction and quick service. According to Verifone, approximately 75% of customers wouldn’t wait longer than 5 minutes in a queue, meaning slow service equals slow sales. MPOS is designed to make business’s more efficient with card and mobile payments, therefore increasing profitability and creating shorter checkout and return lines. Customers can simply tap their phone and pay for an item knowing their information is safe and secure.

 

3) Limits a business’s liability

 

Protecting data in POS environments is pivotal for customer trust in your business. Traditional POS systems risk unauthorised access to electronic payment systems by fraudulent individuals wishing to steal debit and credit card information. With mPOS, the main difference is that credit and debit card data is not stored, which significantly reduces the risk of any breaches of security happening. Whilst no system or device is

totally safe from an attack or breach, mPOS minimises the risk and a business’s liability through encrypted transactions and no card data being stored.

 

4) Easier to confirm identities during payments

 

Biometrics such as fingerprint and facial recognition can also be used with mPOS to confirm the identities of customers during payments, adding another layer of security. This new way of authenticating a customer’s payment shows that security and convenient, fast technology can go hand in hand.

 

5) View customers checkout history

 

With mPOS, staff can view past transactions, loyalty rewards, online browsing history, and anything else that could help teach staff about the needs of the customer in front of them. Not only does this feature increase customer satisfaction but it also improves staff performance as they are able to easily access data of what the customer expects and already loves. Ultimately, mPOS uses customer information to allow staff to make more effective, relevant sales.

 

6) Minimal setup

 

Not only are mPOS systems much more cost efficient and secure, but they are generally easier to set up too. The setup required is often downloading and launching an app and making sure the card reader accessory is compatible with all types of card types and mobile software. Whilst mPOS is usually easier, more complex systems may require technical expertise and setting up a local server. Still, in comparison to what can be expensive, fixed and technically challenging POS systems, the portable and efficient mPOS seems extremely appealing.

 

7) Easy to integrate with existing systems

 

When choosing your mPOS system, a factor to consider is whether it will compliment your existing POS system. There are some mPOS systems specifically designed to work with old, traditional POS software and others which can work independently beside or instead of it. As aforementioned, setup with mPOS is easy and usually consists of downloading an app, creating an account and then connecting your card reader, receipt reader and printer via Bluetooth. A good tip to migrate your data by

Business News Daily is to simply look for a downloadable spreadsheet template that you can copy and paste product data into. Then, upload this new spreadsheet to your new mPOS system. It’s as simple as that!

Funds of Funds

Credit Kudos Raises £2.2m in Latest Round of Funding

Credit Kudos, challenger credit bureau and leader in commercial applications of Open Banking, announced today they have raised £2.2m in their latest round of funding. Funding is led by Ascension Ventures, through its social impact fund Fair by Design, with additional investment from existing investors NFT Ventures and Entrepreneur First’s Next Stage Fund. New backers include Dragons’ Den star Sarah Willingham; prolific angel investor Charlie Songhurst (investor in Affirm, ClassPass, and Coindesk); and key figures from the credit industry, including both the former CEO and MD of Callcredit, now TransUnion, John McAndrew and Graham Lund. The investment will be used to drive further growth within the UK and support expansion into Europe, alongside further investment into Credit Kudos’ platform.

Credit Kudos, which launched its Open Banking platform in January 2018, was co-founded by software engineers Freddy Kelly and Matt Schofield. Upon returning to the UK after working in Silicon Valley, Freddy faced a myriad of challenges accessing credit due to his ‘thin’ credit file. With little to no recent financial activity in the UK, Freddy was offered only limited credit product options, with higher interest rates and restrictions. This experience led Freddy to co-found Credit Kudos to help all people access affordable credit.

In the UK alone, it is estimated that 1 in 4 UK families have less than £100 in savings, demonstrating a pervasive need for access to affordable credit. However, due to insufficient data, many individuals with the most need for credit are at risk of being pushed into high-cost credit options, and have the hardest time accessing affordable loans. It was also revealed that financially excluded individuals pay on average a “poverty premium” of £490 per annum.

Credit Kudos’ mission is to advance financial inclusion through new applications of technology. Credit Kudos provides lenders, brokers and financial institutions with a highly accurate and transparent scoring system based on consumer consented data, providing a fairer representation of an individual’s creditworthiness. Credit Kudos’ solution enables lenders to make better decisions, whilst simultaneously helping previously overlooked individuals access credit.

Investment in this round by Ascension Ventures’ social impact fund Fair by Design (FBD), is a testament to Credit Kudos’ work towards the advancement of financial inclusion and reducing the poverty premium, to enable previously overlooked individuals access to mainstream credit through alternative measures of creditworthiness. “Credit Kudos is very much at the centre of the FBD investment thesis,” said Emma Steele, Investment Manager for Ascension Ventures “They are a core solution to tackling the lack of fair and affordable access to credit for customers, with thin files or no credit history. We very much back Freddy’s ambition to change the way the risk profile of a potential borrower is assessed. By doing that, Credit Kudos has the potential to 1) advance financial inclusion by improving approval rates for people previously excluded by the system 2) help prevent borrowers from being forced into higher priced products and 3) make it easy for lenders to check affordability. We are excited to back the team on this journey.”

Also providing further investment is the world’s leading talent investor, Entrepreneur First. Entrepreneur First have been a part of the Credit Kudos story since inception. Matt Clifford, Entrepreneur First CEO said, “Credit Kudos is tackling a highly complex and challenging problem, taking a new approach that leverages machine learning to power smarter decisions. We are thrilled to be doubling down on our commitment to the team and their vision.”

This funding round has brought a number of new backers including BBC Dragons’ Den star Sarah Willingham, “I’m thrilled to be backing the Credit Kudos team and their mission to make credit scoring fairer and easier for both businesses and consumers. Sadly the traditional methods are still opaque and confusing and all too often consumers are penalised despite being very creditworthy. Applying new data and technology to the problem gives Credit Kudos the ability to make smarter decisions, empowering consumers and giving them greater choice. I look forward to seeing Credit Kudos make a lot of lives easier.”

Securing further investment from both original investors and further industry leaders is evidence of Credit Kudos’ success and growth since Open Banking became a reality in early 2018. “This investment allows us to scale up our business to meet the demands of a post-Open Banking and PSD2 world,” said Freddy Kelly, Credit Kudos CEO. “This funding will be used to expand our engineering and development team to continue to deliver first to market technology across our platform, as well as supporting expansion into wider Europe.”