All posts by Susannah Griffin

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ArticlesCash Management

18-24’s Owe £225 to Buy Now Pay Later Schemes

klarna

18-24’s Owe £225 to Buy Now Pay Later Schemes

Under-25s are increasingly likely to seek help for debt, according to debt charity StepChange with Buy Now Pay Later schemes cited as problematic for young shoppers.  

The Shop Now Stress Later Study from money.co.uk reveals that 18-24-year-olds owe a third more (£225 each) to Klarna-like buy now pay later schemes (BNPL) than the average UK shopper (£176).

How big is the fast fashion debt problem for 18-24-year-olds? 

The study found that 18-24-year-old shoppers owe £225.44 to BNPL on average, which is 28% more than the average UK shopper, who owes £176.   

The amount owed to popular BNPL schemes by 18-24-year-olds:

  1. Openpay – £360.50
  2. Zilch: £356.00
  3. Laybuy – £318.32
  4. Payl8r – £282.54
  5. Zip – £200.29
  6. Clearpay: £188.26
  7. PayPal Credit – £137.92
  8. Klarna: £122.16

The report also analysed 10 fast fashion brands based on how many times BNPL is mentioned throughout the shopping process, with Nasty Gal, Boohoo, and Pretty Little Thing the worst offenders when it comes to promoting them.  

Fashion Retailers Ranked by BNPL Promotion Mentions

  1. Nasty Gal – 46*
  2. Boohoo – 42
  3. Pretty Little Thing – 41
  4. Next – 40
  5. Nike – 40
  6. JD Sports – 38
  7. Clarks – 32
  8. Levi’s – 32
  9. Adidas – 31
  10. ASOS – 26

*Each brands BNPL score for mentions and how prominent BNPL is on their websites 

Over the past few years, Klarna, alongside other schemes such as Clearpay or Laybuy, has become a popular way for millennials and Generation Zs to buy clothes. The schemes offer the option to delay a payment or to split payments into installments. 

But debt advice charities are increasingly worried that BNPL is encouraging young consumers to spend more than they can afford.

These stores are all fostering a smash-and-grab mentality among young shoppers today. Many of them are buying their clothes purely online, often speculatively, and end up returning items that don’t fit or suit them later.

Shoppers aged 18-24 are more than twice as likely to use a payment platform (52%) than going into their overdraft (20%), but 25-34 are the biggest BNPL users. Over two-thirds have used a BNPL payment scheme like Klarna, Clearpay, or Laybuy. 

Almost a third of UK shoppers cite social media as a contributing factor (29%) in their decision to use BNPL and two thirds (55%) of shoppers aged between 18 and 34 admit to buying with the intention of returning, making millennials the most prolific returners. 

There are concerns young people might be encouraged to take on debt just to afford some new make-up or a dress for a night out.

Fast fashion is based on fleeting trends that may last no longer than a few months. Trying to keep up with such a quick turnover can be difficult, so young people turn to payment schemes to be able to afford them. 

Social media platforms, such as Instagram, exacerbate this as influencers post daily pictures in different outfits, never being seen twice in the same one, which puts pressure on young people to keep up. 

Under-25s made up 14% of those seeking help from the charity Stepchange in 2018, with an average outstanding debt of more than £6,000.

Retailers sign up with Klarna or similar BNPL schemes as it encourages more people to buy and some shoppers that use the service probably shouldn’t be. 

Impulse buying and online shopping can be very addictive. If you are thinking of using a BNPL scheme to purchase your items, think about whether you would purchase the items if you didn’t have the option to spread the cost. 

The full Shop Now, Stress Later study can be found here: https://www.money.co.uk/guides/generation-debt-trap 

business investment
ArticlesTransactional and Investment Banking

Post COVID-19 Trends: 31% Of Wealthy Individuals Intend to Support the Economy by Buying A Small Business

business investment

Post COVID-19 Trends: 31% Of Wealthy Individuals Intend to Support the Economy by Buying A Small Business

Brown Shipley, a Quintet Private Bank, has announced the results of a comprehensive research study of the nation’s wealthy. The survey of over 4000 UK consumers included a representative sample of over 800 of the nation’s ‘wealthy’ – defined as those with more than £100,000 in assets that they can readily access, 350 of whom have more than £250,000 in assets.

The research looked at how the wealthy had amassed wealth and what they want to do with the money they have, with some surprising results. Perhaps of most interest in the times of uncertainty with COVID-19, one in five (19%) of those with more than £250,000 in assets said they intended to buy a small business in the future to keep themselves busy, and a further 35% said they are planning on investing in a new business to help kickstart the economy post COVID-19.

Just under half of those wealthy individuals surveyed said they would leave an inheritance (48%). This increases slightly to 53% of those with more than £250,000 of investible assets. The research suggests that 1 in 5 (c10 million) UK adults fall under our definition of ‘wealthy’, which suggests that 5 million families may not receive an inheritance.

For those with more than £250,000 in assets, apart from leaving an inheritance, the other plans for their wealth include:

  • One in two (52%) will use the wealth to spend money on themselves, for example on  holidays; whilst one in six intend to buy luxury items, such as an expensive car or yacht (17%)
  • This is almost the same as those that wish to support a worthy cause (19%)
  • Almost six out of ten (59%) will use their wealth to fund their retirement

Whilst half plan to leave an inheritance, four in ten (39%) plan to gift some of their wealth to their families.

Regardless as to whether the wealthy plan to leave money when they pass on – the lack of planning for the future is of concern.  Only four out of ten (40%) say they had plans in place to pass on their wealth to minimise the tax paid by beneficiaries.  One in three (34%) say they will put in place plans in the next five years to minimise tax on their beneficiaries; whilst one in five (22%) say they never will.

Commenting on the research, Alan Mathewson, Chief Executive Officer of Brown Shipley said, “Whilst it is great to see that there could be significant reinvestment by the wealthy in UK businesses post COVID-19; it is worrying that so many haven’t made plans for their estates.  Solid financial planning is about wealth preservation today and having a wealth plan to meet future needs and we believe all can benefit from putting their estate in order, today.”

The research also reveals how today’s wealthy gained their affluence.  One in three (30%) of the nation’s wealthy credit an inheritance for contributing to their wealth; whilst 56% cite earnings from salaried work; and one in five (18%) say it is down to their entrepreneurialism.  Perhaps surprisingly one in twelve (7%) say that a lottery win; or gambling has helped them become affluent.  Other factors that the wealthy say have helped them amass financial assets include the performance of their pensions (44%); and investments (34%); whilst one in four (27%) have been helped by the property market.

monzo
ArticlesBanking

Consumer Opinions Towards Digital-Only Banks Fall Almost Three Times the Rate of High-Street Banks’ During Lockdown

monzo

Consumer Opinions Towards Digital-Only Banks Fall Almost Three Times the Rate of High-Street Banks’ During Lockdown

Customer sentiment towards 10 of the UK’s biggest high-street and digital-only banks fell by 7 percentage points (pp) during lockdown, according to new research from personal finance comparison site finder.com and social analytics specialist BrandsEye.

This leaves overall consumer sentiment for the banking industry at -24% on a possible scale of +100% to -100% for the period between 1 March and 31 July.

However, over 800,000 social media posts from customers revealed that digital banks saw a sentiment decline of almost three times that of high-street banks during the pandemic. On average digital-only banks’ customer sentiment fell by 14pp compared to just 5pp for high-street banks, compared to the previous 6 months (August through to the end of February).

While this is a blow for digital-only banks, it should be noted that high-street banks had, and continue to have, a much lower overall sentiment (-13% vs -35% currently). 

When asked, over half of high-street banks’ customers (52%) said that they felt negatively towards their bank throughout lockdown with customers saying that savings rates are what frustrated them the most (29%). 

Following this was poor customer service both online (14%) and in-branch (14%). The third most common customer criticism was their lack of communication during the pandemic (11%).

The story was very similar for digital-only banks – 53% of customers felt negatively about their provider during lockdown and savings rates were again the main problem (21%).

Customers’ main method of interacting with their digital-only bank is through an app, so this is perhaps why customers’ second biggest issue was around their bank’s app (15%). 

Poor customer service appeared to be a running theme with 14% of digital-only banks’ customers complaining about the level of customer service they received over the phone and digitally.

The bank that experienced the biggest decrease in sentiment was Monese, with sentiment falling from -0.1% to -19%. Currently, Atom bank has the highest customer sentiment of 9%, however, this is a drop from 11% pre-lockdown. 

Customer sentiment towards Barclays, Lloyds and NatWest actually improved during lockdown, with Lloyds bank experiencing the largest rise in sentiment from -36% to -33%. Despite this increase, these banks still sit in the bottom three positions for overall sentiment, with Barclays having the lowest score of -42%.

The full paper, Banking in lockdown: Is the honeymoon over for challengers?, includes expert commentary from industry leaders and can be viewed and linked to here.

 

Commenting on the findings, Jon Ostler, CEO of personal finance comparison site, finder.com, said: 

“Digital-only banks have enjoyed a golden period where dissatisfied consumers of traditional banks have flocked to them, attracted by market-leading apps, innovative features and a more human way of communicating to customers. 

“Now these digital-only banks are becoming recognised players in the industry, it is natural that they will start to be held to a higher standard. This is especially true during a crisis like COVID where people are relying on their bank more than ever – some banks have handled the situation better than others.

“Digital-only banks are still comfortably ahead in the sentiment stakes compared to the incumbents but perhaps it was inevitable that the high street banks would claw back some ground. The challengers will be hoping this fall in positive sentiment is just temporary and not the start of a bigger trend.”

 

Nic Ray, CEO of BrandsEye, noted that social media is growing as a platform for customer service and continues to be a rich source of consumer insight:

“As the adoption of digital banking services accelerated during the pandemic, the industry can expect an increase in digital conversation that includes social media customer service requests and customer feedback. Swiftly identifying and responding to service requests, and surfacing valuable feedback from within all of the noise of social media will be critical to improving customer experiences and building long-term customer loyalty for both digital and high-street banks.”

 

Sentiment pre-lockdown

Sentiment post-lockdown

Atom

11%

9%

Starling

12%

-1%

Monzo

2%

-2%

Monese

0%

-19%

Revolut

-18%

-29%

HSBC

-31%

-30%

Lloyds

-36%

-33%

Santander

-21%

-33%

Natwest

-40%

-37%

Barclays

-22%

-42%

 

house prices
ArticlesCash ManagementReal Estate

September Revealed as The Best Time to Buy A House

house prices

September Revealed as The Best Time to Buy A House

New research suggests the stamp duty payment holiday isn’t the only reason Brits can make a saving on a property this month.

Watch and sunglasses specialist, Tic Watches, has conducted research and worked with experts to reveal the best time of year to find a bargain for high value products including homes, cars and holidays. The experts have compared prices to the peak time of year shoppers are searching for and buying products most frequently, to highlight how much people could really save with the right timing.

Here are the best times of year to find a deal:

January – Watches and sunglasses
  • Peak search time: 22nd-28th December
  • Potential savings: 70%

The January sales are a great time to pick up bargains on fashion items such as watches and sunglasses. Danny Richmond, Managing Director of Tic Watches, said: “For watches, the cheapest times of year to buy are generally Black Friday and January. This is when we run our biggest sales with discounts of up to 70%.

“For sunglasses, January sees the biggest discounts, of up to 40%. This is because it’s the period of lowest demand for summer products, so it’s a great time to get a bargain!”

February – A wedding
  • Peak search time: 28th July-3rd August
  • Potential savings: 50%

February sits in the middle of the wedding low season, which runs from November to April. This is generally seen as an undesirable time to get married, so as a result there are huge discounts available. In some cases, you can have a Saturday wedding in winter for half the price of the same in high season.

March – New cars
  • Peak search time: 10th-16th March
  • Potential savings: 25%

For new cars, the best time to buy is usually March and September because of bi-annual targets, although deals are to be had at the end of each quarter, depending on individual targets and stock availability.

April – Mattresses
  • Peak search time: 29th September-5th October
  • Potential savings: 53%

Dale Gillespie, Marketing Director for bed and mattress retailer, Bed SOS, said: “Retailers  tend to release their new lineups in April, so early spring is the best time to find the biggest discounts. Buying in early April, you’ll find some great value deals as retailers clear old stock to make way for the new ranges.”

May – Winter shoes
  • Peak search time: 24th-30th November
  • Potential savings: 70%

Buying shoes out of season will allow you to find the best value deals. May is a great time for this as there will be discounts on winter footwear such as boots, wellies and walking shoes, allowing you to buy good quality products for a fraction of the price. Similarly, the best deals for summer footwear can be found in autumn and winter.

June – A gym membership
  • Peak search time: 29th December-4th January
  • Potential savings: 20%

The start of summer tends to offer some of the best deals on gym membership, with January being another good month for discounts. 

There are often plenty of deals available through voucher websites such as Hot UK Deals, but if you’re signing up in person, a handy tip is to go at the end of the month. Sales staff likely have targets to hit and could be open to negotiating if they want to get their bonus.

July – An engagement ring
  • Peak search time: 29th December-4th January
  • Potential savings: 50%

July to August is the peak of the wedding season, and with all the focus on weddings, sometimes you can find big discounts on engagement rings. Also, as it is not close to any big holidays, jewellers use this time to lure in consumers with discounts.

August – Holiday clothes
  • Peak search time: 30th June-6th July
  • Potential savings: 75%

With summer drawing to a close, retailers look to clear as much seasonal clothing stock as they can. 

This is a great time to snap up bargains on items such as swimwear and shorts, which can see discounts of up to 75% for bikinis and 43% for shorts, although it’s worth saying that stocks go quickly, and there will be less choice than earlier in the summer.

September – A house
  • Peak search time: 2nd-8th February
  • Potential savings: Subject to negotiation 

Ross Counsell, Director at property firm, Good Move, said: “The best time to buy is August or September. The majority of buyers start searching at the beginning of the year, waiting until the end of summer, when there are fewer looking, you’ll have less competition.

“You’re also more likely to get a better deal, as with fewer offers on the table, sellers may well be more likely to accept a lower price.” 

October – Home appliances
  • Peak search time: 15th-21st December
  • Potential savings: 44%

Many manufacturers unveil new models in October, so older products will often be discounted. For products such as fridges, buyers can save as much as 44% at this time. 

November – Technology
  • Peak search time: 24th-30th November
  • Potential savings: 50%

Claire Roach at Money Saving Central, said: “Without a doubt, November is the best month to get deals, particularly on tech. A lot of people make the mistake of waiting for Black Friday – when the better deals are likely to be earlier on in November because retailers try to compete with Black Friday giant, Amazon.

“eBay, in particular, was 2019’s best place for tech deals, and the people who waited until further on in the month were left disappointed. Prices weren’t any better and stock was limited on highly sought after items such as the Nintendo Switch.”

December – Used cars
  • Peak search time: 17th-23rd November
  • Potential savings: Subject to negotiation 

Tim Barnes-Clay, Motoring Expert for Euro Car Parts, said: “Nobody thinks about buying a car at this time of year, as most people will feel the pinch over the festive season. With some forward-planning though, December can be a great time to get a good deal on a used car. 

“This is purely because dealers will be more inclined to get sales under their belts and therefore may be more willing to offer you a deal or negotiate.” 

Danny Richmond, Managing Director of Tic Watches, said: “It’s clear from the research that bargains can be found all year round, with the best deals coming at periods of low demand.

“It’s always best to plan your purchases ahead of time to maximise your savings. Don’t wait until winter to buy your winter coat and consider buying a new phone at the start of November, rather than waiting until Black Friday. Doing so could mean huge savings!”

For more information on when the best savings can be found, visit: https://www.ticwatches.co.uk/blog/2020/03/when-youll-get-the-biggest-savings/

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Natural CatastropheRisk Management

AIM Dividends Set to Fall By At Least A Third In 2020 Following A Record 2019 As Covid-19 Crisis Bites into Company Profits

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AIM Dividends Set to Fall By At Least A Third In 2020 Following A Record 2019 As Covid-19 Crisis Bites into Company Profits

Having reached a new record in 2019, AIM dividends flatlined in Q1 2020 on the back of a weak UK economy before succumbing to the Covid-19 recession in the second quarter, according to the latest annual AIM Dividend Monitor from global financial administrators Link Group.

The second quarter usually marks a seasonal high point for dividends, so what happens in this period is very important for the whole year. It was also the quarter when companies began to react to the chilling effect of the government’s lockdown policy. Q2 AIM payouts fell by an unprecedented 33.6% on a headline basis to £266.8m. Special dividends supported the headline total. At £33m, they were almost five times larger than Q2 2019. Excluding specials, dividends fell 40.6% to £234.3m, a level last seen in mid-2016. The £107m decline was exaggerated by the promotion of Diversified Oil & Gas to the main market, and the takeover of SafeCharge and Manx Telecom, but on a like-for-like basis the decline was still over 33% year-on-year.

Two fifths of Q2 AIM payers cancelled their dividends outright, while another tenth reduced them year-on-year. Not all of these were due to Covid-19 however. For example, the biggest impact came from Eddie Stobart group, which was saved from administration late in 2019 by a capital injection from investors, but which naturally will not pay dividends during its turnaround period. The group was one of AIM’s top payers in 2018 and 2019 and accounted for one sixth of the total decline. Central Asia Metals also scrapped its payout for reasons of tough trading unrelated to the pandemic. Burford Capital, the second largest payer in Q2 2019, scrapped its dividend and reallocated the capital saved to its financing arm.

AIM dividends fell less in the second quarter than companies on the main market (where payouts halved) and a smaller proportion of companies made reductions. Two-fifths of companies reduced payouts on AIM compared to three quarters on the main market.

A culture of dividend paying has been growing on AIM. In 2019, 290 companies distributed cash to shareholders, up from 263 in 2018. The proportion paying has grown from 26% in 2012 to 35% last year. This compares to 80% on the main market. 2020 will see a break in this trend as the pandemic wreaks its historic disruption to all walks of life. It will take time for a full recovery to take place, but we would expect 2020 to mark only a temporary low point.

According to our most recent UK Dividend Monitor, the main market will yield 3.6% over the next twelve months if Link’s best case materialises, or 3.3% if Link’s worst case does.

AIM is a lower-yielding market, even in normal times. Over the next twelve months, Link expects AIM shares to yield 1.1% on a best-case basis or 0.7% on a worst-case basis. This figure is artificially distorted by the two thirds of AIM companies that do not normally pay dividends. If these are excluded (but not those that only dropped out in 2020), then the best-case yield is 1.9% and the worst case 1.1%.

Link expects total AIM payouts to drop by 34% on a best-case basis to a headline £873m in 2020, slightly better than Link’s best-case scenario for the main market (-38%). This would reduce AIM’s dividends to a level last seen around the middle of 2016. The worst-case scenario sees them falling by 48% to £698m (worse than the main market at -42%), a level last seen in late 2014. The greater uncertainty over the response from AIM companies explains the wider range between the best and worst case than for the main market.

Susan Ring, CEO Corporate Markets of Link Group said: “Even before the pandemic struck, late 2019 and 2020 were set to be different. The UK economy had already weakened significantly by the end of 2019. AIM companies tend to be more sensitive to the economic cycle because the sector complexion means defensive firms are relatively under-represented. Industrials, financials, and resources companies feature prominently on AIM. These groups find their profits rising and falling with the fortunes of the wider economy more than, say, tobacco or food producers, whose earnings are relatively insulated. On the main market, roughly half the total payout comes from defensive sectors, but on AIM just one quarter does. The rest are more exposed.

“The fact that AIM dividends fell less than the main market must be seen in the context of long-term AIM underlying dividend growth of 18% per annum. The change from an increase of that size to a sudden decline of one third is consistent with the magnitude of main market dividend cuts we have reported in our main UK Dividend Monitor. What’s more, only a minority of AIM companies pay dividends at all, and those that do will tend to be the ones with deeper pockets. Lower payout ratios in the first place play a role too, as growth companies tend to pay lower dividends in the early days. We think it likely that AIM companies may also have simply been slower off the mark than larger UK plcs which reacted with lightning speed in cancelling payouts. This may well mean a delayed impact over the coming quarters, not least as the impact on profits becomes a reality rather than a prospect.

“2020 will take the biggest hit. Our estimates come with a health warning, given the relative lack of visibility in AIM dividends and the unusually large uncertainty in the wider environment. AIM’s payouts will certainly bounce back in 2021, but even if they return to trend growth thereafter, they are unlikely to top 2019 until 2022 or 2023 at the earliest. This AIM recovery will be faster than on the main market, where it will take time to make up for the loss of £7.8bn from Shell alone.”

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ArticlesWealth Management

5 Retirement Planning Mistakes To Avoid

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5 Retirement Planning Mistakes To Avoid

Retirement planning is one of the most important financial goals, and the stakes couldn’t be higher. For a successful and secure retirement, Granville Turner, Director at Company Formation Specialists, Turner Little, shares his five retirement planning mistakes to avoid:

 

Don’t underestimate the value of a clear plan:

Whilst retirement doesn’t necessarily mean stopping work completely, for most people it does mean spending less time working. It’s important to understand what you want from your retirement, consider priorities and how you would like to spend your time, as this will most certainly affect your finances.

 

Don’t underestimate the cost of retirement:

Research suggests that 48% of individuals haven’t calculated how much money they need to save for retirement. You may think you will spend less when you retire, but whilst your commuting costs might go down, other expenses could increase. Planning is crucial. Think about your day-to-day spending and factor in other expenses such as holidays – budgeting is a key part of retirement.

 

Don’t rely solely on your pension:

Pensions have traditionally been the primary way of funding this stage of our lives, and still remain the cornerstone of good planning. But pension funds and the contributions you can make have limits, so make sure you consider income from a range of sources from the State Pension, personal or workplace pension schemes, savings, investments or even property.

 

Don’t underestimate the importance and need for diversification:

Creating a diversified portfolio of assets blended across asset classes is a winning strategy as it reduces the risk of any single asset dragging down your portfolio.

 

Don’t cash out your pension:

30% of individuals accessing their retirement pot under pension freedoms are depositing their cash straight into low-interest bank accounts. The loss of returns aside, withdrawals can have significant tax implications, so it’s important to assess your options before taking the money out of your pension.

To discuss your specific requirements with a specialist team of experts, click here.

alternative lenders
ArticlesWealth Management

Why Alternative Lenders Mustn’t Be Frozen Out During the Covid-19 Crisis

Lending

Why Alternative Lenders Mustn’t Be Frozen Out During the Covid-19 Crisis

By Douglas Grant, Director of Conister Finance & Leasing Limited

There are around 5.9 million small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs, or any business with fewer than 250 employees) in the UK according to the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills. Seen to be the backbone of any healthy economy, they drive growth, create a group of skilled and semi-skilled workers, generate competition and encourage innovation across a range of industries, as well as supporting future industrial and business expansion in the country. They keep the business sector energised, generating a healthy flow of new skills and ideas.

Since 2008, alternative lenders have risen in prominence, working alongside larger more traditional clearing banks, offering a funnel of vital liquidity through tailored and flexible lending solutions to SMEs. Today there are significant amounts of private capital (often referred to as dry powder) waiting to be invested in resilient SMEs and the market share of clearing banks has fallen significantly in a far more diversified lending sector. In the last 12 years, banks have also become much better capitalised than during the Global Financial Crisis. Previously businesses could service debt from remaining cash flows with little or no capital for investment which resulted in a zombie status for many UK SME borrowers. Today, the environment is very different although this trend has not disappeared. In fact, as a result of Covid-19, it is estimated the trend could develop further given the potential that businesses may build up £100 billion of debt by next March.

The UK Government has been quick to back sectors post Covid-19 that are resilient to recessions and market volatility, providing financial security and protection through initiatives such as the bounce-back loans scheme. This is where alternative lenders that understand the very basic needs of specialist SMEs, often in their lending infancy and operating in sectors such as infrastructure, technology and renewables, can provide the additional support and natural lending progression alongside the larger clearing banks. Alternative lenders understand the characteristics of specialist SMEs and with the flexibility they offer, empower their staff to make judgement calls on capital requirements.

The economy though is facing a double dip recession that could last well into late 2021 and it will need these resilient sectors to be protected with their existence guaranteed. Many clearing banks are working tirelessly to process emergency loan applications but with pressures piling up – for example from within their mortgage lending divisions – a lot of SMEs will become unsustainable, with some estimates predicting 780,0001 insolvent SMEs. It was concerning therefore to see that alternative lenders are potentially unlikely to receive much financing from the Bank of England to deliver emergency government loans. It is crucial that clearing banks pass on finance from the Bank of England to alternative lenders and find a way to make it work on commercial terms. SMEs must have a tripartite level of support from Government, alternative and traditional lenders working together in these difficult times.

As traditional banks deal with the impact of Covid-19 around their balance sheets, it is likely that they will have to pause financing discussions around succession and growth financing as well as recapitalisations, in order to redirect resources to addressing an enormous influx of CBILS applications from capital-starved SMEs. Those resilient SMEs who have weathered the pandemic best in their sector will be able to benefit from the potential acquisition opportunities to increase their market share and will need capital to carry this out. Alternative lenders have the know-how and flexibility to help process this type of financing quickly and effectively. Without legacy loan books and unencumbered by CBILS applications coupled with high levels of dry powder, alternative lenders working together with clearing banks can help to execute rapid credit decisions on flexible terms.

The UK business sector as a whole needs both more financial support for the alternative lending sector which is working together with traditional banks but also more sustainable initiatives to support SMEs in more resilient sectors from the Bank of England as we come to terms with an increasingly capital hungry economy – an issue that necessitates urgent attention.

gold
ArticlesMarkets

Why Gold Prices Have Been Hitting Record Highs

gold

Why Gold Prices Have Been Hitting Record Highs

Gold prices continue to rally this month as the coronavirus pandemic of 2020 continues. The precious metal closed at a little above $2,000 (£1523.05) on August 5th — a record high in the history of gold. Its earlier record peak was in 2011, a few years into the global financial crisis, when investors pushed the price of gold past the $1,900 (£1446.90) threshold.

Analysts have noted that the price of gold in recent months has been on a steady upward trend. However, during the initial stages of the pandemic, market prices rose and fell erratically. A report on gold prices by FXCM in March of this year stated that the bullion, which includes gold, performed poorly due to mass capitulation. Investors liquidated their assets out of panic as outbreaks occurred left and right. This caused the price of gold to fluctuate.

Almost two quarters into the pandemic, however, and the price of the metal continues to increase. That said, SYZ Private Banking’s Luc Filip recently pointed out that investors need to understand each asset’s characteristics in order to position themselves for recovery. And so with that in mind, here are the main explanations behind the escalation of gold prices:

 

Gold is a safe haven

Compared to other financial markets and instruments, gold is considered a safe haven in times of economic turmoil. This is due to the fundamental value of the metal, independent of other factors like economic stability. Gold is still gold — and valuable — on its own.

When a financial crisis happens, the value of assets such as stock, real estate, and currency drops. Investors tend to flock to gold given that it has historically retained most of its value during economic instability. The recession that today’s pandemic has caused is no different. And as cases continue to rise globally with no available cure or vaccine, the prevailing investment speculation is that gold will be the least risky investment option for the foreseeable future.

 

The dollar is weakening

The price of gold generally has an inverse relationship with the value of the dollar. As of this writing, NBC News reports that there are over 4.8 million COVID-19 cases in the US, and this number continues to rise across the country.

The inefficient containment of the coronavirus is one of the reasons the US has entered a recession. Though it initially rose, the dollar has dipped in value over the last few months. A weaker dollar means more gold can be purchased by investors pushing the demand — and its price — higher.

 

Investor interest is rising

Given those reasons, investor sentiment towards the metal has been positive. It is also receiving wide media coverage due to the record highs the price of gold has been hitting and surpassing. More analyses and reports on gold naturally increase interest among investors.

As the pandemic continues, Goldman Sachs predicts that gold prices will rally and pass the $2,300 (£1751.51) mark per troy ounce. This is due to the ongoing economic and political instability in the US, as well as the global public health crisis that hit the country particularly hard. Though the situation is alarming, these are considered favourable conditions for gold and thus, might make it a worthwhile investment.

online banking
ArticlesBanking

How Can the Banking Industry Emerge Stronger from The Covid-19 Pandemic?

online banking

How Can the Banking Industry Emerge Stronger from The Covid-19 Pandemic?

Around the world, many countries now face a new period of uncertainty caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. While regional lockdowns had temporarily started to ease, the prospect of a second wave has caused some countries to reintroduce restrictions – a situation which may be ongoing and become a ‘new normal’ as part of the global effort to combat the virus.

Amid these challenges, society has been forced to digitalise many of its core functions at an unexpectedly fast pace, sparking unprecedented levels of innovation in a short space of time. This has led to an emergence of new digital services and triggered the transformation of key sectors including finance, education and healthcare. With growing levels of unpredictability around how the pandemic will unfold, there is a societal expectation that access to comprehensive digital services will continue and improve.

This expectation is particularly prominent in the banking industry, which rolled out an expanded range of digital services during the early stages of the pandemic to enable customers to manage their finances safely from home. New services include virtual appointments, expanded features for mobile banking and streamlined authentication processes for customer service. As banks look ahead to the future, Mobey Forum is drawing upon its Expert Groups to identify the key considerations for the industry.

 

A new era for online banking

The Covid-19 pandemic sparked a huge surge in demand for online banking; the United States is reported to have seen a 200% increase in new mobile banking registrations in April 2020, which is reflective of a broader global trend. Similarly, in the retail industry, there was a significant increase in the number of consumers using online shopping for the first time, and future ecommerce purchases from new or low frequency users are expected to increase by 160%.

While the increase in online banking services was driven by the urgent requirement for people to manage their finances without leaving home, many customers have since recognised the convenience of online access, and are calling for more comprehensive digital banking services. The pandemic also prompted many within the older generation to access digital services for the first time.

“The Covid-19 pandemic has encouraged banks to invest more time in developing tools which allow customers to manage their finances remotely. By ‘remotely’ we mean allowing customers to access their banking information independently without any third-party support,” says Mario Brkić, co-chair of the Open Banking Expert Group at Mobey Forum. The emerging social and behavioural changes caused by the pandemic require banks to undertake a careful evaluation of which financial matters can be managed in-person, and what can be dealt with online.

 

The digital identity opportunity

As well as rolling out new digital services, banks now have an opportunity to respond to the growing demand for digital identity. The pandemic has triggered a sharp increase in customers needing to verify their identity online: “During the Covid-19 pandemic, more people are relying on digital identity schemes than ever before,” says Jukka Yliuntinen, co-chair of the Digital ID Expert Group at Mobey Forum. “As an example, usage has increased in the UK where digital identity is required to access government benefits, and it is a similar situation across many of the Nordic countries.”

Mobey Forum has explored this opportunity further in a new report, entitled The Mobey Long Take – Post Covid-19 Digital Identity, which outlines why banks are in a unique position to seize the opportunity presented by digital identity, and indeed are best placed to lead the discussions and implementation going forward. Throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, banks have played an important role as a distribution mechanism for many of the government intervention and support strategies. They must now seize the opportunity to take this a step further and lead the development of a fairer, more trusted approach to digital identity.

 

A rise in customer data

With more customers utilising digital services, banks also have an opportunity to use the data to drive additional value for customers. However, this approach is not without challenges: “Data privacy and machine learning fairness are two of the most complex data-related challenges for banks,” says Amir Tabaković, co-chair of the Data Privacy in the Age of AI Expert Group at Mobey Forum. “On the one hand, banks need to innovate using technology and they must become data-driven to do that. On the other hand, trust is the biggest asset for banks,” he adds.

Banks have a long history of credibility and trust and their ability to demonstrate this through the secure management of customer data will be critical to creating confidence in new services. In rolling out new services, banks also have an important responsibility to ensure they remain accessible to all demographics. By sourcing feedback from the newest users of digital services – specifically those who are using them for first time – banks can test if their design is intuitive to customers.

 

Planning ahead

Covid-19 has irrevocably changed consumer habits and expectations. As we navigate the path forward, banks have a window of opportunity, to reflect on the learnings to date and use them to build a digital-first banking ecosystem which will serve customers for the years ahead. It is through this forward planning that the banking industry can help the global economy emerge stronger than before.

whisky
ArticlesMarketsTransactional and Investment Banking

Why Whisky is the Safest Investment to Make Right Now

whisky

Why Whisky is the Safest Investment to Make Right Now

Whisky Investment company Braeburn confirm why investing in whisky during economic uncertainty is a lucrative and sustainable asset for any portfolio.

Throughout history, whisky has proven a reliable investment even in time’s of economic decline. Whisky proved a popular choice during the Great Depression, and recent market behaviour would suggest that ‘liquid gold’ will continue to have significant financial gain despite the current climate.

“Societal turbulence is often a time when investors take stock of their portfolio and examine new ways in which they can protect and profit from their savings, this global pandemic is no different.” states Braeburn’s Sales Director, Samuel Gordon.

Whisky investment has been rising in popularity over the last decade, by 582%, according to The Knight Frank 2020 Wealth Report. This report also shows sales of scotch to India, China and Singapore rising by 44% in the first half of 2018 alone. However, in actuality, it’s whisky casks specifically, that offer the security and consistency that evade traditional asset classes.

With the surge in demand for single malts, distilleries are struggling to keep up. The process for crafting quality spirits that enthusiasts desire, happens over lengthy periods of time. Distilleries ultimately can only make and store so much resulting in a continually increasing value. As a result, independent bottlers, blenders and other investors are known to pay highly and quickly in current secondary markets.

While economic uncertainty can bring new levels of volatility to traditional financial markets like stocks, shares and housing. Samuel explains that whisky doesn’t follow these market trends and isn’t impacted by the reactive and turbulent swings of traditional investments.

“Instead of decreasing during periods of economic downturn, historically, whisky casks have increased in value. When whisky remains in its cask, its continuing is maturation process. Over years, the whisky interacts with the cask, taking on beautiful and unique flavours from the wood. Although in time, there is a golden moment to bottle whisky, in general, the longer it’s left the more distinguished and deep the flavour becomes along with the ability to demand a higher resale value.”

Unlike other industries that are impacted by developing technology and evolving consumer behaviour, the whisky industry is prized on its heritage and historical methods. Whisky has maintained consistency through every type of economy and returns are still on the rise.

Over the last five years, casks have earned an average of 12.4% per annum. The average cask doubles in value every 5 years with casks from popular distilleries earning even higher returns. This again, is due to the maturation process which allows whisky to ride through difficult times whilst still increasing in value. Instead of the cask values rising and falling violently with political and economic changes like the traditional stock market, whisky is left to mature in the cask, only to appreciate in value.

Whisky casks offer diversification into tangible assets allowing investors to enhance their portfolio across different asset classes. Traditional ‘paper’ investments puts future success solely in an endeavour outside the investors control. With whisky casks, no matter what happens in the economy, the whisky can always be bottled and sold, even if the market is down or a distillery closes. With an asset grounded in intrinsic value, an investor can safeguard wealth.

An important factor in whisky cask investment is that is offers further security against forgery or fakes. Unlike art, antiques and even bottled whisky, whisky casks mitigate this risk because the Scottish Government requires that they are stored under strict oversight.

Casks are stored in government bonded warehouses that are required to keep meticulous records. Because of this careful and impartial monitoring, investors can be confident in the provenance and value of their casks.

Samuel concludes,

“Whisky casks are a unique investment. They offer unique characteristics and can complement a portfolio in good times or bad. With a real, intrinsic value whisky casks are unlike any other tangible asset. And with the demand for authentic, mature single-malt casks on the rise, they’re more lucrative than ever.”

taxes
ArticlesTax

Tax Evasion, Avoidance And Efficiency: Which Are Legal?

taxes

Tax Evasion, Avoidance And Efficiency: Which Are Legal?

Tax is a subject close to the hearts of most individuals, and business owners.  3 terms frequently used in conversations around tax savings are tax avoidance, tax evasion and tax efficiency.

James Turner, Director at York-based Turner Little, tells us that these are themes that run through most conversations with clients, old and new, and it is his job to ensure that clients are correctly advised on the legal stand point of tax efficiency, and tax avoidance, to ensure that no client unwittingly falls into the trap of tax evasion. 

“Tax efficiency, explains James, is what the majority of people are trying to achieve. It is understanding the best ways to legally make the most of your personal or business income that is the key to success. There are a number of ways to make sure your income is as tax efficient as possible, and as a result ensuring that you maximise your income. Our job, when advising people in relation to tax matters, is not only to provide guidance that is consistent with the letter of the law, but also to ensure our clients comply with the spirit of the law.   

“Tax avoidance, is where an individual or company, utilises tax systems to legally minimise their tax liabilities, for example, contributing to a pension scheme or incorporating and trading from a tax-efficient jurisdiction.  When structures are set up correctly, these ensure the person or company pays as little tax as possible whilst staying within the letter, and spirit, of the law.

“Tax evasion on the other hand is where a person, or company intentionally sets out to not pay tax, either business or personal and they do so through lying, hiding and cheating the system. Turner Little are often approached by people looking to find a way to do this, and we always tell these clients that we cannot do business with them.   

In terms of UK tax efficiency for the lay person, there are a number of vehicles available, set up by Government, that can be utilised to make your income more tax efficient. These include using pensions, ISAs, checking you are on the correct tax code, and using HMRCs Marriage Allowance to transfer some of your earnings to a lower rate tax paying husband or wife. By taking advantage of the numerous government allowances each year, you can bring your tax liabilities down. For businesses, investments around Venture Capital Trusts, and Enterprise Investment Schemes could also maximise your bottom line. 

 

ISAs

ISAs are the most widely recognised investment method, set up by the government to specifically encourage savings and investments by offering generous and accessible tax breaks. You can invest up to £20,000 each year, without paying tax, and any capital invested into an ISA is allowed to grow in a tax-free environment. This means, that any income derived will also be exempt from taxes

 

Pensions

With pensions, money is exempt from tax on the way in, exempted when it is invested and only taxed on the way out. Pension contributions are tax-free up to your annual allowance, and, like ISAs, are also allowed to grow in a tax-free environment. Once you have paid into a pension scheme, the amount can be further invested into assets, which provide an income or growth without the need to pay tax.

 

Venture Capital Fund Investment

Investment in a Venture Capital Investment Fund is an excellent way to reduce either personal, or company profits. 30% of the capital amount investment can be claimed back via personal tax reductions. Investors can inject up to £200,000.00 into the Fund, in order to claim the maximum tax savings.  Shares in the venture capital fund must be kept for 5 years otherwise the tax relief will have to be paid back. Investing in a Venture Capital Fund will also afford savings on Capital Gains Tax on profits from selling your VCT shares. Dividends from the fund are also received tax free.

 

There are also other ways that individuals and businesses can legally reduce their tax liability.

 

Using a Trust or Foundation

A useful vehicle in long term asset management, and succession planning is creation and utilisation of a Trust or Foundation.   Gifts of assets into Trust or Foundations, including property, money and pension funds, remove them from your estate, meaning that in the event of death, not only do you have full control over who receives the asset, but the recipient also will not be required to pay inheritance tax.  As the asset is no longer your own, it belongs to the Trustees, should you need later life residential care, the value of the asset will not be eroded. The timing of gifts into Trust is crucial as such gifts can still form a part of your estate should you die with seven years of making the gift.   

Foundations work in a similar way, in terms of the inheritance tax savings. Foundations are interested in controlling your assets for a specific group of people or purpose, of your choosing, rather than individuals, as is usually the case with the trust. 

Trusts and foundations are very specialised areas. Obtaining specialised advice when implementing Trust and Foundations is essential to ensure that the structure implemented meets your specific needs.

 

Offshore Company Formation

The world today is a very small place, and many businesses trade globally, thanks to the ubiquity created by the internet.  Businesses can therefore place themselves in the most tax efficient jurisdiction to suit the needs of the business owner, and their clients.

It is important to note that tax rules constantly change, and efficiencies depend on individual circumstances. For more information, please visit www.turnerlittle.com

Turner Little do not provide tax, legal or accounting advice. We would always advise that you seek advice from an independent financial adviser.

Turner Little specialises in creating bespoke solutions for individuals and businesses of all sizes. The knowledge and expertise of their specialists ensures that you will receive the best advice for your situation, no matter how complex.

fintech
ArticlesBankingWealth Management

Fintech Usage Jumps by Over 50% During the Lockdown Period

fintech

Fintech Usage Jumps by Over 50% During the Lockdown Period, with 21% Securing New Financial Products Without Speaking to a Single Human Being

A new survey of more than 2,000 UK adults commissioned by Yobota has uncovered how integral technology has been for people managing their finances during the lockdown. It found that:

• 64% of UK adults have been reliant on technology to manage their finances since March, up from the 42% before the lockdown.

• Checking accounts (88%), transferring money (80%), withdrawing funds out of an investment (35%) and searching for new financial products (27%) have been the most common uses of fintech.

• 21% have secured new financial products without speaking to a human being.

• 15% of people have been frustrated by their banks’ poor technology. 

• The figure rises to 28% among those aged between 18 and 34.

 
The majority of Britons have relied on financial technology (fintech) to manage their finances during the lockdown, new research from Yobota has revealed. 
 
The London-based technology company commissioned an independent survey among more than 2,000 UK adults. It found that 64% have become reliant on mobile and online banking to manage their finances since March, which is a sharp increase from before the lockdown, when just 42% of the nation were using fintech.
 
The most common uses of fintech have been checking one’s accounts (88%), transferring money (80%), closing or withdrawing funds out of an investment (35%) and shopping around for new financial products (27%). Millions of people have also used fintech to open new savings accounts (26%), apply for credit cards (18%), and extend overdrafts (17%).
 
Over a fifth (21%) of fintech users said they have successfully secured new financial products during the lockdown without having to speak to a single human being. 
 
However, Yobota’s research also exposed that 15% of consumers have been frustrated by their banks’ poor technology, with this figure rising to 28% among those aged between 18 and 34.
 
One in three (31%) people say the lockdown has opened their eyes to how many different ways technology can be used to manage their finances, with 42% planning to continue using tech much more even as bank branches re-open.
 
Underlining the increasing importance of fintech, almost half (47%) of consumers say their tech offering is a “key consideration” when choosing a financial services provider.
 
Ammar Akhtar, CEO of Yobota, said: “In light of the financial distress caused by COVID-19, millions of Britons have needed fast access to loans, credit cards and overdrafts, not to mention advice and guidance. Crucially, they have had to rely on mobile and online banking for almost all of this.
 
“Today’s research shows how some people have found managing their finances during the lockdown simple thanks to the advanced, easy-to-use fintech solutions deployed by their providers. However, others have clearly been frustrated and let down by their bank’s technology. 
 
“This must be addressed. Even as the lockdown passes, people will not be in any rush to queue up in bank branches or have lengthy telephone calls, meaning financial services companies must keep pace with the demand for fintech. As the survey results show, those who don’t risk losing customers.”

Retirement
ArticlesCash ManagementPensions

Forward Planning: 7 Easy Tips for Managing Your Retirement Savings

Retirement

Forward Planning: 7 Easy Tips for Managing Your Retirement Savings

We’ve all dreamed about a blissful retirement, spending more time with the people we love, in places we love and doing things we love. But is it just a pipe dream, or are you financially prepared for the life you wish to lead?

The good news is, it’s never too early to start preparing for retirement. Whilst most of us spend our twenties paying off student debt, as we approach our thirties, our financial priorities change somewhat as we’ve technically been there, done that, got the house, mortgage and family. It’s a time when we experience career progression, leading to promotions, bigger salaries and more funds that can be stashed away for later years.

To help you begin forward planning for the future, Alex MacEwen, expert at The Wealth Consultant has come up with 7 easy tips to get you on your way to achieving the retirement you imagine.

 

Before we begin, you might be thinking just how much stashing away should we do? According to research commissioned by finder.com:

– 55% of UK adults estimate that they will need £100,000 to live comfortably in retirement.

– Only 28% of people believe they are on target to meet this.

– The recommended amount for a comfortable retirement is between £260,000 – £445,000.

 

Shocked? Maybe it’s time to start planning the life you deserve.

 

1. Get independent financial advice

The future is an unknown – How should I save for retirement? Am I saving enough? How much will I need to live on? By enlisting the help of a professional, independent advisor, you will find the answers to all these vital questions. Your independent financial advisor will help you plan and make decisions based on your lifetime goals. They will advise on the various products that most suit your needs instead of pushing a product to boost their sales.

 

2. Create a realistic spending plan

Determine a budget by assessing your income, salary, interest, dividends, any rental income or child support. Define your outgoings, housing bills, utilities, transport, food, perhaps you are still paying off student loans. Decide on the things you really could sacrifice in the name of saving – do you need so many European city breaks? Are you still paying membership fees for facilities you never use because you keep forgetting to cancel the membership? Scrutinise your balance sheet and commit to saving as much as you can. Your future self will thank you, trust me.

 

3. Monitor old and new workplace pensions

It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of landing a new job and just as easy to lose track of your old workplace pension! But it is important to keep track to know the value of your pension pot as this will help you decide whether it’s worth merging the old pension with the new one, and will give you an idea of how much you have saved for the future. It’s important to check the pension management fees as your previous employer will stop making contributions to old funds once you change jobs, the fees keep rolling, depleting your pension pot in the process. If you have a defined contribution pension, it is always worth checking where your pension funds have been invested, both from a risk level perspective and to ensure it aligns with your values.

 

4. Review investment performance

Keep track of your investments to ensure your portfolio is flourishing. If something isn’t working, figure out why. Perhaps it’s just a case of sitting tight and keeping your cool, or maybe time to diversify into a different sector or explore international opportunities to minimise losses. Remember, even if you have a few disappointing investments in your portfolio, a portfolio that is steadily increasing in value is always a sign that conditions are good.

 

5. Minimise retirement tax

After spending a lifetime working and sensibly putting money away for retirement, it’s important to ensure you keep as much as that money as possible. How? By ensuring your savings are as tax efficient as possible. This will mean working with an experienced financial advisor to ensure you are making use of all the tax allowances and pension tax relief.

 

6. Estate planning

Your inheritance and estate plan should set out your values and your intentions for how you wish your estate to be divided up and managed when the time comes. By focusing on your estate planning now, you can manage your tax obligations and safeguard the financial stability of those you hold dear. Inheritance matters can be challenging emotionally and financially, so it’s important to get professional advice and protect your wealth for future generations.

 

7. Save as much as you can

Save as much as you can, while you can. Achieving your dream retirement means making small short-term sacrifices in favour of saving for the future life you want. Remember, topping up your pension now means you will benefit from tax relief up to the annual limit of £40,000.

markets
ArticlesTransactional and Investment Banking

Ten Credit Markets Warnings Signalling Long-Term Alpha Opportunity

markets

Ten Credit Markets Warnings Signalling Long-Term Alpha Opportunity

The longest equity bull market since the Second World War led to high valuations and increased leverage. Now as the cycle turns, valuation multiples will inevitably contract and high debt levels will put pressure across the capital structure.

The weak structure of the credit markets and reduced liquidity will likely lead to increased volatility, more downgrades, increased default rates, lower recoveries and stronger terms for new lenders in a post Covid-19 world.

Below, Marc SYZ, managing partner of SYZ Capital, highlights ten warning signals that encapsulate the deteriorating fundamentals and illustrate the potential long-term alpha opportunities for alternative investors.

 

Complacent credit agencies

Since the Global Financial Crisis (GFC), we have seen a sharp deterioration in net leverage across the board. As an example, BB rated bonds are now more levered than single B bonds were in the GFC. The inevitable rating downgrade to come can therefore only be a lagging indicator.

 

Corporate leverage expands threefold

Since 2009, GDP has grown 47% – from $14.6trn to 21.5trn – while corporate credit markets have increased almost threefold. While US household debt has marginally increased by 10% over the period, and housing related debt has remained stable, the sub-investment grade market has vastly expanded, both in high yield bonds and leveraged loans.

 

Elevated leverage puts PE under pressure

Leverage has gone up on average 1.5x across the board since the GFC, and even 3-4x for some cyclical sectors – such as retail, travel and leisure. These will be the first to suffer. Looking at LBO loans, the debt level is also significantly higher. The leverage for large LBOs is even more extreme, with a debt/EBITDA ratio greater than 6x for roughly 60% of universe – double its pre-crisis average.

 

EBITDA adjustments on the way

The published leverage ratios above may be misleading as adjustments – such as add-backs, proforma, etc. – often account for 20% of published EBITDA, which leads on average to a 1x leverage increase from published numbers.

 

Growth of weakening covenants

Covenant-lite loans have increased significantly since the GFC and now represent more than 80% of the $1.2trn US leveraged loan market. Without these protections, company performance can deteriorate materially before triggering a credit event.

 

Rising default rates

Annual default rates peaked at about 10% in the last recessions – reaching about 13% during the GFC. This time around, as a direct result of no or little covenants, we expect a much lower default rate in the short term, but deteriorating metrics and potentially higher default rates by the end of 2020.

 

Lower recoveries

The absence of covenants allows borrowers to ‘kick the can down the road’, as lenders do not have the possibility to exercise oversight and act before it is too late. This time around, we should expect lower recoveries, as the credit event will likely occur when the financial conditions and balance sheet of the borrower have materially deteriorated.

 

Passive investor base

Since the GFC, we have seen a tremendous growth in passive investment products, or actively managed ones with rigid investment mandates often associated with liquidity mismatch. As per leveraged loans and particularly relevant for the private equity industry, their ownership is dominated by CLOs, which in turn are owned by a variety of bank

and nonbank lenders. Most of these passive investors have ‘bucketed’ mandates and may become forced sellers upon a downgrade.

 

Lack of liquidity

Market making activities significantly declined since the GFC because many banks exited the business and those remaining had to shrink this activity. As an example, dealer high yield inventories fell from $40bn to $3bn, and overall corporate bonds inventories declined from $250bn to $30bn.

 

Rise in volatility

As the credit agencies catch up with downgrades, this will cause many distressed opportunities as some passive investors will be forced to dispose of securities that no longer fit their mandate.

The weakest segment of the market is the lower investment grade BBB bonds. As these get downgraded to sub-investment grade in an environment characterised by limited liquidity and a much smaller natural audience for high yield paper, the price drops of such ‘fallen angels’ will be important.

Downgrades will trigger forced selling. Such forced selling will occur in a low liquidity environment, creating excessive price drops and volatility. The current environment will create various opportunities for our flagship strategy across its investment verticals.

Distressed investing, restructuring, litigation financing and secondaries appear to be well positioned, but also private equity, as not all companies will be equally affected. High growth can still be found in a recessionary environment for patient, disciplined, diligent and selective investors.

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Press releases

Wealth & Finance Magazine Announces the Winners of the 2020 FinTech Awards

wf press release header
Wealth & Finance Magazine Announces the Winners of the 2020 FinTech Awards

United Kingdom, 2020- Wealth & Finance magazine have announced the winners of the 2020 FinTech Awards.

FinTech is an ever-evolving – and fast-moving – industry, defined primarily by constant innovation and creativity. Whilst ‘disruption’ has almost been reduced to an oft-stated buzzword, it would be fair to describe the FinTech industry as such. After all, the financial landscape is dominated by long-standing brick and mortar establishment, and new ground is ripe for the taking for those with the expertise, experience and drive to take it.

Now in its fourth year, Wealth & Finance magazine’s FinTech Awards was launched to recognise the firms that are redefining finance and banking for the modern age, and for the modern consumer.  

At launch, Awards Coordinator Chloe Smart commented: “I offer a sincere congratulations to all of the winners of this year’s programme. It has been wonderful to correspond with you all, and I hope you have a fantastic rest of the year ahead.”

To learn more about our deserving award winners and to gain insight into the working practices of the “best of the best”, please visit the Wealth & Finance website where you can access the winners supplement.

ENDS

Note to editors.

About Wealth & Finance International

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

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

Martin Lewis
ArticlesBankingCash Management

Martin Lewis Financial Education Textbook Rolled Out to 700 Schools Across the UK

Martin Lewis
Photo credit: The Money Saving Expert 

Martin Lewis Financial Education Textbook Rolled Out to 700 Schools Across the UK

The first ever financial education textbook to hit Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales will be rolled out over the next 15 months.

This week, Young Money announced the launch of the first ever financial education textbook to hit schools in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. Over 45,000 books will be sent free to schools over the next 14 months, as well as an accompanying teacher’s guide (available digitally). The textbook will also be available as a free PDF download to anyone who wants it.

This launch follows the successful roll-out of the textbook in England. In November 2018 340,000 copies of the very first financial education textbook in the UK, ‘Your Money Matters’, were delivered into English secondary schools. This was funded by Martin Lewis, the Money Saving Expert, with a personal donation of £325,000 to the financial education charity Young Money to develop and distribute this milestone resource and accompanying teacher’s guide.

Aimed at supporting the financial capability of those aged 15 to 16, the reality is that the textbook has been used across multiple year groups and within a wide range of subject areas.

Since being delivered into every state-funded secondary school in England, the Money and Pensions Service funded an evaluation of the impact that Your Money Matters has had:

• 89% of teachers said that Your Money Matters would improve the quality of financial education in their schools.

• 88% of teachers said the textbook would increase their confidence to deliver financial education.

Subject Head at a Community school, said:

‘Excellent resource! Much needed for youngsters. We are very grateful to have received the textbooks and received excellent feedback from students. One student told me that our Financial Capability lessons changed the way her parents look at finances and motivated them to change the way they deal with money as a family.’

A Year 12 student, commented:

‘It’s so broad as well – if you want a general outline it is perfect for that. I actually brought one home so I could look through the university stuff. My older brother wanted to know about a work pension… I said ‘I have this textbook’ so he looked at that. He found it useful – it had the general information that he needed.’

Following the success that Your Money Matters has received in England, the Money and Pensions Service and Martin Lewis are splitting the cost of the £368,000 project, funding Young Money to develop versions of the textbook for Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. State-funded secondary schools in each nation will receive both printed and digital copies of their textbook over the next 14 months:

Northern Ireland – January 2021 (12,000 copies in total)

Scotland – March 2021 (21,500 copies in total)

Wales – September 2021 (12,500 copies in total)

What is in the textbook?

The educational textbook contains facts and information as well as interactive activities and questions for the students to apply their knowledge. The chapters are as follows:

1. Savings – ways to save, interest, money and mental health
2. Making the most of your money – budgeting, keeping track of your budget, ways to pay, value for money, spending
3. Borrowing – debt, APR, borrowing products, unmanageable debt
4. After school, the world of work  student finance, apprenticeships, earnings, tax, pensions, benefits
5. Risk and reward – investments, gambling, insurance
6. Security and fraud – identify theft, online fraud, money mules

Whilst the key financial topics will remain largely the same, a review in each nation, consisting of focus groups with teachers and devolved government representatives for education, is being conducted to identify the amendments required. This will ensure that the textbook in each nation maps to the respective education curriculum as well as taking into account the specific needs and financial legislation in each country.

Once complete, up to 75 copies will be delivered for free into every secondary school in each nation.

Why do we need the textbook?

Financial education is part of the national curriculum for every nation in the UK. Whilst integrated into each curriculum in different ways, it is an important part of secondary school education. Various pieces of research have identified that teachers’ confidence in delivering financial education is relatively low – there is little training provided to support this – and the degree to which young people receive financial education in school is hugely variable.

The textbook addresses this by covering key financial information in a relevant and engaging way for students. To accompany the textbook there will be an online teacher’s guide which will support teachers in each nation to use the textbook to enrich their own financial education provision in a variety of ways.

There is a strong need to help young people understand financial matters. For example, fewer than three in ten 14 to 17-year-olds plan ahead for how they’ll buy things they need, and one in ten 16 to 17-year-olds have no bank account at all. Gaining knowledge and confidence in financial issues is crucial to leading to better decisions now and in later life.


Martin Lewis, founder of MoneySavingExpert (though donating in a personal capacity) comments
:

“The pandemic has shown the lack of personal financial resilience and preparedness of the UK as a whole. Not all of that can be fixed by improving financial education, but a chunk of it can. Of course, we need to educate people of all ages, yet young people are professionals at learning, so if you want to break the cycle of debt and bad decisions, they’re the best place to start.

I was one of those at the forefront of the campaign to get financial education on the national curriculum in 2014, and we celebrated then thinking the job was done. We were wrong. Schools have struggled with resources and there’s been little teacher training. Something else was needed to make it easy for schools and teachers. So even though I questioned whether it’s right that a private individual should fund a textbook, no one else would do it, so I put pragmatics over politics and did it in 2018.

I’m delighted that now we’ve proved the success of that book in England. The Money and Pensions Service has agreed to team up to provide this much-needed resource for the rest of the UK’s nations – adding a rightful sense of officialdom to the whole project.”


Sharon Davies, CEO at Young Money and Young Enterprise comments
:

“We are thrilled that Young Money is able to develop the Your Money Matters textbook for every UK nation. Financial education is critically important for all young people, and it is fantastic that the difference this has already made within England can now be extended to Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. We look forward to working with our partners in each of these nations over the next year.”

Sarah Porretta, Strategy and Insights Director at the Money and Pensions Service comments:

“We know that learning about money when we’re young can have a direct impact on the ability to manage money later in life. However, too many young people are entering adulthood without being prepared for the money-related challenges that lie ahead.

The launch of the Your Money Matters textbook in Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland is a vital step towards more teachers having the confidence, skills and knowledge to teach financial education. As part of our UK Strategy for Financial Wellbeing, we want to see a further 2 million children and young people getting a meaningful financial education so that they become adults able to make the most of their money and pensions.”

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ArticlesBankingCash Management

How Millennials Can Get Ahead With Their Money

millennials

How Millennials Can Get Ahead With Their Money

Millennials are often painted as globe-trotting creatures that spend more money on avocadoes than their future. But that can’t be further from the truth. Millennials tend to be good savers, at least compared to other generations. Industry data shows that more than 70% of millennials have started putting money away for retirement and beyond.

“Millennials still struggle with investing. Often because they feel they don’t know enough about the market, but it’s never too late to invest in your understanding. It’s a great way to make your finances work harder for you,” says Granville Turner, Director at company formation specialists, Turner Little.

Here are some things you can start doing now, or preparing for, to set yourself up for a future of learning and investing:

 

Start early

The most apparent advantage millennials have over older generations is the luxury of time. Whilst everyone can weigh up the risks and rewards of investing, you’re particularly well-placed to see a solid return on your investments.

 

Challenge risk

When you invest money for longer, you can become less phased by the ups and downs and be able to view inevitable declines as opportunity instead. It’s better to look at yearly or even longer figures for a more accurate reflection of performance.

 

Put your money to work

Money that sits in a savings account, uninvested, is almost certain to lose value over time due to inflation, or a creeping higher cost of goods and services. If your money is growing or earning you a return, it’s going to help you reach your financial goals faster.

 

Start small

Many millennials believe you need to have a serious amount of money to start investing. But in reality, even small contributions can build over time. The important thing is to start early, and make it a habit.

If you’re ready to start having the right conversations about the future of your finances, get in touch with us today. With years of knowledge and expertise, we’ll be able to assist with any enquiries, no matter how complex.

UK credit score
ArticlesBankingCash ManagementWealth Management

Mapped: The UK’s Highest and Lowest Credit Score Hotspots

UK credit score

Mapped: The UK’s Highest and Lowest Credit Score Hotspots

The south is home to eight of the top ten areas with the highest credit scores in the country according to new analysis by Share to Buy.

Using the latest data from two major credit agencies, Share to Buy have mapped out the UK’s average credit scores by county showing where the country’s best scorers live, and who currently tops the national average of 570.

According to Google search data, interest around loans peaked between March and June 2020, with the phrase ‘can I get a loan’ rose by 11% compared to the same period last year, while the phrase ‘how to improve credit score’ was up by almost 27% since 2019.

UK credit score

The above image shows the England’s highest and lowest credit score hotspots rated out of 1699. 

Oxfordshire comes in at the top with a score of 1258, whilst Lancashire is bottom with 1132.

Top Five: Highest Credit Scores in the Country

Oxfordshire has the highest average credit score in the country, over two and a half times the national average of 570 and 154 points higher than Nottinghamshire, the area with the lowest credit scores in the UK.

 

Highest Credit Score Areas

Total Score out of a possible 1699

1

Oxfordshire

1258

2

Surrey

1255

3

Dorset

1239

4

Hampshire

1236

5

Berkshire

1236

Bottom Five: Lowest Credit Scores in the UK

All counties analysed have higher credit scores than the national average, but some areas in the UK lag behind their neighbours.

 

Lowest Credit Score Areas

Total Score out of a possible 1699

1

Nottinghamshire

1104

2

County Durham

1112

3

Leicestershire

1117

4

Yorkshire

1119

5

Lancashire

1132

What Impacts a Credit Score Positively

Several factors can impact credit scores throughout our lives. Registering to vote is an excellent place to start, as most credit scoring companies use this to help confirm your identity and address. Three ways to impact your Score positively include:

1. Set up direct debits where possible: Consistent, regular payments look good on your profile, so try to set up direct debits for as many payments as you can to ensure you pay on time and in full regularly. 

2. Maintain older accounts: The average age of your bank account is taken into consideration by credit scorers, so try to stick to one account that can be well managed over the long-term.

3. Don’t borrow more than you can afford: Always ensure you can meet minimum repayments easily, and pay off accounts sooner if you can. This shows you can manage within your set limits.

 

What Impacts a Credit Score Negatively

Credit scorers look for certain red flags when assessing your eligibility. Here are a few things you should try to avoid:

1. Missing payments: If this happens regularly, you could have a potential default flagged on your profile, and this can stick around for up to six years.

2. Lending beyond your means: Borrowing more than you can afford means sticking with repayments will be tricky, and when debt piles up, it can quickly become unmanageable. If you get a debt relief order or apply for bankruptcy, your credit score will be significantly impacted.

3. Regularly applying for credit: Each time you apply for credit, lenders will perform a ‘hard’ search on your credit history, and this is logged on your profile. If too many of these are logged, it could become a possible red flag.

 

Commenting on their average credit score analysis, Nick Lieb, Head of Operations at Share to Buy says:

“Many people have been asking us what constitutes a good credit score when trying to buy a home. The topic is more relevant than ever right now as we navigate our way through the uncertainty of the last few months, but with so many variables, and credit score companies all calculating scores differently, it’s not an easy question to answer.

We have combined data from two of the biggest agencies for our credit score review, and while it’s interesting to see the variation in numbers, average credit score is just one of several factors that play a part in your ability to get a mortgage. Therefore, even if your credit score is not where you want it to be, this shouldn’t be a deterrent in your search for a home”.

financial markets
ArticlesCapital Markets (stocks and bonds)MarketsNatural Catastrophe

Markets Have More Upside Potential Despite Second Wave Fears

financial markets

Markets have more upside potential despite second wave fears

By Luc Filip, head of private banking investments at SYZ Private Banking

While fears of a second wave of coronavirus bring renewed volatility to Europe and the US, investors are looking East for reassurance. China, which entered the pandemic three months ahead of the rest of the world – and now boasts positive economic growth – offers a useful template for the trajectory of the rest of the developed world. 

As witnessed in China, we expect a significant pickup in activity from Europe and the US now that social distancing measures are relaxed. The downward trend has finally slowed in these areas and economic indicators have risen above April lows, marking a positive first step in this direction. This was, and will likely continue to be, led by activity in the service and consumption sectors, as social distancing measures are lifted further and people learn to live in the new post-Covid environment. 

We anticipate the recovery will be faster than consensus expects, with the real possibility most economic activity could return close to pre-crisis levels by the beginning of next year. In fact, we believe the unprecedented amount of fiscal and monetary policy stimulus might fuel a temporary overshoot of economic growth in 2021 – before falling back toward more subdued long-term trends. 

Despite the very real risk of a second wave, of which we are already seeing signs, we do not believe this will result in another full- blown lockdown in developed countries. Instead, we would likely see more targeted measures, which would not derail economic recovery. Nevertheless, the recovery will remain concentrated in developed countries following in China’s footsteps, while the rest of the developing world – countries mostly dependent on manufacturing and commodity export – are likely to experience a far less robust recovery. 

 

Positioning for recovery

Before these positive developments are fully priced in by markets, now is still the time to increase risk exposure. But with ultra-low bond yields and sky-high equity valuations, many investors do not know where to turn. The key is to consider every aspect of an asset’s characteristics, including its merits compared to the available alternatives, as there is always relative value to be found.

Equity valuations, which regained pre-crisis highs in some sectors, may appear expensive given the current economic situation. However, it is necessary to go beyond purely intra-equity market metrics and consider equity valuations within the current rate environment. Taking into account the excess return currently offered by stocks over cash and bonds, equities are not expensive at all. In the US, this equity risk premium is close to a historic high. Therefore, combining both internal equity metrics and risk premia, we still see value in equities. 

 

Covering all bases 

Nevertheless, our confidence in the economic recovery does not discount the high probability of volatility in the markets – due to downside risks such as the speed of the recovery, the geopolitical situation, the likelihood of a second wave and a second lockdown. 

Therefore, diversification is crucial – across asset classes, regions and sectors. In the eventuality of a negative surprise, our exposure to gold, long treasuries and hedging equity strategies will protect the portfolio. Meanwhile, we increased our exposure to US and European equities in May through passive instruments to obtain wide-ranging coverage across all sectors. We also took advantage of the recent lower volatility to purchase additional portfolio protections as they became cheaper. 

Another key to managing downside risk is to focus on quality. We prefer holding proven quality assets which are continuing to perform well – even if they are more ‘expensive’. On the equities side, this means stocks with strong balance sheets, cashflow and brand, which are well positioned for the new normal of digitalisation – such as Google, Mastercard and L’Oréal. On the credit side, we reduced our exposure to high yield, as we anticipate a painful recovery for many companies, and reinvested the money into investment grade corporates – which are supported by the Federal Reserve’s purchasing programme. 

Generating performance while managing risk requires a flexible active approach to asset allocation. Through the crisis, our preference for quality, rigorous diversification and tactical protection have enabled our portfolio to participate in the market recovery, while mitigating downside risk. 

ftse 100
ArticlesMarkets

New Tool Shows The FTSE 100 Is Recovering Slower Than Other Global Markets

ftse 100

New Tool Shows The FTSE 100 Is Recovering Slower Than Other Global Markets

The Coronavirus lockdown decimated economies all over the planet, but while some stock markets are showing signs of recovery, the UK’s FTSE 100 is taking longer to bounce back.

Since falling to its lowest point in March, the FTSE 100 has climbed by 23%, which seems impressive, until you compare it with other global indices. Both the Nasdaq and Dax have risen by over 50%, while other key markets, such as China’s CSI 300, have also significantly outperformed the FTSE since the pandemic hit.

Chris Beauchamp, chief market analyst at IG Markets, Europe’s largest online derivatives trading provider, believes the FTSE 100 is “an index that has become a victim of its own composition”. Financials currently represent its biggest sector and Beauchamp says “a huge chunk of the index in terms of weighting is really underperforming”. 

He adds that the recent resurgence in sterling has also hit the FTSE, as its firms have lost value overseas.

For traders looking to keep track of the global indices and their relative rates of recovery, Daily FX has launched an innovative new tool that provides an instant snapshot of international market performance. 

Market Health allows traders to get a complete picture of global markets and indices in a single place. The free tool provides an instant picture of global market performance, currency strength and exchange opening and closing times. 

Using data from Quandl, Market Health allows users to take a macro look at global markets and indices including the Dow Jones, S&P 500, FTSE 100 and DAX 30 to help formulate and deliver on trading strategies.

Split between three main viewpoints, users can easily switch between world overview, stock exchange open times and index performance.

world overview

The global view combines exchange opening times and currency performance, presented on a world map. The map, displayed as a heat map, shows currency strength against a base currency of your choice.

The stock exchange opening times showcase eight global stock exchange markets with details of exactly when they open and close, how long they’re open for and whether or not they’re closed for any public holidays. 

The performance section groups major market indices into geographical groups and is a quick way to get a picture of whether a geographical market is up or down. Users can also filter by developed or emerging markets.

opening times
exchange performance

Peter Hanks, Analyst at DailyFX, explains how the tool is useful for experienced traders like himself: “It is useful to use the tool on specific days when trying to discern which market or region was most impacted by an event. For example, if the Federal Reserve has an interest rate decision, since the central bank typically has the most influence over the American markets, we would expect to see the most activity in those regions. If, on the other hand, another region has outpaced the US markets, there may be another theme at play that is driving market activity, so the tool is great at providing a bird’s eye view of the market.”

He goes on to explain how the tool is also useful for new traders: “When starting off on your trading journey, understanding the impact of other market sessions is very important. Volatility in one region can easily carry over into another, so being aware of when regions are active or inactive is very useful as the crossover periods are often flush with liquidity and can set the tone for an entire session.”

He explains how the tool is useful in the current situation: “Having an instant view of global market health is particularly useful for fast-moving world events such as today’s pandemic. The Market Health tool will be useful to many for getting a quick snapshot of what Covid-19 is doing to the world’s economies and how the different markets are reacting as we are all in different stages of the health crisis.”

David Iusow, Market Analyst at DailyFX, said: “Before a day begins, a trader needs to know how markets around the world have performed in other time zones. It is the first overview that one can get of the general market conditions and from which one can deduce the start of trading on the domestic stock exchange. Similarly, a market status map facilitates the identification of relative outperformance of markets during regular trading hours. The DailyFX market status has the advantage of a clear and interactive structure, giving traders exactly the benefits, they need to start a day.”

To use the Market Health tool click here: https://www.dailyfx.com/research/market-status

order finances
BankingCash ManagementPrivate BankingPrivate Funds

10 Minute Money Challenges to Get Your Finances in Order

order finances

10 Minute Money Challenges to Get Your Finances in Order

Auditing finances can sometimes feel like a huge chore, and things may have been forgotten about or pushed to the bottom of the to-do list during the pandemic. This guide by KIS Finance has listed some very easy and quick 10-minute money challenges that people can do in order to get their finances back on track if things have started to get out of control.

Check your direct debits and standing orders

A great place to start is by checking through all of your direct debits and standing orders to make sure there’s nothing you’re paying for which you shouldn’t be. You’ll be surprised at how easy it is to miss some payments coming out of your account, especially if they’re small and you’ve got a lot of them, but it’s so important to make sure you’re aware of every single one.

Go to your mobile banking app and go through the lists of direct debits and standing orders. Look at every payment and ask yourself three questions: do you need it?, can you afford it?, and is it worth it?
Bills are obvious; you must pay them. But do you have a gym membership which you only use a couple of times a month? In which case, it may be worth researching into whether you can buy a day pass or pay for gym classes as you go – this could work out much cheaper if you don’t go very often.

Subscription services is another category to look at. Are you paying for three streaming services that all do the same thing? If so, can you live with just one or two of them?

This task shouldn’t take you very long at all, and you’ll be surprised at how much money you can save.

Check for any recurring payments

Another important thing to check for are any recurring payments – otherwise known as Continuous Payment Authorities (CPAs). They work essentially like a direct debit, but they’re different in the fact that they use the long card number instead of your account number and sort code and the company can take money whenever they think they’re owed.

The reason you need to do this separately is because they won’t appear in the lists of direct debits or standing orders, they will appear on your bank statement as if they’re a debit card payment. Most will be taken on a monthly basis, so just have a look through the last few months of bank statements and see what’s coming out regularly.

You may have purposefully set some of these up, Amazon Prime and Spotify are examples. In which case, apply the same three questions as mentioned in the point above and cancel any that you can live without.
However, you may have set some up by mistake and these are important to get rid of. This may have been a free trial that you forgot to cancel, or some retail websites have in the small print that you will be signed up to a monthly CPA after making your first purchase and you didn’t realise. You do have the right to cancel any CPAs that you no longer wish to pay.

Compare your bills

If you’re not somebody who compares suppliers and just let your bills roll over every year, then this task is a must.

In some cases, the difference between the cheapest and most expensive tariffs for products like gas, electricity, and insurances can be hundreds of pounds a year. So, a quick check through a comparison website could make a big difference to your finances.
This should be done just before each of your current tariffs/policies come to an end, so you don’t end up paying any early exit fees. You’ll normally just have to fill out some personal details and any information required for the specific product, then you’ll be given a list of all the providers where the cheapest one is normally at the top. With most comparison websites, they will do a lot of the work for you when it comes to switching, so you just have to select which product you want and make any relevant payments.

This won’t necessarily have any immediate effects on your finances, but it will definitely benefit you in the long run.

Switch bank accounts

Switching bank accounts sounds like a massive job, but most of the major banks now offer an online 7-day switching service where they do everything for you, so actually it doesn’t take much time at all and it’s definitely worth the effort.

All you have to do is go to a comparison website which lists all of the available current accounts and compare who’s offering the best interest rates, perks, and functions. It’s important to do this every once and a while and especially when you have a change in financial situation, for example, an increase in income or a big change in the amount you have saved.

Once you’ve decided on the best current account for you, simply go to their website and say you’d like to open an account with them and then they’ll do the rest. They’ll swap over all of your regular payments like direct debits and standing orders and the only thing you’ll have to do is give your new account details to your employer.

Remove your card details from websites

Most online retail stores give you the option to save your card details after you’ve purchased something in order to make the payment process faster next time. Whilst it’s convenient that you don’t have to fill out the details manually every time, it can actually make you spend more when all the effort is taken out of the process.

If you struggle with spending too much and you’re a bit of an impulse shopper, take some time to go through the websites where your card details are saved and remove them. Then, next time you come to purchase something from that website, having to get your card and fill out the details will just give you a little extra thinking time as to whether it’s something you really need.
This isn’t something that will dramatically change your financial situation, but it is something that will help towards curbing the spending if that’s something you struggle with.

banksy brexit
Capital Markets (stocks and bonds)Markets

What is the Post-Brexit Outlook for Sterling?

banksy brexit

What is the Post-Brexit Outlook for Sterling?

As we head through the agreed Brexit transition period, many questions remain. One of these uncertainties is that there’s no definitive answer whether by 2nd January 2021, a deal will be in place. One of the key areas of concern is what effect Brexit will have on the standing of sterling as, inevitably, the currency will be affected.

It seems like far more than four years ago now that the UK made the momentous, and unexpected, decision that it no longer wanted to be part of the EU. Since then, a great deal of metaphorical water has passed under the bridge and it was only Boris Johnson’s bold election move last December that finally achieved the Tory majority needed to pass the legislation.

But, as we head through the agreed transition period, many questions remain. One thing that is for certain is that there will be no extension to this beyond 1st January 2021. However there is no definitive answer yet on what the arrangements will be concerning the UK’s dealings with the EU after then. It’s equally uncertain whether, by 2nd January, a deal will be in place, and some observers believe that a no-deal Brexit is becoming a real possibility.

One of the key areas of concern is what effect Brexit will have on the standing of sterling as, inevitably, the currency will be affected.

Volatility is key

Perhaps the early signs weren’t good, as its value on the currency markets immediately plunged by around 10% on the announcement back in June 2016 that the country was set to go it alone. Since then, the trend seems to have been that its value has rallied whenever rumours of a softer, more negotiated split with the EU have been circulating. For example, back in October 2019 when it was believed, incorrectly as it turned out, that the transition period might be extended, the value of the currency rallied strongly on the world markets.

But, each time there is a feeling that the future is a little more uncertain, sterling’s essential volatility comes to the fore, once again causing considerable turbulence in the currency exchanges.

Good news for some…

Of course, this isn’t necessarily bad news for everyone – with people who derive some benefits from forex trading being a case in point. Through making the right decisions, and operating using a recommended forex broker, traders stand to benefit from significant changes in relative values between paired currencies. For those in this category, choosing an effective broker is a relatively simple process as in-depth reviews of said brokers abound.

… but not for others
Cargo Ship, By Szeke

Volatility in the value of sterling is, unsurprisingly, not such good news for many other sectors of the UK economy. A prime example is the country’s manufacturing industry, especially in the case of firms that rely on importing components and materials from abroad. At a stroke, they can find themselves having to pay more to continue operating – a cost that they are generally likely to pass straight on to the consumer.

Incidentally, this is not the only impact that Brexit is predicted to have on UK industry. There is a very real fear that it will limit the amount of investment available for research and development which could well have a far wider knock-on effect.

Because the value of sterling has always been so closely linked with confidence in the economy as a whole, the consequences of a country hamstrung in its efforts to develop and innovate could also make themselves apparent.

Looking on the bright side

But we should perhaps be wary of falling into the trap of becoming too pessimistic and gloomy about the prospects for sterling in a post-Brexit world. Deal or no-deal, the UK will definitely be able to open up new trade deals with the rest of the world once the restrictions imposed by EU membership have been lifted. Depending on the nature of those deals, this could mean sterling receives a real shot in the arm and that, now more than ever, will be what everyone should be hoping for.

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FundsPensionsPrivate BankingWealth Management

UK Gender Income Gap for Single Pensioners Widens by Almost 20% in Four Years

pension

UK Gender Income Gap for Single Pensioners Widens by Almost 20% in Four Years

Men over the age of 75 receive £114 a week more from their pension income than women of the same age, according to a new report.

Single male pensioners receive up to 26 per cent more income than female pensioners, according to official data compiled by digital wealth advisory firm, Fintuity. The findings, analysed using data compiled by the Office for National Statistics, reveals that the gender pension gap between single men and women was only eight per cent in financial year (FY) 14/15, noting a rise of 18 per cent in four years.

In 2018/19, the average incomes for males, who were under 75 and 75 or over, were £441 and £429 per week, respectively during this period. At the same time, these figures were significantly lower for the same age groups of women: their average income per week reached £333 for those under 75, and £315 for 75 or over.

Furthermore, according to analysis from Fintuity, a woman in her 20s would need to save approximately £1,300 extra per year in order to close the gender pensions gap. However, this average amount increases depending on age. For example, the average 30 year old woman would require an additional £2,000, a 40 year old woman would require an additional £2,900 and a 50 year old woman would need to acquire a further £5,300 in order to close the gender pensions gap.

Gross income of single pensioners consists of different sources, including; benefit income, occupational pension income, personal pension income, investment income and earning income. According to the most recent pensions data, in FY 18/19 occupational pensions income for men was on average 35 per cent higher than women, compared to 23 per cent four years prior.

The personal pension income gap was 63 per cent in FY 18/19, compared to 46 per cent in FY 14/15, and, the investment and earnings income gap between male and female pensioners increased from five and eight per cent in FY 2014/15, to a massive 61 and 74 per cent respectively. Suggesting that women are not as capable of making savings and investments due to low income which results in lower level of pensions.

Ed Downpatrick, Strategy Director, Fintuity comments:

“Despite government initiatives to improve the pensions income for women, it’s clear that no amount of support programmes can make up for the occupational gender disparity in the UK. This problem needs to be tackled head-on, with correct support initiatives put in place to enable women to get a much fairer deal.

“With Fintuity, women and men of all ages can receive professional, yet affordable, financial advice in order to see what options are available to them so that they can manage their pension income. All of this can be conducted online, via our digital platform, making professional financial help more accessible than ever.”

For more information on how to effectively save, spend wisely, understand alternative income routes, or improve monthly pension payments, please visit: https://fintuity.com/ 

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ArticlesBankingCash Management

Cold Shoulder From Banks As Hiring Freeze Puts Pressure On Cashflow For Recruitment Firms

bank

Cold Shoulder From Banks As Hiring Freeze Puts Pressure On Cashflow For Recruitment Firms

The Association of Professional Staffing Companies called for a more responsible approach from the banking sector as a survey of its membership painted a picture of demands for personal guarantees, offers of alternative loans to the Government backed Business Interruption Loan (CBIL) and inflated interest rates.

The survey, which questioned 120 recruitment firms found that over a third of businesses who felt that the CBIL could benefit their business either do not know how to access it; find the criteria prohibitive or the process too complicated and difficult.

“Banks are asking for personal guarantees from business owners as there also seems to be a tendency to try and sell you anything but the Government scheme” said one APSCo member while another said: “The terms appear to be arbitrary rather than qualified by the Chancellor. One bank is charging 12% with a threat to seize homes if repayment terms are not met.”

The survey also revealed that hiring is at a near standstill with 22% of recruitment firms reporting that permanent hiring is at zero and almost half (47%) reporting a decrease in hiring activity of 90%.

Two thirds of recruitment firms have had up to 25% of their contractors terminated in the last week; 15% have had up to 50% terminated and 17% have had up to 100% terminated.

Commenting on the results Ann Swain, Chief Executive of APSCo said:

“The banks have to be made to take a responsible approach so that firms can get access to the cash they need as the Chancellor intended. We are, along with the Recruitment and Employment Confederation, writing a joint letter to Government asking them to urgently review the banks approach so that this lifeline can be made available as soon as possible. The collapse in hiring activity has hit recruitment firms very hard not least because the furlough scheme does not cover those who have been made a job offer but who have not started. 

“This of course is understandable and we appreciate why the Government could not stretch its already generous package further. This does mean though that there will be many recruitment firms unable to invoice for work that they have already done which makes it even more important that they are able to rely on the banks to do the right thing.”

hsbc
ArticlesFundsStock Markets

How Clued Up Are You On The FTSE 100?

hsbc

How Clued Up Are You On The FTSE 100?

Brits incorrectly believe household favourites Tesco and Sainsburys are in the top 10 biggest companies of the FTSE 100, according to a new poll by IG Markets.

The trader polled 2,000 adults, alongside the launch of its Decade of Trade tool, to discover how clued up the general population are on the FTSE 100. The results show that as a nation we are fairly savvy when it comes to our knowledge of the stock market and over two-thirds (77%) are knowledgeable on the definition of shares.

Online trading platform, IG Markets, created the Decade of Trade tool to help Brits gain an understanding of the FTSE 100 and to allow traders to view not only how companies in the markets are performing now, but how they have performed over the last ten years. The tool covers twelve world markets including the FTSE 100, DAX40, ASX200 and HANG SENG.

When asked to name which companies are in the top ten of the FTSE 100 from a list, Brits identified eight out of ten businesses correctly. The mistakes came from thinking the supermarkets had a bigger presence than they do, with Brits believing Tesco (23rd in the FTSE 100) and Sainsburys (100th in the FTSE 100) to be in the top 10 market share.

 

Perceived top 10 of FTSE 100

Actual top 10 of FTSE 100

BP (+3)

HSBC

HSBC (-1)

Royal Dutch Shell A

GlaxoSmithKline (+4)

BP

Unilever (+6)

Royal Dutch Shell B

Tesco (+18)

AstraZeneca

British American Tobacco (+2)

Diageo

Royal Dutch Shell A (-4)

GlaxoSmithKline

Royal Dutch Shell B (-4)

British American Tobacco

Sainsbury (+91)

Rio Tinto

AstraZeneca (-5)

Unilever

 

Brits failed to identify beverage company, Diageo, whose brands include Smirnoff, Baileys and Guinness and mining corporation, Rio Tinto, as top 10 FTSE 100 companies.

Brits were also tested on their knowledge of the FTSE’s sector market share. The results showed there is a perception that Oil and Gas, Chemicals and Banks and Persona are the three largest sectors of the FTSE 100 when it is actually Oil and Gas, Banks and Persona and Household Goods.

Respondents were also asked what they perceive to have the biggest impact on the FTSE 100, and just over a quarter (27%) thought the Brexit referendum would have the biggest impact on the stock market.

 

Top five things Brits think have impacted the FTSE 100

  1. Interest rates (43%)
  2. Economic releases about earnings reports (35%)
  3. The Bank of England quarterly inflation report (27%)
  4. Brexit referendum (27%)
  5. Eurozone politics (26%)

 

Almost four in ten (39%) correctly thought all of the above factors have an impact on the FTSE 100.

To view the Decade of Trade tool, click here: https://www.ig.com/uk/special-reports/decade-of-trade

will
Family OfficesWealth Management

Disputing A Will: Key Considerations

will

Disputing A Will: Key Considerations

By Monika Byrska, Partner at Thomson Snell & Passmore

As a jurisdiction England and Wales is proud of its testamentary freedom.   Anyone can make a Will and in their Will leave whatever they own to whomever they want.   Not far away from us geographically, in the Channel Island of Jersey, testators can truly freely dispose of only a third of their estate.  Two thirds of their estate will be distributed to their closest family, whether they like it or not.   Similar “forced heirship” provisions exist in most continental jurisdictions.  We are not so restricted in England and Wales.  We can leave all we have to our favourite child, the “cats’ home”, or a neighbour.  However, are we as unfettered in our freedom as we think? 

Research published by Direct Line Life Insurance in 2018 suggested that over 12.6 million Brits would be prepared to go to Court to dispute a Will of a family member if they disagreed with the division of their estate.   Apparently, inhabitants of Southampton are most likely to dispute their loved one’s Will (31% of those surveyed).   They are closely followed by Londoners (29%) and Brighton residents (26%).   When it comes to contesting a partner’s Will, Brighton tops the tables – 16% of those surveyed would contest their partner’s Will if they were disappointed by it.   If the law gives us testamentary freedom, how and why can people argue over the provisions of our Will? 

Looking at my own practice, it seems to me that one of the most common reasons for people to have concerns over Wills is an allegation of undue influence.  Though in practice, evidentially, it is one of the most difficult grounds on the basis of which one can pursue a Will challenge, the concern that a Will was signed only because of the influence of the evil sibling, greedy carer or child, are stories I hear most often.   These cases are difficult, as how do you gather evidence of coercion that forms the basis of undue influence? By its very nature, coercion is always carried out in private, shielded from the prying eye of others, even those closest to the victim.  At the same time, because undue influence will often be tainted by a history of mental or sometimes physical abuse of the victim, when discovered, it is very difficult to just let it pass.  Undue influence challenges are often not cases only about the money, but about justice, which those close to the deceased wish to achieve. 

The second most common ground for Wills being challenged is an allegation of lack of capacity, i.e. a situation where the person making the Will was not of sound mind.   Does mental illness or neglect mean we cannot make a Will?  It need not do. However, for those disappointed by a Will, an insinuation that the deceased could not have possibly known what they were doing, because they were elderly, showing signs of dementia, will be enough to spark up a Will dispute. That is why it is so important that Wills, especially those which are likely to come as a disappointment for friends and relatives, and those prepared for the elderly or vulnerable, ought to be prepared professionally.    

In addition to the two most common grounds, Wills may be challenged on the basis of lack of knowledge and approval or lack of proper formalities (i.e. being wrongly signed or witnessed). Estates may also be challenged under the Inheritance (Provisions for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 by closest family: spouses, partners, children and dependants for whom “sufficient provision” in a Will has not been made.    

Despite the testamentary freedom we like to boast about, there are therefore legal routes allowing us to try and change the provisions of the Will of our loved one, after their death.  The trend is only upwards.  Looking at official court statistics the increase in the number of probate cases issued in the Business and Property Court of England and Wales was 24 % in 2017 (when compared to 2016), 30% in 2018 and 18% when comparing the first three quarters of 2019 with the same period in 2018. 

Millions of pounds are being spent on such disputes.  The financial and emotional burden that they bring on those bereaved may be reduced only if you involve a specialist early on; someone who will have the required experience, but who will also be ready to provide you with their honest, emotionally detached from the family feud, opinion. Law does create possibilities to impact how wealth will be distributed post-death.  However, those possibilities are limited and the courts will defend the English principle of testamentary freedom.  There are no better words to summarise the position than those of Deputy Master Arkush in one of his judgments (Rea v Rea [2019] EWHC 2434 Ch):

 “On one level it is understandable that the defendants feel disappointed, upset and resentful that they have not benefited from their mother’s will. In my judgment they have allowed these emotions to override a more considered reflection (…)[It] is not my task to decide whether the 2015 Will was justified or fair. I am only required to decide if it is valid…”

high street bank
ArticlesBanking

Do You Trust Your High Street Bank?

high street bank

Do You Trust Your High Street Bank?

With the likes of Goldman Sachs and National Savings & Investments (NS&I) cutting the interest rates on savings accounts, consumers are beginning to lose trust in the value of high street banking in the UK.

“Today, the biggest threat to savings isn’t market risk. It’s the fact that a majority of Britons feel that banks have not rebuilt public trust despite over ten years of restructuring since the 2008 financial crisis. The unhappiness of customers with their high street banks is becoming cliché,” says Granville Turner, Director at Company Formation Specialists, Turner Little.

“With mobile banking set to be more popular than visiting a high street bank by 2021, it’s no wonder that consumers are starting to look further afield when it comes to managing their finances. If an offshore investment makes you a better return, and doesn’t increase or even reduces your risk, then it makes perfect sense to invest. If the same investment also saves you money in taxes or allows you to take advantage of foreign economic conditions, then again, why would you not consider it?” adds Granville.

Offshore accounts are often multi-currency accounts, and can be opened by anyone over the age of 18. Whilst it’s often necessary to invest at least £500 or, in exceptional cases, £10,000 to open an offshore savings account, there are many that require a minimum deposit of just £1. A common perception is that some of the most common offshore accounts available to UK-based savers are in the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man, but this is not the case, and anyone considering an offshore account might be well advised to look further afield.

Offshore accounts are often available with both variable and fixed interest rates, and offer easy access to your funds. Whilst there are a number of strict checks in place to prevent offshore accounts falling foul of criminals who want to evade tax, opening an account is easier then it seems, providing you meet the minimum requirements set by the bank you choose.

“Whilst offshore accounts may not be for everyone, this rapid rate of technological change is set to continue over the coming decade, as people embrace the ever-widening number of ways to manage their finances, depending on their needs and lifestyle,” says Granville.

Mechanical Clock
ArticlesTax

Five World-Changing Inventions With Big R&D Claims Today

Mechanical Clock

Five World-Changing Inventions With Big R&D Claims Today

R&D tax credit specialists, RIFT Research and Development Ltd, have looked at five historic advancements that not only changed the world but would have eligible for some big R&D tax credit claims if they had come about today.

 

5. The Wheel

Perhaps the first invention that changed the course of mankind notably, the wheel enabled us to transport goods quicker and in greater quantities, while facilitating the birth of commerce and agriculture. Created in 3500 B.C., but only used on chariots some 300 years later in its primary function, the wheel doesn’t just help us to travel easier but it also has a wide array of other applications, such as its use within machinery.
Should the wheel be invented today through R&D it would qualify in the transport and storage sector and see an R&D tax credit claim total somewhere around £71,000.

 

4. The Battery

In the 1800s a lack of consistent electrical lines meant a consistent supply of power was non-existent. Then an Italian, Alessandro Volta, developed the first battery using zinc and silver discs placed alternatively to form a cylindrical pile. This new device produced a repeated number of sparks that could operate a number of devices without mainline power. Today, the battery has evolved through R&D and now almost every day to day electrical device relies on one with a focus on smaller sizes with longer battery life and the latest advancements coming through their use in cars to reduce pollution.
If invented today, the battery would qualify for an R&D tax credit claim of £80,000 within the electricity, gas, steam and air conditioning sector.
3. Semi-conductors
Not the sexiest invention but semi-conductors form the firm foundation for all electrical devices and are pretty much the cornerstone of the digital world. The first device to contain one was developed by Bell Labs in 1947 but should they have waited until today, their work would be in line for an R&D claim to the tune of £105,000.

 

3. Semi-conductors

Not the sexiest invention but semi-conductors form the firm foundation for all electrical devices and are pretty much the cornerstone of the digital world. The first device to contain one was developed by Bell Labs in 1947 but should they have waited until today, their work would be in line for an R&D claim to the tune of £105,000.

 
2. Mechanical Clock

Our ability to tell time is pivotal to the way we live and work and without clocks to help us we would be living in a world of unorganised chaos. The clock was technically an R&D advancement on the sundial but when Yi Xing created the mechanical clock in China in 725 AD it would be the first that was widely accessible within society and would go on to change the world dramatically.

Today Yi Xing’s work would be in line for a £107,000 R&D tax credit claim within the professional, scientific and technical sector.

 
1. Penicillin

Last but not least, Penicillin is probably the most important medical advancement of years gone by that would qualify for an R&D tax credit claim today. Discovered by Alexander Fleming in 1928 and then researched and developed over the following 20 years, the drug revolutionised the way we treat a wide array of medical problems and helps fight infection without causing us harm in the process.

Like the clock, if invented today Alexander could have submitted an R&D tax claim of £107,000 for his work within the professional, scientific and technical sector.

 

Director of RIFT, Sarah Collins, commented:
“R&D has been changing the world before the term was even coined and in these cases, the impact of the developments made have changed the human race and created the modern world as we know it.

Of course, had these advancements been made today, the work carried out to develop them would have qualified for a pretty chunky claim where R&D tax credits are concerned. Instead, the government’s R&D pot of gold will have to remain for those making modern-day improvements in their respective sectors in today’s world.”

money loss
ArticlesRisk Management

Emergency Measures Called For To Support Insurers And Organisations Buying Cover

money loss

Emergency Measures Called For To Support Insurers And Organisations Buying Cover

  • Most Coronavirus linked losses will be uninsured, but investment profits for insurers have fallen dramatically – exacerbating hard market conditions
  • Insurance premiums set to rise, some insurers will withdraw cover, and more exclusions will be included in policies
  • This could lead to a major long-term shift in which risk is transferred back to companies, further limiting their activities as they attempt to manage their response to the ongoing economic disruption

Mactavish, the leading independent expert on commercial insurance procurement and dispute resolution, is calling for the Government to consider introducing Coronavirus related emergency measures to support insurers and organisations buying cover – especially those facing renewals in the next few weeks.

It says that without this, the impact of Coronavirus could have a significant impact on insurers over the medium-to-long-term.  However, this is not because of claims linked to the virus, but because of the effect of the losses insurers have incurred in their investment businesses.  It warns this could lead to premiums rising dramatically, insurers pulling out of sectors and classes of business, and an increase in claims being rejected along with payment of settlements being slowed down.  All which will worsen an already severe expected recession.

Mactavish is calling on the Government, insurers, brokers, business trade bodies and other relevant parties to enter into a dialogue about possibly introducing the following measures:

  • Insurance premium tax – which is currently 12% –  be temporarily suspended
  • The government should consider providing
  • cheap loans/funding to insurers to help support their cash flow/reserves
  • Insurers should temporarily freeze any increase in insurance rates
  • Insurance renewals should be automatic
  • Government should loosen its capital requirements on insurers
  • The Government should explore ways to compensate insurers from any losses incurred from these measures

 Mactavish believes the value of insurance claims paid out as result of the impact of Coronavirus will be much smaller than many predict because it will predominantly fall outside of traditional “Business Interruption” insurance. To be insured against the virus, organisations would have had to opt in for ‘contagious disease’ extensions on their policies, which very few do.  Even if they did do this, almost all such extensions are limited in both the range of diseases covered and the financial limit of cover as well as being subject to a wide range of conditions – which means very few offer any real protection in a situation such as this.

The bigger issue facing insurers is the losses they are continuing to suffer as a result of ongoing capital market falls and interest rate cuts.

Bruce Hepburn, CEO, Mactavish said: “In recent years, insurers have increased their riskier asset classes, in addition to their traditional investments in low risk corporate and sovereign bonds, many of which are increasingly returning low yields. Partly as a result of this decline in yields, insurers have tended to move away from long-term debt towards short-term gilts which must be rolled over more frequently. In addition to this, they have also increased their exposure to illiquid assets such as private equity and infrastructure, making it more difficult to manage their reserves and cash flow.

“For insurers, the impact on the investment landscape will be more pronounced than Coronavirus itself. It could see insurers increase their premiums to recoup poor returns and improve their cash reserves, reject more claims, slow down the process of settlements, and stop providing cover in certain markets. They may also include more restrictions on the policies they do underwrite”. Bruce Hepburn said: “The overall impact of coronavirus on the insurance sector could be more devastating than 9/11.

“We predict that insurers will now move to a model in which their businesses are primarily sustained by underwriting profits, rather than the traditional combination of underwriting and investments.”

“Prior to the emergence of Coronavirus, insurers were already coming under considerable pressure and we were already seeing the classic symptoms of a hard market. Coronavirus has just made this situation worse. In the long run, this could herald a seismic transfer of risk back onto companies who will in turn be forced to allocate more of their own capital to protecting themselves against high-severity losses, limiting their activity and ability to create returns for shareholders.”

“Given all of this we are calling on the Government to find ways to provide financial support for insurers and help alleviate any increase in premiums at a time when businesses are increasingly struggling to survive.  On a short-term basis, with the right support from the government, insurers could also offer to freeze premium increases for the short-term.” 

tax claim
TaxWealth Management

R&D Tax Credit Claims Could Pay 178k UK Salaries For A Year

tax claim

R&D Tax Credit Claims Could Pay 178k UK Salaries For A Year

While growth in R&D tax relief claims has increased by 35% annually since inception in 2001 to over £4bn last year the scheme is yet to be fully utilised by UK business according to R&D specialists RIFT Research and Development Ltd. 

However, even with many remaining unaware that the work they are doing could qualify, the number of claims made does demonstrate the huge amount of innovative work taking place across the UK.

To highlight this great work and put the sums claimed into perspective, RIFT has looked at how many people this sum could employ based on the average annual net salary and which region is top when it comes to R&D Tax Credit claims.

The research shows that there has been a huge £4.3bn claimed across all R&D tax credit schemes to date and with the average net salary currently sitting at £24,365, that’s enough to pay the wages of 177,711 for a whole year!

As you might expect, London is home to the largest number of claims with £1.2bn submitted and even with the higher annual salary of £31,567, the R&D work going on throughout the capital could employ 39,281 for a year.

R&D claims in the South East and East of England have accumulated enough to pay the annual wage for 30,109 and 21,863 people respectively. 

The West Midlands, North West and South West have also seen R&D claims total enough to pay the wage of over 10,000 people for a year. 

Northern Ireland and the North East have seen the lowest amount claimed, but with a similar average wage and claims totalling £75m and £85m, the great work going on in these areas could still pay the average annual salary for between 3,5000 and 4,000 people.

Location / Region

Amount claimed – All Schemes (2017-18)

Average NET annual salary (2019)

Number of people R&D credit claims could employ at average salary

London

£1,240,000,000

£31,567

39,281

South East

£810,000,000

£26,902

30,109

East of England

£555,000,000

£25,385

21,863

West Midlands

£395,000,000

£22,622

17,461

North West

£275,000,000

£22,510

12,217

South West

£225,000,000

£22,293

10,093

Yorkshire and The Humber

£175,000,000

£21,862

8,005

East Midlands

£180,000,000

£22,509

7,997

Scotland

£175,000,000

£23,207

7,541

Wales

£95,000,000

£21,399

4,439

North East

£85,000,000

£21,484

3,957

Northern Ireland

£75,000,000

£21,468

3,494

    

UK overall

£4,330,000,000

£24,365

177,711

Director of RIFT Research and Development Ltd, Sarah Collins, commented:

“R&D tax credits are a great way of paying back those companies that are committing to some outstanding work in their respective fields and regardless of how small the developments being made, they are all contributing to the future of their sectors and UK business as a whole.

While many of us are very aware of this, we wanted to put into context just how much the claims being submitted equate to when you consider an everyday part of life like the average wage. 

However, there is still so much great work that isn’t being recognised in terms of its qualification for R&D tax credits and while it’s staggering to think R&D claims could fund 178,000 peoples wages for a year, we also wanted to highlight this huge Government cash pot to those that aren’t currently claiming but should be.” 

Sources: Gov.uk and ONS.

Sweden
Cash ManagementWealth Management

Sweden Set For Dramatic Growth In Digital Wealth Management

Sweden

Sweden Set For Dramatic Growth In Digital Wealth Management

Nucoro, the London based fintech company providing bespoke investment and savings technology focused on delivering digital investment solutions to third parties, believes Sweden is set to see huge growth in its digital wealth management sector.

It believes there are three key factors driving this – a rapidly growing population of mass affluent and high net worth individuals; the fact that a significant percentage of Sweden’s workforce are employed in the technology and the telecommunications sectors, and the country’s huge and growing focus on fintech.

Growing population of mass affluent and high net worth individuals

Analysis of industry data by Nucoro reveals that 7% of people in work in Sweden earn over $90,000 a year or 906,000 Swedish Krona (SEK).(1) It’s analysis also reveals a growing pool of wealthy people in Sweden, many of whom Nucoro believes are increasingly open to using digital wealth management services.(2) There were around 200,500 millionaires in Sweden in 2018, and this is set to rise to 245,000 (an increase of 22%) by 2023. In terms of those Swedes worth $30 million or more, there were around 3,820 with this level of wealth in 2018, and this is expected to rise to 4,700 – an increase of some 25% – by 2023.

 

HNWs and the technology and telecommunications sector

Nucoro’s analysis of industry data reveals that around 16% of Sweden’s wealth is derived from the technology and telecommunications sectors.(3) This is one of the highest percentages of any country, and it means that many Swedes are comfortable using digital wealth management services. 

 

Strong focus on fintech

Sweden was one of the earliest adopters of technology in financial services, and this is reflected in its fintech sector, which attracted a record investment last year. Sweden’s fintech sector saw investment of €778 million in 2019, the seventh largest amount of any country in the world, and in Europe only the UK and Germany received more.(4)

Stockholm has one of the most thriving fintech scenes in Europe. It has 114 banks and nearly 400 fintech companies. Some 18% of the Swedish capital’s citizens are employed in the tech sector, and the most common job in Stockholm is a programmer. (5)

Nikolai Hack, COO Nucoro said: “Sweden is an incredibly attractive market for the digital wealth management sector. Over the next few years, we expect to see a rapidly increasing number of services in this area being launched to cater for a growing pool of people who are comfortable using digital platforms to manage their investments and wealth.

“We are keen to work with both traditional and non-traditional financial services companies in Sweden to help them develop propositions in this area.”

From client onboarding to portfolio construction through to billing, Nucoro combines all the tools required to build the next generation of savings and investment propositions. To help financial services companies move forward, Nucoro offers a new technology-based foundation built without legacies – a complete overhaul to the models of client service and accessibility. It offers a radically different approach to the relationship between technology providers and the organisations adopting their solutions.

Nucoro offers a fully automated, AI-powered wealth management platform to UK retail investors called Exo Investing.  Within the first year of operation, Exo won two industry awards (Best digital wealth manager OTY + Industry Innovator OTY at the AltFi awards 2018), was named as a finalist in three more and selected to two disruptive company annual indexes (Wealthtech 100 and Disruption50’s 100 most disruptive UK companies).

Nucoro is making this technology available for financial services companies based in Sweden that have the ambition to truly innovate and future-proof their businesses – and are struggling to realise their digital ambitions.

(1) https://www.averagesalarysurvey.com/sweden
(2) Nucoro analysis of Knight Frank Wealth Report 2019
(3) Global Data: ‘Wealth in Sweden: HNW Investors 2018’
(4) Innovate Finance: January 2020
(5) Invest Stockholm: Stockholm Fintech Guide

credit score hotspots
BankingWealth Management

MoneySuperMarket Reveals The UK’s Credit Score Hotspots

People living in the Eastern Central London postcode (EC) have the highest average credit scores in the UK, according to the UK’s leading price comparison site MoneySuperMarket.

Analysis of over 200,000 credit reports from MoneySuperMarket’s Credit Monitor1 reveals that those in the EC area have the highest average credit score at 583 out of a possible 710 points – 21 points higher than the UK average.

According to MoneySuperMarket data, the Surrey town of Guildford has the second highest average score across the UK – 13 points higher than the average score in London (565).

 

Postcodes with the highest credit scores:

Location

Average Credit Score

EC – Eastern Central London

583

GU – Guildford

578

KT – Kingston upon Thames

577

RG – Reading

W – Western London

576

E – East London

RH – Redhill

575

 

By contrast, residents in the north of England and parts of Scotland have some of the lowest credit scores in the country. Sunderland (548), Wolverhampton (549) and Kilmarnock (550) are the three lowest scoring postcodes. 

 

Postcodes with the lowest credit scores:

Postcode

Average Credit Score

SR – Sunderland

548

WV – Wolverhampton

549

KA – Kilmarnock

550

DN – Doncaster

550

HU – Hull

551

 

Sally Francis-Miles, money spokesperson at MoneySuperMarket, commented: “Although your credit score isn’t directly impacted by where you live, our research shows those with an EC postcode are the top credit scorers in the UK and are therefore likely to be most highly rated by lenders.

“What will strengthen your credit score is making sure you are registered on the electoral roll – it’s easy to do too. Using a credit card can also help. It doesn’t automatically improve your credit rating, but if you repay the balance in full every month, it shows lenders that you are reliable and credit worthy.

“Additionally, free-to-use monitoring services, such as MoneySuperMarket’s Credit Monitor, offer personalised tips to help increase your credit rating.”

 

MoneySuperMarket’s top tips for improving your credit rating include:

-Debt repayments – keep on top of repayments for loans, mortgages and credit cards
Avoid multiple credit cards – having credit cards that are no longer used can have a negative impact on your credit score
-Ensure a sensible use of credit – try not to use a high proportion of the available limit to avoid appearing over-reliant on credit

For more tips and information, visit MoneySuperMarket to see if your area falls into a credit score capital of the UK.

water cost
Wealth Management

The Money-Saving Tip That 97% of Businesses are Missing Out On

Since April 2017, around 1.2 million non-domestic English water customers have been able to choose their own water suppliers. This is referred to as ‘market deregulation’. Now, businesses can choose to buy their retail water services from any licenced company, regardless of how much water they use a year.

In Ofwat’s ‘State of the Market Report 2018-19’, the water regulator found that:

• Just over half (53%) of all customers are aware of the possibility to choose their retailer (48% last year).
• Around 13% of customers have been active since market opening, in that they have switched, renegotiated or considered doing so (10% last year).
• Switching rates of 3% largely unchanged in the second year of the market.

Despite the low switching rates, Ofwat estimates that customers were able to save around £10 million in bills in the second year of the market.

 

Switch and save to get ahead – here’s how:

When it comes to changing your business water supplier, there are a few important things to consider. For example, you need to think about the main differences between your existing and potential new water supplier to ensure you’re getting a beneficial switch.

So if you’re a small business thinking of making a change, follow our useful guide below to help you through the process.  

 
What are the benefits of an open water market?

Increased competition in the industry will encourage water suppliers to offer more enticing benefits to customers. Therefore, small business owners expect some of the following incentives:

• Reduced costs
• Improved service levels
• Lower management overheads
• Easier to meet regulatory compliance
• New solutions to water management challenges
• Improved corporate, social and environmental responsibility
• A greater understanding of water consumption habits

If your business hasn’t switched water suppliers yet, you may be missing out on significant savings. That’s why in this article, we outline everything you need to know about changing your business water supplier.

water

Here are our simple steps to switching water suppliers

Step 1: Understand your water consumption habits

Take a look at your previous water bills (ideally from the last three years). Look at how much you’re using and how much it’s costing you. If you operate over multiple sites, be sure to audit your business total, as well as the numbers from each individual site.

 
Key questions to consider for each site:

1. How much water do you use?
2. How much wastewater do you produce?
3. How much are you spending on water and/or wastewater – the average per month and per year?
4. How much trade effluent do you produce and what is the cost?

 
Step 2: Find the right water supplier for your business

Finding the right supplier is the most important step in the process. You need to spend time considering your options, as well as thinking about what the supplier can offer you.

 

Questions to consider:

• Is your supplier transparent and helpful in the quoting process?
• Do you want a transactional supplier?
• Would you prefer to work with a company that offers a higher level of customer service?
• Do they offer a wide range of value-added services?
• Do they offer a deal that suits your consumption habits?

 
Step 3: Collect and compare quotes

Once you’ve narrowed down your list of suppliers, the next step is to collect and compare quotes from them. Some suppliers quote their services differently, so make sure that you’re comparing ‘apples with apples’.
What you’ll need to get a quote:
• Your organisation’s name, address and postcode
• Annual consumption figures
• Supply pipe ID (a unique reference number on your meter and on your water bills)
• Your business’ point of contact for water-related services

 

Top tip for a QUICK WIN when it comes to your business water

If finding a supplier and comparing quotes sounds like a lot of work, that’s because it is! That’s why many businesses choose to partner with a business water broker who can do all the hard work for you. With their bulk-buying power, a broker may be able to get you cheaper rates than if you were to go straight to a supplier.

When you choose to switch using a broker’s services, you just need to sign an agreement and they will take it from there. They will contact your existing supplier to let them know you’re moving and get you set up on the new supplier’s systems. They’ll also deal with any queries and requests you have regarding your water services and can offer a full water management service.

 

Step 4: Enjoy the benefits

Switching suppliers can bring a multitude of benefits:

• Increased competition in the market can mean better prices and better service.
• If your business has several sites, you can consolidate your water to one single supplier, with one bill covering all your locations.
• When you use a water consultant, you can bundle your water and energy to streamline your business services even further.
• You’ll have access to billing and consumption data that can help you optimise your operations.

Stop flushing money down the drain – secure cheaper rates for your business water for a better bottom line.

Cash Isa
Private BankingPrivate ClientWealth Management

Death Of The Cash ISA – Big Banks Are Struggling To Cope With The Mass Cash ISAodus

Cash Isa

Death Of The Cash ISA – Big Banks Are Struggling To Cope With The Mass Cash ISAodus

The latest market insight and research from peer to peer lending platform, Sourced Capital of the Sourced.co Group, has revealed that a mass exodus of Cash ISA investors submitting transfer out requests from their Cash ISAs is causing a backlog with the big bank lenders.

Sourced Capital was recently advised by HSBC that transfers were taking a while to process and were requesting no calls for updates due to the substantial backlog, yet further indication of the death of the Cash ISA as investors look for more lucrative options.  

This is a trend that has been apparent for some time due to record low-interest rates and one that will no doubt be exacerbated with the Bank of England’s decision to keep rates frozen yet again at 0.75%. 

In fact, since 2008 the number of accounts subscribed to a Cash ISA has declined every year except one, with the total number down -36.38% all in all, averaging an annual decline of -4.69%.  

Some of the biggest annual declines have come over the last year and the year prior to that, with the number of Cash ISA accounts dropping by a notable -8.22% and -16.19% respectively.

Prior to the economic crisis, available rates averaged at 5%, but in more recent times this return has diminished to around 1.45%.

It’s clear that the preference of investing in a Cash ISA is well and truly on the slide and those looking to make their money work harder are opting for alternative investment options like the Innovative Finance ISA. 

The IFISA is a category of ISA which was launched in April 2016 for UK taxpayers. Previously, there have been two main types of ISA: Cash ISAs and Stocks and Shares ISAs. Similar to these ISAs, the IFISA allows you to invest money without paying personal income tax. This enables you to invest your money into the growing peer to peer market. 

Like cash ISAs Each tax year, you get an allowance of up to £20,000 to put into IFISAs which you can distribute across your different ISAs should you wish to. In addition, you can transfer your previous year’s ISA investments into your IFISA and while your capital is of course, at risk, an IFISA can bring returns of as much as 10-12%.  

Founder and Managing Director of Sourced Capital, Stephen Moss, commented:

“A prolonged period of extremely low-interest rates has been great for some and has helped stimulate borrowing and spending activity, most notably across the UK property and mortgage sectors. However, it hasn’t been great for those attempting to accumulate a sizable savings pot with the return on their hard-earned cash remaining really rather poor.  

It comes as no surprise then that the declining health of the Cash ISA seen in recent years has now progressed to an almost fatal level as more and more investors remove their cash and look elsewhere for a more favourable return. This exodus has been spurred by more innovative options providing a better return and has become so prevalent that even the biggest lenders are struggling to cope with the paperwork.”  

CASH ISA – Number of accounts subscribed in current year (thousands)

Period

Number of accounts subscribed in current year (thousands)

Change / growth (yearly)

2008-09

12,234

x

2009-10

11,426

-6.60%

2010-11

11,859

3.79%

2011-12

11,187

-5.67%

2012-13

11,682

4.42%

2013-14

10,481

-10.28%

2014-15

10,288

-1.84%

2015-16

10,118

-1.65%

2016-17

8,480

-16.19%

2017-18

7,783

-8.22%

Total Growth

-36.38%

Average Annual Growth

-4.69%

Biz Stone
BankingMarkets

Twitter Co-Founder Backs Uk Bitcoin Banking App

Biz Stone

Twitter Co-Founder Backs Uk Bitcoin Banking App

London-based fintech firm Mode, advised and backed by Twitter co-founder Biz Stone, has launched its Bitcoin banking mobile iOS app.  This will make Bitcoin – the world’s most popular digital asset which many refer to as ‘digital gold’ – accessible to everyone at the touch of a button.

The platform is available to users globally, except in the United States of America.

A Mode account can be opened in less than 60 seconds, with Know Your Customer (KYC) requirements completed in less than two minutes through AI-enabled identity verification technology. Once users are whitelisted, depositing GBP via bank transfer and buying Bitcoin takes seconds.

Mode’s launch is supported by new research (1) which reveals that many current and potential Bitcoin investors are unhappy with the platforms and services currently on offer.  Findings (2) also reveal the potential for strong Bitcoin market growth, as 42% of people who currently own Bitcoin plan to buy more, 51% of people surveyed indicated they may buy Bitcoin soon, and just a small fraction of respondents, around 7%, said they have no intention of currently buying the digital asset.

Through its new easy to use app, Mode aims to bring down the barriers and open up the Bitcoin market to everyone, not just tech-savvy or professional investors. As a result, users can get started with only £50, and unlike many other apps, Mode only charge a very competitive fee of 0.99% at the time of purchasing and selling Bitcoin. Mode doesn’t charge for transferring GBP in and out of users’ accounts, and funds are credit almost instantly via Faster Payments – a process that can take up to 5 days with some of the most renown crypto exchanges.

Users can buy Bitcoin with bank cards or via a bank transfer, which is then safeguarded through one of the world’s leading digital asset custodians, BitGo. 

In addition to its new app, Mode has also announced plans to launch a Bitcoin interest-generating product later this year, which would allow users to earn passive income on their Bitcoin holdings without having to touch their assets.  

Biz Stone, co-founder of Twitter, joined Mode as an advisor of the project. He has also invested in Mode and acts as a non-executive director of R8, Mode’s parent company.

Although there are multiple existing ways to access the Bitcoin market right now, few appeal to the everyday person, who wants to buy and hold some Bitcoin. Most of the current apps all have one problem at their core—access.” Biz Stone commented; “Mode has removed needlessly complex processes from their app, building a beautiful and responsive UI and UX rivalling that of the major challenger banks—while also launching a completely new and innovative Bitcoin product.”

 

Ariane Murphy, Head of Communications and Marketing, Mode, said: “Our new app not only enables us to capture the huge growth in the Bitcoin marketplace, but also tackles many of the issues people have with the current platforms and storage services available, which our research shows are significant. The Mode app addresses transaction restrictions issues, low speed/high cost, lack of security and most importantly, tackles the poor user experience typically associated with Bitcoin apps.”

“Until the beginning of this year, we pilot-tested our app with some 1,000 early subscribers and their feedback has been very positive.  This, coupled with the strong growth in the marketplace, means we are confident that now is the right time to launch to the wider pubic.”    

 

Challenges to tackle in the digital asset markets – new research

Mode recently conducted research (1) with people who already own digital assets, revealing that 41% of respondents described the process of transacting Bitcoin through existing solutions as average or poor, with just 13% describing the process as excellent. 

Some 37% say the level of security offered by the platforms they have used is again average or poor, with 41% claiming security is good and 21% excellent – signifying some room for improvement.

In terms of overall user experience, just 56% describe other digital asset services as good or excellent, with 32% saying it is average and 11% describing their experience as poor.

Mode is part of R8 Group, a UK fintech group which raised $5m in a heavily oversubscribed funding round in April 2019, backed by an experienced management team with extensive experience in the financial services and technology sectors. Prominent members of the R8 Group include serial entrepreneur Jonathan Rowland, and Twitter co-founder Biz Stone.

savings
ArticlesCash Management

Low Interest Rates and Inflation Are Wiping Out The Nation’s Savings

savings

Low Interest Rates and Inflation Are Wiping Out The Nation’s Savings

The latest research by the peer to peer lending platform, Sourced Capital of the Sourced.co Group, has revealed how high inflation rates and below-par interest rates on savings accounts are making it tough for the nation’s savers.

Sourced Capital looked at the annual rate of inflation seen since 2012 on an annual basis and compared this yearly change in the cost of living to the interest secured on an annual basis via the average savings account rate and a one year, fixed-rate ISA, to see how if saving is really worth the time and investment anymore.

Inflation effectively shrinks the value of your money over time and according to the Consumer Price Index, which tracks the cost of household items, the value of £1,000 on the high street at the start of 2012, would now have climbed to £1,153 today.

But what about your savings? Had you invested that £1,000 in the average savings account with your bank or building society back in 2012, your money today would have climbed to just £1,048.

Opting for the average cash ISA with an annual fixed rate would have seen your £1,000 investment reach £1,126 today.

As a result, the interest earned on these savings options would have been wiped out due to the increasing cost of inflation.

In fact, since 2012 inflation has increased at a greater rate than the return available from the average savings account each year, with an ISA proving a better option in just two of the eight years (2015 and 2016).

With traditional routes to saving no longer providing a sufficient return, many armchair investors have turned to Innovative Finance ISAs, which while pose the same capital at risk as other investment platforms, provide much greater returns of up to 10%.

Looking at the last three years alone since they have grown in popularity, the value of £1,000 on the high street according to the CPI would now have climbed to £1,067 today. Again, a traditional savings account would have returned just £1,008, while a fixed rate ISA is slightly better but still offers a loss compared to inflation at £1,037.

An IFISA however, would have returned £1,331, £264 higher than the loss due to the rate of inflation over that time.

Period

Average Inflation rate (CPIH)

Example amount – relative value/cost

Average Instant Access savings rate

Example amount – savings

Average Fixed Rate ISA 1 year

Example amount – savings

start

£1,000

£1,000

£1,000

2012

2.6%

£1,026

1.45%

£1,015

2.54%

£1,025

2013

2.3%

£1,050

0.86%

£1,023

1.77%

£1,044

2014

1.5%

£1,065

0.67%

£1,030

1.49%

£1,059

2015

0.4%

£1,070

0.54%

£1,036

1.41%

£1,074

2016

1.0%

£1,080

0.35%

£1,039

1.07%

£1,086

2017

2.6%

£1,108

0.15%

£1,041

1.05%

£1,097

2018

2.3%

£1,134

0.23%

£1,043

1.31%

£1,111

2019

1.7%

£1,153

0.42%

£1,048

1.30%

£1,126

Founder and Managing Director of Sourced Capital, Stephen Moss, commented:

“It’s been a tough ask to get any form return on your savings in recent years and this has been largely down to interest rates remaining so low in an attempt to stimulate the economy through consumer spending.

Of course, the flip side to this is that inflation has remained fairly robust and has sat between 1.5% and 2.6% in all but two of the last eight years. As a result, not only has the return on our savings been minimal, but the increasing cost of living has pretty much wiped out any return available.

It’s no surprise that as a result, alternative methods of investing have come to the forefront and the likes of the Innovation Finance ISA have grown in popularity with armchair investors and investment professionals alike. While there is, of course, an element of risk, investing in peer to peer products particularly in the property sector has seen consistently higher returns over the last few years, despite quieter market conditions due to Brexit uncertainty.”